Despite being in the NFL for four seasons, many are still punishing Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Heath for the mistakes he made as a rookie.
If you have been a Dallas Cowboys fan for any significant amount of time, the name Jeff Heath likely brings up mixed emotions. On one hand, the safety’s last performance should fill you with hope. But, for some, the sting of Heath’s first performance as a starter still lingers.
An undrafted free agent out of little known Saginaw Valley back in 2013, the 6-foot-1, 212 pound safety was thrust onto the national scene in Week Eight of his rookie season against the Detroit Lions. It was Heath’s first start as a professional.
In that game, the Cowboys allowed Lions’ wide receiver Calvin Johnson to record 329 receiving yards and a touchdown in the 31-30 Dallas loss. The highlight of which was the 6-foot-5, 237 pound Johnson soaring over Heath (and cornerback Brandon Carr) for one of his 14 receptions. That image has created a lasting memory for many Cowboys fans which remains to this very day.
Fast forward four years and some change to Heath’s terrific performance in the Cowboys lone playoff game in January against the Green Bay Packers. The 26-year old safety recorded three total tackles, two interceptions (one was called back) and a sack that should have caused a game-changing fumble by Packers’ All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
It’s the type of performance that had many wondering why Heath hadn’t been tapped earlier as a potential starter. This offseason, perhaps partially due to his outstanding postseason performance, the Cowboys allowed several of their defensive backs to leave in free agency including former starting strong safety Barry Church.
Now it appears the starting safety role next to former first round selection Byron Jones is Heath’s to lose. Entering his fifth season, the Cowboys special teams ace is finally getting a chance to start on defense. And according to his coach, Heath’s got all the tools to succeed.
"“[Heath] had to earn every rep,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli told the Star-Telegram. “He does everything right. He’s a good tackler. He’s got good speed. He has excellent hands.”"
Likely more than any other player on the Dallas Cowboys roster, Jeff Heath is still being punished by some for the mistakes he made during his rookie season. With four years of NFL experience now under his belt, Heath has earned the chance to be a starter in this league. As for whether you or I believe in him, it doesn’t matter. The belief stage is over. Now, it’s time for him to prove it on the field.