Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2015 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features safety Jeff Heath.
Name: Jeff Heath
Experience: 2 seasons
College:Saginaw Valley State
Key Stat: Heath didn't start a single game in 2014, which isn't that surprising. What is surprising is looking back to his rookie year and remembering that he started nine times for an inept Dallas defense.
Contract Status: Signed through 2015
2014 Impact: Is a player on this roster that doesn't get the credit he deserves. Is a true pro in every sense of the word. Next to Orlando Scandrick is the most prepared player in the secondary and you know this by the many different roles that he plays during a game. Is a mentally and physically tough player. Plays hard no matter how healthy or banged up he might be. Comes from a football family and really understands the game. Is not going to mess up his assignments. Might not be the most physically gifted athlete in the secondary but I promise you that he would beat Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox in a foot race right now. Took a beating his rookie year for not being a great tackler and poor in coverage but I thought he improved in both areas in 2014. Have always thought he was a much better player when the play was in front of him. When he sees it, he can drive on it. There is a burst to his game. Has done a much better job of finishing plays. Was used as a matchup player more in the latter part of the season working against tight ends. Has the size and speed to handle those types of assignments. Have always been impressed with his ability to play on special teams. Is a core / captain type of a player. Has the perfect mental make up to play in this role. Can get off blocks and make tackles. Plays with great awareness during the game. During the final punt in Philadelphia, they went for an all - out rush and he manages to block two men from his personal protector spot so Chris Jones could get the ball off. This is just one example of the types of player that he is.
Where He Fits: Solid third safety and core special teamer. Smart and toughness will always be his calling card. Never going to have to worry about him being prepared and giving his best effort. Can put him in certain packages coverage wise playing in man and you will get productive snaps. Learning how to match up with his physical size and speed. Is a highly respected player by the coaching staff and his teammates. Not a liability that people believe he is.
David Helman: Jeff Heath was not heard from as much in his second season, which is exactly the role you wanted him to fill. J.J. Wilcox was not an All-Pro by any stretch, but he played well enough that Heath and C.J. Spillman only needed to come in on defense in certain situations – rather than permanently. Heath's best asset is his special teams play, where the coaching staff loves him. He finished fourth on the team with eight special teams tackles, and he might be called on even more if Dwayne Harris and Spillman leave the team in free agency. The bottom line is that every team needs guys like Heath – a special teams savant who can fill a role on defense when necessary. You don't want him starting nine games, like he did as a rookie. But that doesn't make him a waste of a roster spot, as so many fans would like to claim. Special kudos to Heath for returning from a broken thumb late in the season, missing just two games after undergoing surgery.