We continue our “Falcons 50” countdown with a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ top offseason moves of 2016. Falcons football is just 29 days away. You can follow along with the full countdown here.
Falcons top offseason moves: #4 Drafting Keanu Neal
Physicality defines Dan Quinn’s philosophy, yet the Falcons lacked an enforcer in the defensive backfield. Enter Keanu Neal, Atlanta’s first-round draft choice and projected starting strong safety.
Neal has no care for the NFL’s move towards player safety, a heat-seeking missile who strikes fear into opposing pass catchers. One reception in Neal’s coverage is one too many, his thunderbolt hits leave a lasting impact.
Neal is the symbol of Quinn’s vision for the Falcons defense. He brings an edge and adds muscle to an ever-improving secondary. If Desmond Trufant is the Richard Sherman of Quinn’s “Seattle Lite”, Neal can be Kam Chancellor.
It’s no surprise then, that Neal has drawn parallels to the Seattle star. NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt praised his fit in the Atlanta defense.
"“Think Kam Chancellor, only faster. Neal is very tough and very strong, and he’s a perfect fit for the Atlanta defense. I think he’ll be one of those guys who makes some defensive calls back there and makes the Falcons’ back seven a lot better than it was last year. Opposing receivers will think twice about coming across the middle. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn recruited Neal to Florida when Quinn was on staff there. Neal should also be a very good special teams contributor.”"
Fixing an anaemic pass rush was a priority, but it was important not to neglect a glaring weakness at strong safety. In an instance, Neal can breathe life into the position. Atlanta’s secondary lacks depth, but it’s starting unit is considerably stronger.
Neal offers the physicality Quinn desires.
He won’t fix the pass rush, but the first-rounder has landed in an ideal situation. Quinn can maximize his strengths.