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Role Call: How Keanu Neal Fits With The LBs 


(Editor's Note: With the offseason program in the rearview mirror, it's time to look ahead. As part of the preparation for training camp, this series will introduce 25 key players who are new to the Cowboys' roster, rookies and veterans alike. We'll continue the series with linebacker Keanu Neal.)

How He Got Here: Neal was affordable and available because the Falcons decided to let him go after five seasons in Atlanta. The former first-round pick (17th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft, Neal was taken by Dan Quinn, who is now the Cowboys' defensive coordinator. Neal, who played safety for Atlanta, has been plagued by injuries, missing 28 games between the 2018 and 2019 seasons. But when he's healthy, Neal can be productive, recording three seasons of 100+ tackles and he made the Pro Bowl in 2017.

What's Next: For all the success Neal has had as a safety, his reunion with Quinn will see him switch positions to linebacker. But it's not exactly a big change, considering Neal served as the nickel linebacker for the Falcons his entire career. While the Cowboys have some traditional linebackers in place in Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and now Micah Parsons, it'll be interesting to see where Neal fits into the mix. It's likely he would play in the middle of the field, especially on passing downs, and should be able to use his coverage skills to help against slot receivers and tight ends.

Bet You Didn't Know: Neal's older brother is Clinton Hart, a safety who starred at Central Florida. Hart bounced around in the NFL with the Eagles, Rams and Chargers, along with various other professional teams in the United Football League from 2000-2010.

Quotable: "Growing up I played linebacker in middle school and high school, then we changed the defense and I switched to safety. So I went to college as a safety. But in my heart, I've been a linebacker for a while. As time went on I moved to safety. I still have an understanding of what everything entails with playing linebacker." – Keanu Neal

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