Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running backPierre Thomas
(23) runs past Dallas Cowboys strong safetyJeff Heath
(38) on a touchdown during the second quarter of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Breaking Down the Dallas Cowboys’ Safety Position: Jeff Heath
The Dallas Cowboys defense was an atrocity last season. The pass rush was non-existent and the secondary was embarrassing. Cornerbacks played without confidence, often playing with poor technique and step behind. Safeties looked lost, overmatched, and out of position to make routine plays.
The Cowboys are already deep into a defensive line rebuild, but as of yet, absolutely nothing has been done to address the secondary. With high priced CBs Brandon Carr & Orlando Scandrick on the roster already, the secondary already accounts for its share of money. Throw in former first round pick, Morris Claiborne, and you can see the Cowboys have invested a hefty amount.
The past week we looked at the safeties. With limited money and draft picks invested in the 2 safety positions, it’s easy to see why upgrading here may be in the Cowboys best interests. Who’s already on the team? Today we look at Jeff Heath…
Saginaw Valley State University
Jeff Heath, better known in my family-friendly living room as Jeff “effing” Heath, had a difficult rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys. Signed as a priority free agent only minutes after the 2013 Draft concluded, Heath was added for depth, special teams, and as a project. As we all know, the reality of the situation was that Heath would see far more playing time than anyone ever imagined.
Heath played so many snaps in 2013 that he was rewarded with and extra $247,273 in Performance Based Pay (PBP). PBP is roughly calculated based on playing time compared to compensation. If a low paid player plays a high number of snaps, he is finaciually rewarded. Heath earned one of the biggest PBPs in the league last year.
The Cowboys struggled with the safety position all season. Barry Church served as mister reliable but beyond him it was a mess. J.J. Wilcox was drafted in 2013 with the intension of competing for a starting safety spot. He flashed some plays and displayed athleticism. But after dealing with some personal issues, and overcoming injuries, he fell behind in the classroom/filmroom.
Nov 3, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Minnesota Vikings running backAdrian Peterson
(28) runs with ball for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Heath (38) and linebackerJustin Durant
(52) at AT&T Stadium.The Cowboys beat the Vikings 27-23. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Word from Valley Ranch was Jeff Heath was much more aware of his assignments than Wilcox was, and the Cowboys felt nervous trusting Wilcox in the crucial role of safety. Heath was awarded playing time and countless opportunities. Sadly he just wasn’t ready.
Jeff Heath played at Saginaw Valley State University. The jump to the NFL was huge. The plan was to move him along slowly. He had a solid college career making the All-GLIAC First Team in 2012 where he totaled 77 tackles and 5 ints. His coaches loved him in college as do his new coaches in Dallas. Heath needs more development at safety and is best be suited for depth only. He was often a step behind in 2013. Sometimes he wasn’t quite fast enough. Sometimes he wasn’t quite strong enough.
Is Heath the solution at safety for the Dallas Cowboys? No, but he does have a place on the team. He’s smart, a strong special teams player, and a favorite of the coaching staff. But he’s certainly no starter. The safety needs to be found elsewhere and Heath cannot be expected to play as much in 2014 as he did in 2013 or we may see a repeat of last year from this defense.
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