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Keanu Neal out for tonight’s Falcons preseason opener

Neal headlines a few missing Falcons in the first game against Washington.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons-Minicamp Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons will be down more players than they’d probably prefer in tonight’s preseason opener against Washington, including their first round pick.

Keanu Neal’s absence means Kemal Ishmael will get the starting nod. Ishmael is likely ticketed for top backup and special teams duties this season, but he’ll get at least a quarter to make his case for playing time before he gives way to the likes of Robenson Therezie and Sharrod Neasman.

Terron Ward being out means that Gus Johnson and Brandon Wilds will get a ton of run on the ground (no pun intended) once Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman leave the game. Both have legitimate shots to unseat Ward for the third running back gig, so you should watch their performances with interest.

Finally, with Levine Toilolo out, you should expect D.J. Tialavea to be the first guy on the field after Austin Hooper. We’ll see what he makes of the opportunity.

No one really expected Dwight Freeney to play, and he likely won’t get a ton of preseason run in the first place, with any eye on preserving him for the regular season.

Football is nearly here!