FRISCO, Texas – New Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has wanted to coach Keanu Neal for a long time — long before the Atlanta Falcons drafted Neal with the 17th overall pick in 2016 when Quinn was their head coach.
“He recruited me out of high school right before he went to the league,” Neal said. “He was with Florida (as defensive coordinator) and then he recruited me. Once I got to Florida, he ended up going to the NFL, but I’ve known him since 2012 basically.”
Neal became a Pro Bowl safety in Quinn’s system with the Falcons. The Cowboys hired Quinn in January. They signed Neal to a one-year, $5 million deal in March.
That’s not a coincidence.
Quinn believes Neal will bring “speed and physicality” to a Cowboys defense looking to improve on a down season in which they allowed the most points and the second-most rushing yards in franchise history. The club also signed another former Falcon, safety Damontae Kazee, to help the transition to Quinn’s scheme.
“They can give help on the communication that much quicker to make sure, ‘Hey, this is what Q is saying here,'” Quinn said. “So, having that ability to kind of pass the message down the line, that’s a big piece of it. But the reason they’re here is their football ability, adding to our team and what they can bring. Both guys have had real experience as ballhawks.”