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Cowboys news: Keanu Neal feels like a linebacker already, even though he’s still learning

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Detroit Lions v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Keanu Neal Has Always Been A Linebacker At Heart - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com

The Cowboys free agent is ready for his position change.

A strong safety for five seasons in Atlanta, Neal is starting off at linebacker, where he says he’s focusing on the WILL (weak side) and dime positions.

Neal said he has played “forms of” linebacker in the past as a box safety. As a linebacker, he’ll play closer to the line of scrimmage more often. And he plans to play about five pounds heavier than his listed 217 weight last year.

“Honestly, I’m learning just like the other guys,” he said. “It’s a new position for me. So like the other guys, they’re learning and I’m right with them.”

Neal obviously has the versatility to play safety if needed. In his second year in the league, he made the Pro Bowl with a career-high 112 tackles and five forced fumbles. An ACL tear in 2018 and a torn Achilles’ tendon in 2019 limited him to just four games in those two seasons.

He returned healthy last year and played in 15 games for the Falcons, recording 97 tackles, two pass breakups, a sack and an interception.

Trevon Diggs envisioned Alabama reunion in Cowboys’ secondary - Mark Inabinett, AL.com

It just wasn’t to be.

“With the 10th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Patrick Surtain II, cornerback, Alabama.”

That’s what Trevon Diggs had hoped to hear NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell say on April 29, which would have reunited the Cowboys cornerback and his former Crimson Tide teammate in the pros.

Instead, the Denver Broncos choose Surtain with the ninth pick, prompting Dallas to trade back two spots in the first round. The Cowboys gained a third-round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles in the deal and acquired Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons with the 12th selection.

Dallas did draft an SEC cornerback this year, but it was Kentucky’s Kelvin Joseph in the second round, the same place that the Cowboys got Diggs in the 2020 NFL Draft.

“I did watch the draft, and I did think that, but you never know what happens,” Diggs told reporters this week about his expected reunion with Surtain. “You never know what happens with the draft. I’m grateful for what we got. I’m really thankful. I’m really excited. He’s looked good in practice. He’s explosive, fast — everything, so I’m happy.

Dak’s biggest win: Cowboys QB Prescott fights for mental health awareness - Timm Hamm, Cowboys Maven

Dak Prescott opens up about the importance of mental health awareness.

In that interview with ESPN’s Steele, Prescott said he “was going through depression and anxiety because I was isolated” most of last year due to COVID-19, and he “wasn’t able to be around the people that I wanted to.”

Said Prescott: “We’ve got to talk. And it’s an obligation for all of us to listen and to help.”

Prescott spoke out about mental health issues he was dealing with all throughout 2020’s COVID-19 quarantine.

In a September interview on In Depth With Graham Bensinger, Dak discussed the importance of being “vulnerable, genuine, and transparent.” In that same interview, Prescott told us that his brother, Jace Prescott, took his own life in April 2020..

Dak opened up to Steele about his family’s struggles before his brother died, but his brother’s death took it to a different level because, Dak said, he wasn’t aware of what Jace was dealing with.

As others sit, Dak Prescott believes Cowboys’ off-season work will ‘pay off’ - Todd Archer, ESPN

Dallas Cowboys trying to get an advantage over other teams are in the NFL?

While some teams have heeded the NFL Players Association’s advice to skip the voluntary portion of the offseason program, the Cowboys have had nearly all of their players involved since the beginning.

By the time the 2021 NFL season starts, the Cowboys expect to have an advantage over other teams in part because of the offseason attendance, although the return to health of Prescott, Smith and Collins should not be discounted.

“It’s going to be huge. It’s going to pay off,” Prescott said. “Obviously, the mental aspect, knowing the scheme, whether it’s the defense learning a new scheme or whether it’s the offense being on the same page and communicating better, I think it’s going to pay off huge when we get to training camp to have maybe that step that these other teams may not take during the offseason.”

Competition or not, K Greg Zuerlein should feel pressure in training camp - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star

The Cowboys kicker needs to keep pressing to keep his edge.

Right now Greg Zuerlein has no competition for the job of Dallas Cowboys’ kicker.in 2021. But even if that doesn’t change when Dallas goes to training camp, Zuerlein can’t afford to struggle. He should still the pressure of his contract situation and the fear that the Cowboys could always pull in a free agent if needed.

Last year when John Fassel became the new Special Teams Coordinator for Dallas, he brought the veteran Zuerlein over as our new kicker after their time together with the Rams. Even though the Cowboys still Kai Forbath in house, Zuerlein was handed the job and didn’t even have to compete against Forbath after Dallas released Kai before the start of 2020 camp.

The circumstances of that offseason were different with reduced roster sizes and practice opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But even now that we’re getting back to the normal offseason flow in 2021, Dallas still hasn’t any other kickers to the roster to contend against Zuerlein.

While this sounds like a great situation for Greg on the surface, the Cowboys could quickly change course if the 33-year-old shows any decline or other cause for concern. And given the current state of his contract, Dallas could be quickly motivated to find a cheaper option.

Every NFL team’s most important training camp battle in 2021 - Alex Kay, Bleacher Report

Defensive end hardly seems to be the Cowboys biggest camp battle.

The Dallas Cowboys struggled to consistently generate pressure against opposing quarterbacks in 2020, accruing a pedestrian 31 sacks and 10 interceptions on the season. Their overhauled defense—headlined by the acquisition of linebacker Micah Parsons with the 12th overall pick—should perform much better this year, but the defensive end position remains largely unchanged.

The Cowboys will still rely on DeMarcus Lawrence as an every-down disruptor, while Randy Gregory should also continue to rotate in on the edge. Free-agent signing Brent Urban is a bit of a wild card, as he could move inside or play on the end, having done both during his six-year career.

Dallas is likely to carry five defensive ends in total, which leaves Bradlee Anae, Dorance Armstrong, Tarell Basham, Ron’Dell Carter, Chauncey Golston and Carlos Watkins to fight for the remaining spots on the roster.

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