This veteran safety shined during the first day of Dallas Cowboys’ minicamp as the former undrafted rookie free agent tries to win a starting role.
Eyes widened this offseason as the Dallas Cowboys proceeded to lose three starters off their 2016 defensive secondary to free agency in March. Veterans like strong safety Barry Church and cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will now call another NFL team home in 2017.
In their wake, the Cowboys elected to sign free agent veterans like cornerback Nolan Carroll and safety Robert Blanton as a stop-gap. Dallas then proceeded to use seven of their nine selections in April’s NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball. Of those seven, four of those rookies play in the secondary.
And two of those picks can play the safety position. Second round selection Chidobe Awuzie out of Colorado and sixth round pick Xavier Woods out of Louisiana Tech both figure to be in the running for that starting spot left vacant by Church.
But it appears both rookies will have to go through fifth-year veteran Jeff Heath for that coveted starting safety role playing beside former first rounder Byron Jones. Undrafted out of Saginaw Valley State back in 2013, Heath has proven himself to be the Cowboys most reliable special teams player.
In the Cowboys lone playoff appearance last season, against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional round, Heath’s playmaking ability flashed in front of a national audience when he recorded three tackles, a sack and picked off All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers twice. Unfortunately, one of those interceptions was called back, but the point was made.
Heath deserves first crack at that vacant starting safety position in Dallas. And he’s apparently nailing that point home this offseason, being called the star of minicamp on it’s first day, racking up two interceptions.
One of the likely reasons the Dallas Cowboys did not pursue free agent Barry Church with much vigor this offseason is the play of Jeff Heath. After four seasons as the team’s special teams ace and a quality reserve, the 26-year old has absolutely earned the right for his time in the spotlight.