Keanu Neal‘s injury during Thursday night’s season-opening game proved to be significant. The Falcons safety is now out for the season after being diagnosed with a torn ACL, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter).
The third-year defender left the Falcons’ Week 1 loss to the Eagles, and he’ll now spend the rest of the 2018 season rehabbing his left knee post-surgery. This is a key blow to a talented Falcons secondary.
The Falcons did not expect this diagnosis, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter), ordering an MRI as a precaution. They’re now down a top young talent. The team announced Neal is done for the year.
The youngest player in a starting secondary that now features each of its other cogs signed long-term, the 23-year-old Neal emerged as a Day 1 starter after being a 2016 first-round pick. He earned Pro Bowl recognition in 2017 after making 113 tackles and forcing three fumbles. Neal’s forced eight fumbles in his career and has two 100-tackle seasons under his belt.
If the team wants to look for outside help, the obvious top candidate is Eric Reid. But he’s currently involved in a collusion grievance against the league after teams shied away from him in free agency this offseason. However, the stakes are high for the 2018 Falcons. Might that prompt them to reach out to arguably the top free agent available? Dan Quinn also coached Earl Thomas during his days as Seahawks DC, and Thomas has let it be known he remains at odds with his team, despite ending his holdout earlier this week.
The Falcons are now 0-1 in a key season for the franchise, with Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta and the team standing as one of the top contenders in a loaded NFC. This is obviously a tough development to start the year.
In other Falcons injury news, however, Devonta Freeman did not sustain a serious knee injury Thursday night, Rapoport adds. He’s expected to be fine going forward.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.