Keanu Neal worked his ass off to get back on the field this year after suffering a torn ACL early last year. His effort to come back was phenomenal, and through the first 2.5 games of the season, he looked most of the way back.
Devastatingly, Neal appears to have suffered another serious injury in a game the Falcons are getting destroyed in, as he was down on the field and clearly distraught late in the second quarter. He wound up exiting the game on the cart, and the announcers in this one were talking about a torn ACL, given both Neal’s familiarity with that particular malady and how upset he seemed.
Instead, it was a torn Achilles, per Ian Rapoport. We’ll need an MRI to confirm—so I suppose a miracle could be in the offing—but it goes without saying that Neal will be out for the rest of the 2019 season if that’s the case. It’s simply heartbreaking for a stellar player and human being who was so key to this Falcons defense, and will now likely miss 28 games in two NFL seasons, leaving plenty of questions about his future with the team that I simply do not have the heart to think about right now.
#Falcons S Keanu Neal is believed to have torn his Achilles in today’s game, source said. When the MRI confirms, he’ll have surgery this week and should be good to go well before the 2020 season. Another bad-luck injury for Neal, but he’s battled back before.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 22, 2019
While we wish Neal the absolute best in his recovery—and you know he’ll work his butt off to come back as quickly as possible—the Falcons now have some serious question marks at safety. Remember, J.J. Wilcox was going to be the insurance policy for Neal, and he got hurt before he ever got the chance to get into a regular season game for the Falcons.
Kemal Ishmael and Sharrod Neasman will fill in for now while we await further updates for Neal.
Ishmael got a ton of run in this one and played well against the run, delivering some big hits, but predictably scuffled a bit in coverage. Neasman got a ton of experience last year filling in and may get the nod going forward, given how good he looked there a year ago, but chances are both guys will get serious run. The Falcons will also likely move to sign another safety this week, with Tavon Wilson, D.J. Swearinger, Karl Joseph, and former Falcon Ronald Martin all looming as potential options.
None of them will be Keanu Neal, however, and the Falcons are in a hole again as they try to climb out of the hole they’ve dug with their play. This is a depressing start to this year.