To be honest, it just feels good to be talking about Keanu Neal’s return to the football field and not about another injury. Neal is back practicing and while the Falcons will understandably limit him at times in Training Camp, he’s set to be ready come Week 1.
Neal will go back to manning his usual strong safety position. Today, we’ll take a look at the potential interceptions the former first rounder out of Florida could snag this upcoming season.
This will probably be the easiest baseline to come up with. In his four-year career (the first two of which he didn’t go down to a season-ending injury before Week 4), Neal has secured one interception — that came in Week 17 against the Carolina Panthers in 2017.
He should have had one in the Divisional Round against the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks later but let’s not rip open old wounds.
This season, we’ll see if he can repeat that 2017 feat and secure at least a solitary interception. The baseline for this exercise will be 0.5 interceptions.
The case for the over
When healthy, Neal is an intricate part of the Falcons secondary, acting as the team’s enforcer over the middle. He’s pretty much unchallenged at the SS position and will play the vast majority of snaps in which the defense is on the field (health provided).
Sheer regression data indicates that Neal should get his opportunities to secure at least one interception if he plays so many snaps in the secondary. The pass rush also looks like it will be the best it’s been with Dan Quinn at the helm, which should rush opposing quarterbacks into worse throws.
Just the sheer luck factor could come into play, as we’re talking about a solitary pic — a deflection, an errant pass, a forced throw into coverage over the middle is all it will take.
The case for the under
The biggest concern with Neal going into 2020 isn’t his ability on the football field but rather his availability on the football field. He has played in just four combined games over the past two season, suffering very heavy injuries which derailed each campaign. Neal is unlikely to reach any statistical goals if he’s forced to miss significant time once again.
While only one pic is needed to reach to the over, it is telling that Neal has only secured one in 34 career games. Atlanta’s scheme doesn’t position the strong safety into very many interception opportunities, that role is reserved for the team’s free safety and defacto center fielder.
What do you think? Will Keanu Neal be able to secure at least one interception in 2020, or will he not have any?
Will Keanu Neal have at least one interception in 2020?
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