Jason Garrett refers to Jeff Heath as one of the players “who always shows up” when the Cowboys give him chances. To that end, the Cowboys plan on giving Heath more chances this season.
They have penciled in Heath as the starting strong safety, a spot left open by the free agent departure of Barry Church.
“I’ve seen a lot [from Heath],” free safety Byron Jones said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “All of this stuff we saw last year, he wasn’t getting a lot of playing time earlier in the season, but he was coming in at critical situations and making good plays. That’s what Jeff Heath’s main thing is.
“Even on special teams, he’s a core guy. He’s a guy who is calling the plays. He’s a personal protector on punt [coverage]. That’s a big job. If there’s one guy we can trust with that, it’s Jeff Heath.”
The Cowboys signed Heath as an undrafted free agent in 2013. Known more as a core special teams player, Heath has made the most of his time on defense. He has five interceptions since arriving in Dallas, including the postseason, which ties him for the team lead in that span. Heath has intercepted Jameis Winston three times and Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers once each.
Heath received his most snaps his rookie season when he was on the field 594 defensive plays, starting nine games because of injuries in the secondary. He got only 125 snaps in 2014, 205 in 2015 and 243 in 2016.
On the first minicamp practice last week, Heath had two interceptions of Dak Prescott. Heath’s performance in the offseason program has given the Cowboys confidence he can handle the job.