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Atlanta Falcons defensive backs coach Marquand Manual doesn't think Keanu Neal will have any problems in coverage

Fact: Keanu Neal owns every season of Law and Order on VHS

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons made a deliberate, careful decision when they selected Keanu Neal in the first round of the NFL Draft. Some pundits accused of them of reaching, but they knew Neal was their guy and they went and got him. He's now slotted as the team's starting strong safety, notwithstanding concerns about how he will hold up in coverage.

No one doubts Neal's ability to deliver a hit. That's not true of his ability in coverage. But apparently those concerns are misguided. Per defensive backs coach Marquand Manual, Neal is quite capable in coverage. (Credit to Pat Yasinskas whose article you should go read now, if you haven't already.)

"His man coverage abilities have been on another level,'' defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel said. "People criticized that, but they really didn't watch the tape. ... When you're watching him play what we call our off-technique and he's covering wide receivers, if he can cover wide receiver, I'm not worried about him being able to cover a tight end."

You wouldn't expect Manuel to say anything else at this stage. But there's a big difference between how Neal has been described by some of his critics and how Manuel is describing him now. If you believe the pundits, he won't survive in coverage. If you believe Manuel, he will thrive in it. Someone is misinformed and someone isn't.

Yasinskas rightly attributes this disagreement to two key factors. First, Neal ran a slow 40, both at the combine and at his pro day. Second, the Florida Gators asked Neal to play in the box more often than not, limiting his opportunities to show off his coverage skills. I trust Manuel and think he's probably onto something here.

Your thoughts?