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Could Jeff Heath be the Starting Safety Next to Byron Jones in 2017?

Brian Martin

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Could Jeff Heath Be The Starting Safety Next Byron Jones In 2017?

There are a number of unanswered questions surrounding what the Dallas Cowboys will do with some of their free agents this off-season. One of those questions is who are they going to get to play at safety next season opposite Byron Jones with Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox testing free agency?

Enter #38, everybody's favorite player to hate, Jeff Heath.

I know everybody wants to see the Cowboys re-sign either Barry Church for J.J. Wilcox, but I'm not so sure that the coaching staff won't take a long hard look at increasing Jeff Heath's playing time and making him the starter in 2017.

The Cowboys have been wise about how they spend their money in free agency the past several years, and I expect that to continue this off-season as well.

They have a lot of holes to fill on their roster this off-season, especially on defense. I'm sure they would love to bring Barry Church back if the price is right. But, that's the thing. It always comes down to money, and Church might be able to make more taking his talents to another team.

Of course, everybody mentions that Wilcox might be the more affordable safety of the two to bring back, but can the Cowboys really rely on him to be a full-time starter? I know I don't have the answer to that and I'm not sure they do either.

So, why not roll the dice and see what Jeff Heath can do as a full-time starter. I mean, when given the chance all he does is make plays.

Could Jeff Heath Be The Starting Safety Next Byron Jones In 2017? 1

S Jeff Heath

He may have only finished the 2016 regular season with 23 tackles and one interception, but it's the last impression he made that might make the Cowboys coaching staff seriously consider evaluating him as a starter next season.

You may have forgotten, but Jeff Heath is a big reason why the Dallas Cowboys were able to claw their way back into the game against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Heath was able to do what very few defensive backs are able to do against Aaron Rodgers, get an interception. Heath did it not once, but twice. Yes, I'm counting the second INT, even though it was overturned because of a bad penalty call by the referees.

He just has a nose for the ball and seems to always be in the right place at the right time. He is definitely underrated as a player by a lot of Dallas Cowboys fans, but not so by his teammates or the coaching staff.

The Cowboys made sure to sign Jeff Heath to a four-year, $7,671,000 contract extension last April in 2016. To be completely honest, I really liked the signing at the time and I like it even more now.

The Cowboys likely extended Heath's contract mostly because of his contributions on special teams, but also because he is a good reserve safety to have in your back pocket to use when needed.

Depending on how things work out between the Cowboys and their free agent safeties, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox, we could see Jeff Heath see an extended role on the backend of the defense in 2017. And you know what? I think I would be okay with that.

What do you think of Jeff Heath as a starting safety in 2017?

Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic.



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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10 Comments
  • Fatfan

    If Church is gone, the job should be Heath’s to lose. But I do like the improvement seen in Wilcox. (no coincidence it came with a db coaching change) Wilcox will fill in well as a back-up, and he brings the wood when it’s time to CLEANLY hit a wr coming across the middle. That may have more value than many fans realize.

    • Brian Martin

      I like what I saw from Wilcox this season. I’m curious what kind of money he will be asking for. If the Cowboys do bring him back, I would imagine he would likely be the favorite to start next to Byron Jones. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how much the Cowboys value what they currently have on the roster and what’s on the open market.

  • Don

    I would like to see more playing time for him. If he can stay healthy he’s been an asset. He plays with that Sean Lee type aggressiveness and seems to find the ball. I think we’ll see a vast improvement from the D this coming season. Those guys had a little taste of what might have been and are hungry. It’s still disappointing to me the way our season ended but there’s definitely something to look forward to this year. I still think their approach to the finale with Philly was way too conservative and they should have gone for the jugular in that game and played their ass off and kept their momentum going, but that’s water under the bridge now…!

    • Brian Martin

      Don, the more I think about it the more I like the idea of Jeff Heath getting a shot at playing next to Byron Jones. We’ve seen a small sample size what he can do when given the opportunity, hopefully he can build on that. Of course, this could all change if the Cowboys draft a safety or re-sign Church or Wilcox. Regardless, Heath could see more playing time in 2017.

  • Michael Moy

    Heath can catch the ball, something the other DBs can’t. Wilcox played better than Church. BJ underachieved. All CBs are flawed — nobody knows how to play the ball. Time to put some money on the DL and in CBs before Lee gets old.

    • Brian Martin

      Michael, I agree with you for the most part. However, I think there was a big difference when Church was in the lineup then when Wilcox was in the lineup. Church is the better player, but not by much. Wilcox continues to improve, but I don’t know if he’ll be in the Cowboys future plans.

      I also don’t think Byron Jones underachieved. I think everybody had such high expectations for him being the type of ball hawking safety everybody wants. His position flexibility really helped the backend of the Cowboys defense in 2016. He will continue to get better with more playing time.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think the Cowboys will invest a lot of money in free agency. I think they will continue to take the approach of bargain shopping to fill holes and build this team through the draft.

      • Michael Moy

        Expectations and flexibility not withstanding, BJ had problems with covering above-avg TEs. He also was no ball hawk. Being OK at several things is not going to do it as an NFL centerfielder, especially coming in as a high #1. Lastly, he did not do the job on the next to last play in that loss to GB. Maybe I am calling him out a bit much, perhaps the DB coach (the DBs just don’t play the ball, one reason why few INTs) and DC need to coach better. Come to think of it, same goes for the LB coach. If Sean had turned and played the underthrown ball from Rogers, he would have had an INT instead of giving up a TD. The defense hustled and overachieved for the most part, so then it’s talent and technique (coaching).

        • Brian Martin

          This was Byron Jones first year as a full-time safety. He will only continue to get better, but I will admit he did have his ups and downs. But that can be said for anyone in the Cowboys secondary. The lack of pass rush really hurt the Cowboys secondary because there are asked to guard receivers for an extended period of time.

      • Michael Moy

        By the way, it’s time to get over the hump instead of keep saying rebuild. We were 13-3 in two out of three seasons. Opportunities are slipping away. BTW, I think JJ is ok with all this because the franchise value keeps going up, but for the fans it’s torture. Building thru the draft as the primary approach is sound, assuming scouting and coaching excellence. However, when you are that close, you have to bring in the last piece(s) (eg, Deion, Haley, Herb Adderley, Lance Alworth — under Johnson and Landry who built thru the draft but was smart and flexible to know what it takes to win SBs when it’s time). Red Head is no coach of the year, too single minded (BTW, he and I are fellow alumni so I do hope he does well, but more importantly I’m a 50-year Cowboys die-hard).

        • Brian Martin

          I agree that they’re not rebuilding, but I’m not sure that missing piece is available in free agency. The best free agent DE is probably Chandler Jones, but I wouldn’t call him a difference maker. Sure, he would be an upgrade over what the Cowboys currently have on the roster, but I don’t think even take the defense over the top. I think as fans we have to remain patient because the best teams build through the draft. That’s one of the reasons the Patriots are continuously one of the best teams in the league year after year.

Star Blog

Can Jaylon Smith Challenge Vander Esch For Starting MIKE Role?

Kevin Brady

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In Season For Youth, Cowboys Must Make Tough Decision On Jaylon Smith

When the Dallas Cowboys selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with their first round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the whole world basically assumed he would be the starting MIKE linebacker week one of the upcoming season.

After all, the Cowboys lost Anthony Hitchens to free agency and none of the injury replacements had much success during the 2017 season.

Now just a couple of months shy of that week one match up with the Carolina Panthers, a battle for that middle linebacker spot appears to be occurring.

Former 2016 second round pick Jaylon Smith has seemed to find his health, and his movement skills and agility look like they did back when he was at Notre Dame. Whether or not these offseason hype videos will actually mean anything on the field remains to be seen, but just the fact that Smith is working out and playing without the knee brace is obviously a good sign.

Unlike Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith did play for the Dallas Cowboys a year ago. Sure Smith had his share of growing pains, but he seemed to find his groove late in the season. It probably isn't a coincidence, though, that Smith's best games came when coming off the bench in a limited role and when playing beside veteran Sean Lee.How Will LB Jaylon Smith Best be Utilized in 2018?

During the offseason activity thus far Jaylon Smith has gotten the majority of snaps at middle linebacker, but Vander Esch has also been sidelined with an injured ankle. Leighton Vander Esch clearly fits the mold of a MIKE both physically and athletically, but at his best Jaylon Smith does as well.

Despite the resurgence of Jaylon Smith and the injury to Leighton Vander Esch, I still do expect Vander Esch to snag that MIKE role moving forward. While showing glimpses of productive play, Smith did not impress enough to earn him the unquestioned starting job last season, and may best fit as a SAM backer and situational pass rusher/blitzer in the current scheme.

Allowing Jaylon Smith to conserve his energy and provide a boost off the bench is the best way for the Cowboys to structure their defense. Of course, this is only true as long as Vander Esch becomes the player they expect him to be, though.

If Jaylon Smith does return to the player he was at Notre Dame prior to his horrific injury, the Cowboys will possess three incredibly rangy, athletic, and talented linebackers on their roster.

Of course, that if is a very big if at this point, however.



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Star Blog

Will Cowboys’ Performance VS NFC South Define 2018 Season?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Dak Prescott Weighs in on Cowboys "Dak-Friendly" Offense Approach

When thinking about how the Cowboys' 2017 season came to an end the day before Christmas after a disappointing loss to the Seattle Seahawks, we often forget the team needed some extra help in order to get to the playoffs. The NFC was a tough conference to play in last year... but it will only be tougher in 2018.

The NFC is way stronger than the AFC right now, at least in terms of depth.

The Cowboys will be sharing a division with the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that only got stronger this offseason and will try to make a run for the NFC East title once again.

As good and promising as the Cowboys' roster is, it's only fair to admit that trying to get to the postseason this year might implicate running for a wildcard spot. Many teams will be fighting for a playoff berth late in the year but fortunately for Dallas, they will be able to control their destiny against a handful of this teams.

The Cowboys will play against the entire NFC South this season. Except for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, every team in the South division was fighting for a chance at January football heading into week 17.

The Saints, Falcons and Panthers all finished the season with double-digit wins last year, and there's little reason to believe they won't come back as strong as they were in 2017.

If the Cowboys are not able to beat the Eagles in the NFC East race, we'll be hearing about a lot of different playoff scenarios that will be needed in order to play in the postseason. Certainly, having the head-to-head advantage against the NFC South teams would go a long way, even if the team will play the Saints, Falcons and Panthers before December comes around.

If the Cowboys do manage to get back to their 2016-selves, no team in the league should be an "impossible" challenge for a powerful running-game based offense and a defense that can rush the passer consistently.

Of course, the NFC South is not the only challenging division in the conference. The NFC West will feature another three football teams that will be winning tons of games. The Rams, 49ers and Seahawks are all very likely to have winning records and be in the hunt once December comes around.

In a season that promises to be a "comeback" year for America's Team, the NFC promises to be a threatening conference from every direction. If the Cowboys will be able to overcome or not remains unknown and will stay that way until the season actually starts.

Tell me what you think about "Will Cowboys’ Performance VS NFC South Define 2018 Season?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: 3 Escenarios Para el Futuro de David Irving

Mauricio Rodriguez

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- David Irving, #95

En la NFL, la falta de noticias en Junio generalmente significa buenas noticias. Los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys saben esto mejor que nadie y en caso de que lo hayan olvidado, David Irving se aseguró de recordarle a Cowboys Nation el porque de esta frase.

La semana pasada, se anunció que David Irving recibirá una suspensión de cuatro partidos por haber violado la política de abuso de substancias de la liga. Es la segunda suspensión que Irving recibe en años consecutivos y lógicamente, esto es preocupante para el equipo de los Dallas Cowboys.

Las últimas dos temporadas hemos visto a Irving convertirse en una pieza de suma importancia para la defensiva. El año pasado, Irving consiguió siete sacks (capturas) en sólo ocho juegos y se convirtió en un caza cabezas muy efectivo.

Demostrando ser uno de los jugadores más talentosos de su posición en la NFL, es difícil imaginar el futuro del #95 en la liga. Tras recibir un tender de segunda ronda hace unos meses (explico que es eso aquí), el futuro de Irving es muy incierto. Por eso, esta semana en Cowboys en Español, exploraremos tres escenarios posibles para el defensivo de 24 años.

#1 David Irving se va de Dallas prematuramente

Hace unos días, me dediqué a defender mi posición de que los Cowboys estarían cometiendo un error al cortar a David Irving. A pesar de que realmente despedirse de un defensivo como Irving parece muy poco probable, es un escenario que debemos discutir.

Irving ha sido un dolor de cabeza para el equipo en más de una ocasión. Dos suspensiones en años consecutivos no es una buena imagen para un jugador que busca un contrato jugoso al terminar el año.

Si Jason Garrett y la administración quieren "dar un mensaje" cortando a David Irving, ¿qué tanto serviría? Esta idea de enviar un mensaje, a la hora de pensarlo fríamente, parece una idea romántica de parte de nosotros los fans. Al final de cuentas, estamos hablando de un locker room lleno de jugadores adultos y profesionales, no de un grupo de niños.

Además, bien sabemos todos que Irving no es el único Cowboy que ha tenido problemas. ¿Será el hecho de que ha ocurrido dos años seguidos razón suficiente para dejarlo ir? Personalmente, no lo creo. Los Cowboys dejarían ir a un jugador muy bueno en una posición de necesidad.

Datone Jones, Jihad Ward y Maliek Collins podrán ser suficiente. Pero David Irving es especial en el campo. Mejor tenerlo por 12 juegos a tenerlo cero.

#2 Irving se queda para el 2018, pero no más allá

David Irving recibió un contrato de un año que le pagaba (antes de ser suspendido) 2.91 millones de dólares. Si hubiera demostrado que no era problemático y que podía mantenerse al 100% toda la temporada, probablemente hubiera recibido un gran contrato de los Cowboys o de otro equipo en la NFL.

Sin embargo, el dicho lo dice todo. "En la NFL, la disponibilidad es la mejor habilidad." Irving no se ha terminado de ganar la confianza necesaria para una gran extensión.

En este punto, Dallas puede esperar a que su tackle defensivo regrese de su suspensión, juegue doce juegos con ellos y les consiga un sack por juego por menos de tres millones de dólares. Después de eso, el equipo pude darse el lujo de dejarlo ir sin una extensión y verlo convertirse en un agente libre.

Does DT David Irving Have a Future With Cowboys?

Dallas Cowboys DT David Irving (Albert Pena / CSM)

#3 Irving se queda por más de un año

En este caso, hay dos "sub-escenarios." Suponiendo que, efectivamente, Irving regresa y juega como sabemos que puede hacerlo, no será tan fácil dejarlo ir. Si llega a sorprender y demuestra que realmente es quien creemos que es y consigue diez capturas en sólo doce juegos, ¿realmente no le dará el equipo una oportunidad?

La primera opción sería asignarle la etiqueta franquicia y obligarlo a jugar un año más para un equipo que busca desesperadamente un Super Bowl.

Si se sienten cómodos dándole el salario de una etiqueta franquicia para evitar perderlo, ¿podríamos culparlos después de que les dio por ejemplo, diez capturas? Yo, personalmente, no podría hacerlo.

La otra opción, y una que podría ser la más realista, es más simple. La inmadurez y los problemas de Irving le costarán la confianza y el interés de otros equipos y es posible que en un punto, Dallas sea el único equipo que le pueda brindar seguridad de trabajo.

De esta manera, Dallas podría ofrecerle una extensión de dos, tres o más años a un precio mucho más barato que el de cualquier DT que consiga dos dígitos de sacks.

✭✭✭✭✭

David Irving sin duda tiene un futuro incierto delante de él. Realmente sería una sorpresa verlo fuera de Dallas en el 2018, pero más allá, quien sabe lo que pueda pasar. Por ahora, esperemos que una vez que vuelva de la suspensión, esté en forma para ir detrás de los quarterbacks oponentes.

Con un poco de suerte, quizá nos olvidaremos de esto en Noviembre.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: 3 Escenarios Para el Futuro de David Irving" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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