Dallas Cowboys: 5 Biggest disappointments this season

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5 Biggest Dallas Cowboys disappointments of 2021

Keanu Neal, LB

Cowboys Nation was excited when they heard Dan Quinn was bringing over former first round pick and thumper-extraordinaire, Keanu Neal. The former Atlanta safety was brought in to focus on the linebacker position for the Dallas Cowboys.

The Dallas defense needed a significant overhaul and Quinn needed players he was familiar with in order to do big things, fast.

When Neal was signed, the linebacker position was a mess in Dallas. Jaylon Smith was lost dog who didn’t even know he was lost and Leighton Vander Esch was coming off back-to-back seasons where he was injured and somehow even worse than Smith.

Behind those two, the cupboards were bare so it made sense Dallas paid Neal more than any other free agent this offseason. Neal’s athleticism and hitting ability would be a welcomed sight on this Dallas defense. He could play a variety of packages and with put less reliance on the over-worked Smith and the over-injured LVE.

As it turns out the Dallas Cowboys hit the LB position pretty hard in the draft. Grabbing both Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox in the draft was more about opportunity than the plan, but regardless, it set the stage for a packed house at the LB spot this season. Through it all though, Neal was supposed to be the most reliable piece.

Instead, Neal has been a disappointment. His 17.2 missed tackle percentage is a career worst and his 56% defensive snap percentage is the lowest of his career (excluding injury-shortened seasons). Neal’s 26.6 run defense grade is among the worst in the entire league by PFF and it’s hard to argue against it. Overall Neal rates 70 out of 86 at his position and his overall grades are the lowest of his six year career. Not what fans were expecting from their “prize of free agency”.

In all fairness, Jaylon was every bit as bad in years’ past and the reason Dallas found him to be so expendable was the existence of Neal on this roster. LVE, himself has also been disappointing. LVE isn’t as bad as he was in 2019 and 2020 but he’s also a far cry from his dominant rookie self and nowhere close to the player I was hoping him to be before the season began (see also: Why LVE can be a star again).