After a rocky start to the season, is it time for fans to start trusting Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Heath after he’s posted some solid performances?
Back in January, Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Heath might have been the best defender on the field during the team’s lone postseason game. Against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs, the 13-3 Cowboys had a clear path to the Super Bowl.
But first, Dallas had to defeat the Packers at AT&T Stadium after earning a bye during the Wild Card round. Well rested and a rusty, the Cowboys quickly fell behind 21-3 in the second quarter against Green Bay. Dallas scratched and clawed their way back, and ended up tying the game twice in the fourth quarter before losing on a 51-yard field goal at the end of regulation.
One of the reasons Dallas was able to be competitive in that game was the play of Heath. A back-up safety and core special team’s player at the time, the role-player racked up three tackles, 1.0 sack, one pass defend and two interceptions (one pick was called back) in limited snaps against the Pack.
So when the Cowboys opted to part ways with veterans Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox in the offseason, many of us didn’t blink an eye as Heath’s tenure in Dallas combined with his excellent play in the postseason indicated he was more than ready to fill the starting void beside former first round selection Byron Jones at safety.
Unfortunately, Heath’s experience coming off the bench didn’t immediately translate to the field as a starter. The 26-year old struggled in both pass and run coverage to start the season. The hard-hitting safety was suddenly taking bad angles and missing tackles. And the playmaking ability that fans saw in the playoffs all but disappeared.
Through his first eight games as a starter this season, Heath recorded 33 total tackles, one pass defend and one forced fumble.
Understandably, fans were calling for a youth movement at both safety positions. With youngsters like Chidobe Awuzie, Kavon Frazier and Xavier Woods all waiting in the wings, it only seemed like a matter of time before Dallas was forced to make a change.
But since Week 9, Heath’s play has started to pick up. And the Cowboys have elected to reduce Byron Jones’s snaps instead, with Frazier coming in for the high draft pick every other series.
In the past six games, Heath’s play has really started to take off. In that span, he’s recorded 33 total tackles, four pass defends, three interceptions and a game-winning force fumble Sunday night in a pivotal victory over the Oakland Raiders in Week 15.
The second half of this season, safety Jeff Heath has elevated his play to where we saw him in the playoffs when the year began. In turn, the role of Byron Jones has been reduce and the Cowboys defense is playing much better for it. I think it’s safe for fans to start trusting Heath as a starter in Dallas.