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Keanu Neal says Dan Quinn ‘will let the players play’ in 2019

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Fact: Keanu Neal has an extensive paperclip collection

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal can and should bounce back in decisive fashion this season. By all accounts the knee is completely rehabbed, and Neal is eager to jump back into meaningful game action. But truth be told, Neal has a secret weapon. And it’s not his hard-hitting style or unparalleled leadership. It’s head coach (and defensive play caller) Dan Quinn.

Quinn made the hard decision to take over defensive play calling this season. It’s a move that was arguably well overdue. With Quinn effectively running the defense, though, there will be less room for excuses if things go wrong. If you ask Neal, things won’t go wrong. In fact, things will go right, very right.

“Yeah, we’re continuing to work, just building on what we started and continuing to go,” Neal explained to reporters last week. (Our own Jeanna Thomas was on hand.)

Pressed about what Quinn will do differently, Neal, a guy who normally goes out of his way to temper what he says to the media, took an unusually brazen stance. “Uh, he’s gonna let the players play, that’s one thing I would say,” Neal said. “He’s gonna put us in a position to make plays.”

If you read between the lines, it sounds a lot like Neal is saying that players were not allowed to play in years past. In short, they were playing with the football equivalent of an engine governor. And now that governor has been removed because governors are lame and no one likes them. If that doesn’t give you chills, then I can’t help you.

In any case, this is an absolutely critical year for Quinn. Again, if he’s running the defense, then the buck stops with him. But if Neal’s vote of confidence means anything at all, and it should, then there’s a lot to be excited about.