Few safeties had the impact Keanu Neal did in 2017, and that is sort of a pun, because Keanu Neal hits like a truck with rage issues. I’m very glad to be able to say that Keanu Neal is now a Pro Bowl, because few safeties in the NFL are more deserving.
You’ll recall, as our Jeanna Thomas does below, that Neal was once considered a fairly major reach in the middle of the first round. That was before he became the toast of his fellow safeties, like Kam Chancellor, who regularly talk him up in interviews and on social media. And it was before he got on the field for Atlanta, weathered an early rough/injured stretch in his rookie season, and started knocking around opposing receivers, tight ends, and running backs. In a resurgent season for the defense as a whole, Neal was still one of the team’s best players.
Falcons SS @Keanu_Neal is headed to the Pro Bowl as an alternate for Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins. Very well-deserved. Remember when a bunch of people thought Neal was a reach in the draft? Apparently not.— Jeanna (@jeannathomas) January 22, 2018
Obviously, Neal’s missed interception against the Eagles was a miscue, but throughout much of 2017 he delivered the timely hits and the surprisingly strong coverage whenever he was asked to. Like so many of this team’s picks on defense, he’s been surprisingly well-rounded so far in his young career, and those bone-jarring hits recall the great Falcons safety Scott Case. It’s safe to say Neal was exactly the tone-setter Dan Quinn was looking for in his secondary, and he’s delivered on that and then some thus far. I’d struggle to name five better safeties under the age of 25, and I’m sure you would too.
He’s one of the league’s young bright spots at the safety position, in other words, and this should be the first of many Pro Bowls for him. He joins Deion Jones and Alex Mack as extremely deserving selections, and hopefully all three enjoy their time in Orlando without an injury between them.
Congratulations, Keanu Neal!