Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn spoke constantly about the tremendous growth of the 2016 rookie class from Year 1 to Year 2. Now Quinn has two Pro Bowlers to show for it.
The team announced strong safety Keanu Neal, a former first-round pick, was named to the Pro Bowl on Monday as a replacement for Malcolm Jenkins of Philadelphia. Jenkins and the Eagles are headed to the Super Bowl, meaning he won't play in Sunday's Pro Bowl, to be held in Orlando.
In steps the hard-hitting Neal, who grew up about an hour away from Orlando and played college football at the University of Florida. Neal joins linebacker Deion Jones as members of the '16 draft class at the Pro Bowl. Jones, a former second-round pick who tied for fourth in the league with 138 tackles, was named as an injury replacement for Carolina's Luke Kuechly.
Neal finished second behind Jones this past season with 116 tackles and led the team with three forced fumbles. His eight forced fumbles in 30 career games are the most by a defensive back over his first two seasons NFL history.
The play of Jones and Neal was crucial to the Falcons' dramatic improvement on defense under first-year coordinator Marquand Manuel.
The Falcons had two players named to the original Pro Bowl roster: wide receiver Julio Jones and center Alex Mack. Jones pulled out due to injury, while Mack is expected to play despite dealing with a calf strain late in the season.
Nose tackle Grady Jarrett was named a Pro Bowl alternate, but it remains unclear if Jarrett will get the call before Sunday.