For a young team in the NFL such as the Dallas Cowboys, captaincy is an important deal. Even more with Jason Witten, arguably the most important leader during his time in Dallas, recently retiring. Two of the 2017 Cowboys' captains are gone, leaving two vacancies up for grabs next season.
Who will take Jason Witten and Orlando Scandrick's spots?
There are a few names to keep in mind, specially along the offensive line. However, there's a name Cowboys Nation shouldn't underestimate and who could very well be wearing a “C” on his jersey once the season starts.
Five-year veteran Safety Jeff Heath is a likely starter for the Cowboys' defense in 2018. Although it seems like a position of need for the team, the front office decided not to draft any more safeties neither did they signed one of the veteran ones available in free agency. Clearly, they trust the players they have in the defensive backs room. Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier will all fight for starting roles.
It's fair to say Jeff Heath is a decent starter. It's also fair to say he isn't great. However, after playing in 84% of the defensive snaps last year and doing a decent job at it, I'm betting on Heath not only being the team's starting safety come September, but being a team captain in the meantime.
Usually, captains in NFL teams are above-average players. Guys like Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, Dak Prescott in the case of the Dallas Cowboys. Heath still has a lot to prove, but Cowboys Nation shouldn't be surprised if he is a captain in 2018.
Clearly, there's something about #38 that makes him an important guy for the team. As fans who can't see what's going on beyond the playing field and inside the locker room, we might never know specifically what makes him special, but he seems to be among the Cowboys' leaders.
Let's look at some interesting facts.
During Jason Witten's emotional retirement press conference, the tight end mentions a bunch of young players' names in the room. Among guys like Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Zack Martin, Tyrone Crawford and more, Witten mentions Jeff Heath and tells them: “Now it's your turn to lead.”
Coming from Jason Witten, that says a lot. For 15 years, he's probably been the hardest-working player on the team.
Former Cowboy DeMarco Murray recently posted a photo on Instagram bidding farewell to Witten, as many former, current and rookie Cowboys did. However, one thing in particular stuck out from Murray's message, which you can read here.
“Being pushed by you everyday alongside Jeff Heath, Sean Lee and Tony Romo was something no one ever saw, and something I'll never forget.” DeMarco Murray.
Heath being named as a player who “pushed” Murray alongside Witten, Lee and Romo definitely comes as a surprise. He might not be a top safety in the league, but realizing that he makes a big impact as a leader is pretty interesting.
In Amazon Prime's “All or Nothing” season finale, a meeting with the Cowboys Leadership Council is shown. In the meeting, Jason Garrett addresses 13 players, including the captains. Jeff Heath is in the room.
While some players may earn the title of “leader” based on on-field production, that probably isn't the case for Heath.
With the Cowboys needing to fill a couple of captain spots for the 2018 season, they might look to make Jeff Heath one of the guys. Hopefully we see his career-best year in a year that desperately needs a safety to step up.