3 hidden gems on the Dallas Cowboys roster

Dallas Cowboys, Keanu Neal

Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys are loaded with talent, but these three players are hidden gems.

Last year was a disappointing one for the Dallas Cowboys, as quarterback Dak Prescott’s major leg injury in Week 5 led to a 6-10 record. But in the lackluster NFC East, that was only one game out of first place.

With Prescott lined up to be ready to go, the Cowboys are easy to line up as the favorites to win the NFC East and they are one of the most talented teams in the NFC. Expectations are naturally high, so another bad season could lead to Mike McCarthy lasting just two seasons as head coach.

Matching the star on their helmets, the Cowboys have star players who will drive headlines, get the most attention and ultimately, get the most scrutiny. But these three players are hidden gems on their roster.

3 hidden gems on the Dallas Cowboys roster

3. Keanu Neal is a defensive weapon

The Cowboys had one of the worst defenses in the league last year, including the second-worst run defense (158.8 yards per game) and the seventh-worst passer rating against (100.4). They’ve enlisted former Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn to turn it around as the new defensive coordinator while bringing in one of his former pupils.

After missing most of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Neal rebounded with 100 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, one sack and one interception for the Falcons last year. A safety by trade and build (217 pounds), Neal will bulk up a little bit (222 pounds) and move to weakside linebacker for the Cowboys.

With Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, first-round pick Micah Parsons and fourth-round pick Jabril Cox in place, the Cowboys have plenty of depth at linebacker. Neal may carry that position label now, but he should be a versatile piece for Quinn lining up everywhere from the box to deep as a free safety.

The big question for Neal is still health. But if the Cowboys’ defense is going to be markedly better this year, it’ll be with him making an all-around impact.

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