While some aren’t going to miss Jeff Heath’s work at safety for the Dallas Cowboys, he also served as a team captain and locker room leader. With Heath leaving for the Raiders in free agency, does his departure mean we’ll see a new team captain named in 2020?
In past seasons under Jason Garrett the Cowboys have typically named five captains; two on offense, two on defense, and one on special teams.
Last season Dallas went with six captains: QB Dak Prescott and G Zack Martin on offense, DE DeMarcus Lawrence and LB Jaylon Smith on defense, and then Heath and P Chris Jones on special teams.
Heath is the only one of those players who isn’t returning in 2020. Therefore, it’s quite possible that the Cowboys will just stick with those five holdovers from last year.
Giving Heath’s captaincy to a new player is completely up to Dallas. They could make it another special teams leader, such as longtime veteran L.P. Ladouceur or a coverage specialist like C.J. Goodwin.
Sean Lee and Tyrone Crawford have both been captains in the past and have big locker room presences. Either of them would make sense from a leadership role.
While he’s new to the roster, DT Gerald McCoy has been one of the biggest names in the NFL for many years now. Making him a captain would show deference to his accomplishments and further legitimize him as a new leader with teammates.
One guy who could make sense is Xavier Woods, who will be entering his third year as a starting safety and now the more tenured of Dallas’ defensive backs. With all of the change taking place in the secondary right now, Woods stands out for his stability among the projected 2020 starters.
Another third-year guy with a big role is Leighton Vander Esch. While fellow linebacker Jaylon Smith is already a captain, Vander Esch is expected to have an equal role on and off the field. They’ve been compared in the past to the duo of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs in Chicago, and both of those greats were captains during their time.
If we’re looking for guys with big personalities and presences, how about Ezekiel Elliott? Now a few years removed from the domestic violence accusation, Zeke is as much a superstar as anyone on the roster and would make sense to represent the team.
A big x-factor here is the change in head coach from Garrett to Mike McCarthy. While some teams have traditions that transcend the coach, the Cowboys are likely to let McCarthy handle things his own way to help him take control over the locker room.
During his years in Green Bay, McCarthy went along with the Packers’ tradition of naming weekly captains for each game. Given how long he was there, perhaps Mike will bring that same idea over to the Cowboys.
The naming of captains may not mean much to some of us but serves as an interesting look into the internal dynamics of the team. They choices generally reflect who are the true leaders among the roster and who the coaches respect in that role.
Jeff Heath set a great example with his work ethic and effort and earned his captain position last year. Will the Cowboys recognize a new player, or will Mike McCarthy change the way that captains are named as the new head coach?