Keanu Neal has received no shortage of praise from since joining the Falcons organization. Defensive coordinator Richard Smith said he thinks the first-round pick is going to be pretty special; Dan Quinn said Neal "has really been on point."
Now, we can add Marquand Maneul's name to the list of those who are impressed with the rookie out of Florida. The defensive backs coach has spent two minicamps and OTAs with Neal and, after getting a chance to evaluate the newcomer up close, saw the traits that made him a coveted prospect.
"His man coverage abilities have been on another level,'' Manuel said, according to Pat Yasinskas. "People criticized that, but they really didn't watch the tape. ... When you're watching him play what we call our off-technique and he's covering wide receivers, if he can cover wide receiver, I'm not worried about him being able to cover a tight end."
It's especially encouraging to know Manuel is excited about Neal's coverage ability. That's one area where scouts have criticized the 6-foot, 211-pounder, who is known best for his hard-hitting nature, downhill speed and run-stopping ability.
If Neal continues to excel in coverage when the pads go on, he should be equipped to not only start right away, but be a reliable, productive strong safety who can change the dynamic of Atlanta's defense.