Falcons rookie safety Keanu Neal played 53 of 81 of the defensive snaps (64 percent) in his NFL debut against the Saints on Monday.
Neal, who was selected in the first round of the NFL draft (17th overall), finished with four tackles and one pass breakup.
“I thought he was physical,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We matched him up some man-to- man and some on the back so for his first outing he played more than we thought he would. It was just kind of a function (of how) the game went… I thought he responded very well.”
Neal said his surgically repaired right knee held up well. He originally injured it on Aug. 25 in the third exhibition game against the Miami Dolphins.
“He had no setbacks from an injury standpoint,” Quinn said. “For him, you could tell he was excited to get his debut underway. Now that he’s underway, no setbacks from the game and we’ll incorporate him even more.”
Neal was drafted to add a physical presence to the defense. He also can help in pass coverage against running backs and tight ends.
He performed will in coverage against the Saints.
“I don’t have a number right now for when he was targeted or if there were catches to his side, but I know he had a good pass breakup on one of the zone plays where he came up,” Quinn said. “We matched him up on the tight ends and the running backs which are some hard matchups, but we know he’s equipped to handle that, so that’s why we tried to feature him in that way.”
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