Good or bad, Jeff Heath has been the one consistent thing about the Dallas Cowboys safety position these last couple of years. He’s had a revolving door of starters next to him, but he’s somehow managed to retain his starting status and could make it three years in a row when all is said and done.
Despite having a pretty dreadful 2018 season, Jeff Heath would be the Dallas Cowboys starting safety next to Xavier Woods if the season were to start today. The coaching staff values him a lot more than a lot of us around Cowboys Nation, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to have a fight on his hands if he wants to keep his job when training camp gets underway a few weeks from now.
There are a lot of hungry players currently behind Heath on the depth chart looking to unseat him as the starting safety. But, No. 38 isn’t going to buckle under the pressure just because of a little competition. As a former undrafted free agent he knows all too well the kind of fight he’s in for. It’s a no holds barred, slobber knocker kind of fight.
Jeff Heath knows this, and so does his teammates. They all know training camp and preseason is a war, and to the victor goes the spoils. This battle isn’t going to be one for the ages, but it is one of the more important position battles to watch.
Keeping all of that in mind, who do you think has the best chance of unseating Jeff Heath as the Cowboy starting safety? George Iloka? Darian Thompson? Kavon Frazier? Or maybe the rookie, Donovan Wilson?
I’m sure if I were giving odds, George Iloka would be the odds-on favorite to beat out Jeff Heath right now. He does after all have the most experience of any of the safeties on the Cowboys roster right now. And at 6’4″, 225, he also brings a little bit more size to the position as well.
Iloka would give the Cowboys two interchangeable safeties if paired with Xavier Woods. He’s been more of a free safety the majority of his career, but like Woods, he’s a solid tackler when asked to play more around the line of scrimmage. Is he a clear upgrade though? I don’t have the answer for that right now, but he’s a proven commodity and brings some much-needed experience to the table.
What about Darian Thompson though? Could he become a surprise starter? He was after all a former third-round draft pick by the New York Giants and has starting experience. And, he supposedly looked pretty good in OTAs. Maybe he can finally become the player the Giants thought they were getting coming out of Boise State. I’m sure the Cowboys wouldn’t rub their noses in it at all.
That finally brings us to Kavon Frazier and Donovan Wilson. I’m linking these two together because I believe they are fighting with each other for the fourth and final roster spot at the safety position. Frazier has the experience, but Wilson has the youth and is under contract longer. Could either of these two unseat Jeff Heath though?
For Frazier, I think any chances of him finding much playing time on defense has pretty much flown out the window. The Cowboys value his special-teams ability, but not so much what he brings to the defense. As far as Wilson though, he could be another sixth-round find, much like Xavier Woods was a few years ago.
Donovan Wilson could possibly challenge for a starting job as a rookie, but he’s really going to have to impress at training camp and in preseason. He’s already been spoken pretty highly of due to his ability to pick up the defense and get everybody lined up, although it’s going to take much more than that to climb to the top of the depth chart.
If I had to pick one player to unseat Jeff Heath right now, I think I’d have to go with George Iloka. His experience and proven track record really intrigues me. But, I’m not going to bet against Jeff Heath just yet. He has a fighters mentality and isn’t going to go down easy.