Jets among teams interested in S Keanu Neal

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Tyler Greenawalt
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The Jets defense needs a lot of help, and they’re looking at upgrading their secondary – possibly with former Falcons safety Keanu Neal, according to Josina Anderson.

The Jets are one of several teams interested in Neal, per Anderson. Among the others: the Cowboys, Lions, Vikings, Colts and Panthers.

Neal, the 17th overall pick in 2016, is a tackling machine. He registered 100 tackles or more in the three seasons he played more than 14 games. Neal’s biggest issue is durability, though, after he missed 15 games in 2018 with a torn ACL and 13 games in 2019 with a torn Achilles. Neal played well in 2020, though, recording 100 combined tackles, nine tackles for a loss, one sack and one interception.

Neal has some familiarity with Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. Both were in Atlanta over the course of Neal’s career, though Ulbrich coached the linebackers until being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2020. Neal tallied 63 solo tackles after Ulbrich was promoted, as well as eight tackles for a loss, three quarterback hits and his first career interception.

Despite his position in the deep secondary, Neal fits the mold of a box safety/linebacker hybrid at 6-foot-1, 216 pounds. He played 641 snaps in the box or in the slot compared to 226 snaps at free safety. Anderson also noted that Neal would be interested in playing linebacker if asked. The Jets need off-ball linebackers in their defense, which is the role Neal would likely slide into if the Jets ended up with him.