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Has Keanu Neal Cemented Himself as a Starting Linebacker?

Keanu Neal has come on these past two preseason games for the Dallas Cowboys after a slow start. This mainly was due to the position switch from strong safety to linebacker; Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn felt he would be more of an asset near the line of scrimmage than on the back end.

So far in the preseason Neal has totaled 34 snaps, a forced fumble, and four stops while allowing zero catches. His biggest plays so far were those two stops; one on a 2nd & 1 and the most notable was the forced fumble against the Arizona Cardinals.

Skywalker Steele on Twitter: “Keanu Neal fills with such aggression and power. This isn’t a surprise either he was elite at forcing fumbles before the injuries. Looks the healthiest he’s been since. pic.twitter.com/OPTIT7BVlx / Twitter”

Keanu Neal fills with such aggression and power. This isn’t a surprise either he was elite at forcing fumbles before the injuries. Looks the healthiest he’s been since. pic.twitter.com/OPTIT7BVlx

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Fans are excited as the Cowboys may have turned last year’s linebacker core into the deepest and most talented position on defense. Neal’s aggressive and tough mentality paired with Micah Parsons’s speed and athleticism give the Cowboys two players who can play all three downs.

Even though Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have been the starters over the past three seasons, Quinn wants more speed and Neal and Parsons fit exactly what he wants in his Cover 3 scheme. Neal can take the weakside linebacker spot as the starter over Smith, who has declined from an athletic standpoint over the last two seasons.

With the position switch, Neal has the flexibility to play on both run and passing downs. Since 2019, Smith has been a liability on passing downs as opposing offenses gameplan to attack him when he is on the field.

Neal has had his share of knee injuries but Smith has more clearly regressed, struggling with the change of direction and sideline to sideline plays. Jaylon will be playing a lesser role as he may only come on the field on early downs and rush as a defensive end.

Dallas hopes Neal can continue to make plays while Parsons becomes the player they can build around on defense.

What do you think?

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Written by Alec Cash

I am a 24-year-old Cowbys Content Creator with exceptional skills in Published Writing, Public Speaking and Podcasting. Sports Writer Covering the Dallas Cowboys for Inside The Star.

2 Comments

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  1. I agree. I like Neal at the WILL and Parsons at the MIKE. LVE can be the 3rd LB when they have three on the field. This could change some if LVE looks like he has recaptured some of his old magic. But Neal is a good tackler, covers alot of ground and will be better in coverage due to his Safety background. Smith is the odd man out. He just isn’t good enuf anymore to supplant any of the other LBs. Plus Cox looks like he could pass him on the depth chart before long.

  2. Estoy de acuerdo con su comentario , y creo firmemente de qué Jabril Cox superará en corto tiempo a Smith , por las capacidades que Cox mostró en LSU y en los partidos que llevan jugados de pretemporada .

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