Can Tyler Coyle be the Dallas Cowboys next Jeff Heath?

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

Once upon a time, an undrafted rookie free agent safety from Saginaw Valley State went from long-shot camp body, to NFL starter, to Team Captain of the Dallas Cowboys all within the course of a few short years. This improbable journey made Jeff Heath one of the ultimate NFL Cinderella stories, and something the Cowboys hope to repeat again with one of their current UDFAs, Tyler Coyle .

Jeff Heath’s story should be familiar to every Cowboys fan.  The man known (somewhat tongue in cheek) as “the goat” was a polarizing figure in Dallas. Some fans adored him while others despised him.

Regardless of which camp you fall, Jeff Heath’s contributions on the Cowboys for seven years deserves Cowboys Nation’s gratitude. It wasn’t his fault he was repeatedly thrust into a starter role season after season. It was the front office who should be chastised for playing a SAF3 in a SAF1 role, over and over again.

Tyler Coyle has the ability to be the Dallas Cowboys next big UDFA and follow in the footsteps of Jeff Heath

The Dallas Cowboys signed Tyler Coyle as one of their prized UDFA in 2021. The traits-heavy safety from Purdue/UConn was a mixed bag as a prospect. For as memorable as his film at UConn was, it was equally as forgettable at Purdue. Blame it on COVID, the lack of talent around him, or the ill-fitting scheme, but that Purdue film cannot be disregarded (and is the reason he went undrafted).

What stood out above all were his ability to make plays at key times and athletic traits that translate to the NFL game – the same things that carried Jeff Heath for seven seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.

Standing 6-foot-1, 210lbs, with 33-inch arms and elite speed, strength, and explosion, Coyle is the complete package at safety. Athletically, he’s in a class by himself and if he can put the intangibles together like Jeff Heath once did, Coyle could be the reserve SAF Jeff Heath was always supposed to be.

Let’s be clear, with Donovan Wilson, Malik Hooker, and Jayron Kearse on the roster, the ceiling is somewhat capped for Coyle this season. A thin roster and some inopportune injuries (is there such a thing as an opportune injury?) forced Heath onto the field early in his career. The landscape appears much different for Tyler Coyle here in 2022. And that’s a good thing.

Jeff Heath was always best suited for a SAF3 role. And Coyle’s ceiling is likely to be the same elevation. If Coyle can win a spot on special teams, the road will be paved for him to seize that role one day too.

Consider this as well: Jayron Kearse is more linebacker than safety,  Malik Hooker has a pretty sketchy injury history, and Donovan Wilson is in his last year under contract with Dallas, and you have an environment that could offer opportunities sooner rather than later.

Ideally Coyle will win the role that Heath was at his best: As the third safety/spot starter/special teams ace. He’ll play a big role on special teams (somewhere Heath was borderline elite) and contributes 10-15 snaps per game on defense.

Is it a long-shot? Sure. the odds are always stacked against UDFAs in the NFL, that’s what makes the Jeff Heath Cinderella story so compelling. But Coyle has the traits needed to succeed in the NFL and with the right development he could be the Dallas Cowboys next Jeff Heath.

Sports Dallas Fort-Worth
Sports Dallas Fort-Worth /

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