Atlanta’s Pre-Season Players To Watch!

I got a good look at the 2016 Falcons, the last couple days at training camp. It was kind of hard not to take my eyes off the 3 new “space-tacklers.” Shocking I know, normally I’m focusing on Matt & Julio. But seriously, the 3 “space-tacklers” were at the top of my checklist.

Keanu Neal (AP PHOTO:TODD KIRKLAND)
Keanu Neal (AP PHOTO:TODD KIRKLAND)

Keanu Neal is the top draft choice and he’s playing a hybrid safety/linebacker role in this scheme. Deion Jones is the rookie trying to takeover at middle linebacker. Also, rookie outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell is making some noise in camp too. Go ahead and throw Vic Beasley into the mix, because he’s a linebacker now.

Neal, who the Falcons valued way higher than other teams, is a physically impressive strong safety. Quinn’s Falcons will be lining him up in the box, loading up against the run game. He’s a good fit doing that. But it’s his coverage skills that concern me. Opposing OC’s will try to take advantage of Neal in zone coverage. Hope they can coach him up, in coverage.

Jones, as Q would say, “plays fast & physical.” I agree with that first part. Deion can pursue, from the inside out, quickly. He can run and hit. Again, true. My concern was watching him get knocked off the chase too easily. Got pushed around too much. Maybe they can get him coached up quick.

Didn’t get to Campbell enough to form an opinion.

We did get to interview Vic Beasley! He’s transitioning to the Falcons strongside linebacker position. So, Vic will be dropping back into space, in pass coverage. That still looks odd to me. Bet it feels odd to him too. But don’t freak out, Q & Richard Smith are going to try and turn him loose rushing the passer, from the SLB spot too. Hope this works out.

Austin Hooper (AP PHOTO:TODD KIRKLAND)
Austin Hooper (AP PHOTO:TODD KIRKLAND)

It was encouraging to see rookie tight-end, Austin Hooper getting coached up. Shanahan and his assistant coaches were focused on him. Matt Ryan was getting plenty of reps throwing it to him. Matt was busy coaching him too. Hooper is a big target that runs smooth routes and catches the ball. Flat. Flag. Seam. Nice red zone target. Keep an eye on him. Sure liked what I saw.

It was great of Mr. Blank to stop by and spend a segment on The Buck & Kincade Show! He’s been good to us. He told us that the Shanahan-Matt Ryan working relationship has improved. That’s good. Still seeing Matt rolling out too much though.

Dwight Freeney showed up, while we were there. Little disappointed he was wearing that Mets cap.

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