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Jeff Heath (born May 14, 1991) is an American football safety for the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL) [1] He played college football at Saginaw Valley State University. Heath signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2013.

Jeff Heath
refer to caption
Heath with the Cowboys in 2017
No. 38 – Dallas Cowboys
Position:Strong safety
Personal information
Born: (1991-05-14) May 14, 1991 (age 28)
Lake Orion, Michigan
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:212 lb (96 kg)
Career information
High school:Lake Orion
(Lake Orion, Michigan)
College:Saginaw Valley State
Undrafted:2013
Career history
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of Week 2, 2019
Total tackles:295
Pass deflections:20
Interceptions:8
Forced fumbles:6
Fumble recoveries:1
Defensive touchdowns:1
Extra Points Attempted:2/3
Player stats at NFL.com
Player stats at PFR

Early yearsEdit

Heath attended Lake Orion High School where he practiced football and soccer. He was selected as the Big Play Player of the Year for kicking a game-winning 49 yard field goal to give Lake Orion a playoff victory and regional title over Sterling Heights Stevenson. The team advanced to the Michigan Division 1 state championship game in 2008 before falling to Rockford High School.

As a senior, he started as a defensive back, was voted team captain and received All-North conference honors.[2]

College careerEdit

Heath accepted a football scholarship from Saginaw Valley State University, a NCAA Division II program and a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He was not heavily recruited out of high school, and was only offered a partial scholarship with SVSU.[3] As a freshman, he appeared in 5 games (one start), tallying 13 tackles (4 solo), one interception, one tackle for a loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one pass defensed.

As a sophomore, he appeared in 8 games (7 starts), tallying 49 tackles (3.5 for loss), one interception and 2 fumble recoveries. The next year, he started all 11 games, registering 81 tackles (9 for loss), one sack, 3 passes defended, one interception, also forced and recovered one fumble.

As a senior, he started all games, recording 77 tackles (3 for loss), 5 interceptions, 7 passes defended, one forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries. He finished his college career after starting 30-of-35 games, posting 219 tackles (16.5 for loss), 7 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries.

Heath majored in criminal science at Saginaw Valley State.

Professional careerEdit

Heath didn't receive an invitation to perform at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. On March 11, 2013, Heath participated at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's pro day. Team representatives and scouts from a few teams attended Heath's pro day, including the Dallas Cowboys.[4] At the conclusion of the pre-draft process, Heath was projected to be a seventh round pick or priority undrafted free agent by NFL draft experts. He was ranked as the 27th best strong safety prospect in the draft by DraftScout.com.

Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt 40-yard dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert jump Broad BP
6 ft 1 18 in
(1.86 m)
209 lb
(95 kg)
4.48 s 1.59 s 2.70 s 4.36 s 6.88 s 37 in
(0.94 m)
10 ft 6 in
(3.20 m)
22 reps
All values from GLIAC's Pro Day

2013 season: Rookie yearEdit

On April 27, 2013, the Dallas Cowboys signed Heath to a three-year, $1.48 million contract with a signing bonus of $2,000 after he went undrafted in the 2013 NFL draft. The Dallas Cowboys were the first team to call Heath and extend a contract offer.[5]

External video
  Jeff Heath forces fumble by Cobi Hamilton

Throughout training camp, Heath competed for a roster spot as a backup safety and special teams player against Brandon Underwood, Matt Johnson, Micah Pellerin, Jakar Hamilton, and Eric Frampton.[6] He impressed coaches with his preseason performance and made a total of 16 combined tackles (11 solo) and a forced fumble in five preseason games.[7] Heath made the active roster as the fifth safety on the Cowboys' depth chart and special teams player after Matt Johnson was placed on injured reserve due to a foot injury.[8] Head coach Jason Garrett named Heath a backup free safety to start the regular season, behind Barry Church and Danny McCray.[9][10]

He made his professional regular season debut in the Cowboys' season-opener against the New York Giants and assisted on one tackle during their 36–31 victory. On October 27, 2013, Heath earned his first career start after J. J. Wilcox was inactive and missed three games (8-10) due to a knee injury.[11] Heath finished the Cowboys' 31–30 loss at the Detroit Lions with a season-high nine combined tackles and a forced fumble.[12] In Week 12, Heath made six combined tackles and returned a fumble recovery for his first career touchdown in the Cowboys' 24–21 win at the New York Giants. Heath recovered a fumble by wide receiver Victor Cruz and returned it for a 50-yard touchdown after it was stripped by teammate Orlando Scandrick during the second quarter.[13] On December 22, 2013, he recorded five combined tackles, deflected a pass, and made his first career interception during a 24–23 victory at the Washington Redskins in Week 16. Heath made his first career interception off a pass by Redskins' quarterback Kirk Cousins, that was originally intended for wide receiver Santana Moss, in the second quarter.[14] Heath continued to start at free safety after Wilxoc returned from injury in Week 11. He finished his rookie season in 2013 with 60 combined tackles (47 solo), three pass deflections, an interception, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown in 16 games and nine starts. Heath also led the Cowboys with 13 combined tackles on special teams.[15] Heath's rookie season was largely seen as a disappointment due to issues he had in pass coverage. He was repeatedly targeted and gave up multiple receptions during the 2013 season.[16]

2014 seasonEdit

On January 28, 2014, the Dallas Cowboys promoted defensive line coach Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator after they opted to transition former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin to assistant head coach/defense. They chose to make the change after the Cowboys finished last in the league in defense and allowed the most yards and franchise history.[17] Heath competed against J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson, and Jakar Hamilton for the job as the starting free safety during training camp.[18] Head coach Jason Garrett named Heath the backup strong safety, behind J.J. Wilcox, to start the regular season.[19]

In Week 7, Heath collected a season-high five combined tackles in the Cowboys' 31–21 win against the New York Giants. On November 23, 2014, Heath made three solo tackles before fracturing his thumb during a 31–21 victory at the New York Giants.[20] He was sidelined for the next two games (Weeks 13–14) due to his thumb injury.[21] Heath finished the 2014 season with 18 combined tackles (16 solo) in 14 games and zero starts.[15]

The Dallas Cowboys finished first in the NFC East with a 12–4 and earned a playoff berth. On January 4, 2015, Heath appeared in his first career playoff game and made two solo tackles during a 24–20 victory against the Detroit Lions in NFC Wildcard Game. The following week, he recorded seven solo tackles and deflected a pass attempt during a two-point conversion after replacing Barry Church in the second half of the Cowboys' 26–21 loss at the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Round.

2015 seasonEdit

Head coach Jason Garrett named Heath the backup free safety to start the regular season in 2015, behind starting free safety J. J. Wilcox.[22] On November 1, 2015, Heath was involved in a violent collision with Seahawks' wide receiver Ricardo Lockette during the second quarter of a 13–12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 8. The incident happened while Heath was on punt coverage and Lockette a gunner and running downfield as Heath delivered a block to Lockette who was unaware of the impending blow. Lockette was immediately rendered unconscious and was carted off the field and transported to the hospital.[23] Heath received a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness and Lockette was diagnosed with a severe concussion and underwent surgery to stabilize ligaments in his neck.[24][25] The collision and injury effectively ended Lockette's career and forced him into retirement. In Week 9, he collected a season-high six combined tackles during a 33–27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. On November 15, 2015, Heath recorded two solo tackles, two pass deflections, and two interceptions in the Cowboys' 10–6 loss at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 10. Heath made his first interception of his career off a pass by quarterback Jameis Winston, that was originally intended for tight end Brandon Myers, in the second quarter.[26] He finished the 2015 season with 25 combined tackles (20 solo), two pass deflections, two interceptions, and a forced fumble in 16 games and one start.[15] He primarily played on special teams in 2015 and tied teammates Kyle Wilber and Damien Wilson with nine special teams tackles.

2016 seasonEdit

During training camp, Heath competed to be a backup safety against J. J. Wilcox and Kavon Frazier. Head coach Jason Garrett named Heath the backup safety behind Byron Jones to start the regular season in 2016.[27][28] In Week 15, he recorded one tackle, deflected a pass, and made an interception during a 26–20 victory against Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15. On January 1, 2017, Heath collected a season-high four combined tackles in the Cowboys' 27–13 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles. He finished the 2016 season with 23 combined tackles (16 solo), two pass deflections, and an interception in 16 games and zero starts.[15] He tied for the team lead in special teams tackles with seven, along with Byron Jones and Kyle Wilber.[29] Pro Football Focus gave Heath an overall grade of 76.4.[30]

The Cowboys finished first in the NFC East with a 13–3 record and earned a first round bye. On January 15, 2017, Heath recorded three solo tackles, deflected a pass, made an interception, and made his first career sack during a 34–31 loss against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Round.[31]

2017 seasonEdit

 
Heath (left) playing against the Washington Redskins in 2017.

Throughout training camp, Heath competed against Robert Blanton and Xavier Woods to be the starting strong safety.[32] The role was left vacant after Barry Church and J. J. Wilcox departed during free agency. Head coach Jason Garrett named Heath the starting strong safety to start the regular season, alongside free safety Byron Jones.[33]

In Week 7, Heath filled in as the emergency kicker, following an injury to kicker Dan Bailey. He was tasked with kickoffs and extra points and converted two of three extra point attempts during the Cowboys' 40–10 victory at the San Francisco 49ers. This made him the first non-kicker or punter to make multiple extra points in game since Houston Oilers linebacker Ted Thompson went 4 out of 4 in 1980.[34][35][36] Heath was inactive for the Cowboys' Week 11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles due to a concussion.[37] On November 30, 2017, Heath recorded four solo tackles, broke up a pass, and made an interception in a 38–14 win against the Washington Redskins in Week 13. The following week, Heath collected a career-high ten combined tackles (eight solo), deflected a pass, and intercepted a pass by quarterback Eli Manning during a 30–10 win at the New York Giants in Week 14.[38] Heath finished the 2017 season with 71 combined tackles (63 solo), five pass deflections, a career-high three interceptions, and two forced fumbles in 15 games and 15 starts.[15] Pro Football Focus gave Heath an overall grade of 80.8, which ranked 35th among all qualifying safeties in 2017.[39]

2018 seasonEdit

Heath was "spectacular in 2018",[40] recording a career-best 85 tackles (third-best on a top-10 defense),[41] including 10 in a Week 5 19-16 overtime loss to the Houston Texans. He followed that big performance in the next game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with an interception returned 47 yards off of quarterback Blake Bortles. Heath started in all 16 games.[42]

NFL statisticsEdit

Legend
Led the league
Bold Career high

Regular seasonEdit

Year Team Games Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
GP GS Comb Total Ast Sack PD INT Yds Avg Lng TD FF FR Yds TD
2013 DAL 16 9 60 47 13 0.0 3 1 0 0.0 0 0 1 1 50 1
2014 DAL 14 0 27 26 1 0.0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2015 DAL 16 1 18 15 3 0.0 2 2 19 9.5 19 0 0 0 0 0
2016 DAL 16 0 17 13 4 0.0 2 1 19 19.0 19 0 0 0 0 0
2017 DAL 15 15 63 55 8 0.0 5 3 20 6.7 14 0 2 0 0 0
2018 DAL 16 16 85 63 22 0.0 5 1 49 49.0 49 0 1 0 0 0
Total 93 41 270 219 51 0.0 17 8 107 13.4 49 0 1 1 50 1

PostseasonEdit

Year Team Games Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
GP GS Comb Total Ast Sack PD INT Yds Avg Lng TD FF FR Yds TD
2014 DAL 2 0 9 9 0 0.0 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2016 DAL 1 0 3 3 0 1.0 1 1 27 27.0 27 0 0 0 0 0
2018 DAL 2 2 12 7 5 0.0 1 0 0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 5 2 24 19 5 1.0 2 1 27 27.0 27 0 0 0 0 0

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ https://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2017/12/18/16789624/is-it-possible-that-jeff-heath-really-is-the-goat-dallas-cowboys-win-playoffs-oakland-derek-carr
  2. ^ "Cowboys Safety Jeff Heath". Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  3. ^ "Lake Orion family, friends celebrate SVSU grad's first NFL start in homecoming against Detroit Lions". Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  4. ^ "Gosselin: Safety Jeff Heath may be Dallas Cowboys' next overlooked college gem". sportsday.dallasnews.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  5. ^ "SVSU defensive back Jeff Heath signs as undrafted free agent with Dallas Cowboys". mlive.com. Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  6. ^ "Ourlads.com: Dallas Cowboys Depth Chart: 07/01/2013". Ourlads.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  7. ^ "SVSU alum Jeff Heath making case for roster spot with Dallas Cowboys". mlive.com. August 25, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  8. ^ "Jeff Heath Capatilizes on Matt Johnson knjury". thelandryhat.com. September 1, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  9. ^ "SVSU alum Jeff Heath makes Dallas Cowboys' 53-man roster Saturday". Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  10. ^ "Ourlads.com: Dallas Cowboys Depth Chart: 09/05/2013". Ourlads.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  11. ^ Watkins, Calvin (November 24, 2013). "J.J. Wilcox suffers head injury". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  12. ^ "DeMarco Murray may play vs. Lions". Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  13. ^ "NFL Game Center: Week 12-2013: Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants". NFL.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  14. ^ "NFL Game Center: Week 16-2013: Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins". NFL.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d e "NFL Player stats: Jeff Heath (career)". NFL.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  16. ^ Moachota, John. "Jeff Heath: 2013 better than some think; safety is 'way more comfortable' now". sportsday.dallasnews.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  17. ^ Archer, Todd (January 29, 2014). "Cowboys shuffle coaching staff". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  18. ^ Welp, Nicholas (June 25, 2014). "J.J. Wilcox In Lead At Free Safety, Barry Church Only Sure Thing". cowboysnation.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  19. ^ "2014 Dallas Cowboys Official Depth Chart For Week 1 vs. San Francisco 49ers". bloggingtheboys.com. September 5, 2014. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  20. ^ "NFL Player stats: Jeff Heath (2014)". NFL.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  21. ^ "FoxSports.com: Jeff Heath Injury History". FoxSports.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  22. ^ "2015 Dallas Cowboys Official Depth Chart For Week 1 vs. New York Giants". bloggingtheboys.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  23. ^ "ESPN owes Cowboys' Jeff Heath an apology for 'branding this kid as a dirty player'". Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  24. ^ "Seahawks' Lockette undergoes neck surgery after big hit". foxsports.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  25. ^ "Jeff Heath "hated" Ricardo Lockette was injured on his special teams block". Retrieved February 21, 2016.
  26. ^ "NFL Game Center: Week 10-2015: Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers". NFL.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  27. ^ "Dallas Cowboys Release Depth Chart For Week 1 vs. New York Giants". bloggingtheboys.com. September 9, 2016. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  28. ^ "Ryan Russell Results". Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  29. ^ "NFL Player Stats - Special Teams Total Tackles". Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  30. ^ "Grading the 2016 Dallas Cowboys: Secondary". cover32.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  31. ^ "For Jeff Heath, return to Canton a reminder of how he made Cowboys' roster". Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  32. ^ "Could Robert Blanton land starting safety role for the Cowboys?". 247sports.com. June 27, 2017. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  33. ^ Helman, David (September 2, 2017). "Closer Look: Position By Position Breakdown Of Cowboys' 53-Man Roster". DallasCowboys.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  34. ^ "Safety Jeff Heath served as emergency kicker for Cowboys". Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  35. ^ "Box Score Dallas Cowboys - San Francisco 49ers". Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  36. ^ "Is Jeff Heath finally poised for Cowboys stardom?". Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  37. ^ "Cowboys' Jeff Heath: Inactive Sunday night". cbssports.com. November 20, 2017. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  38. ^ "NFL Player stats: Jeff Heath (2017)". NFL.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  39. ^ "Pro Football Focus: Jeff Heath". profootballfocus.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  40. ^ "Jeff Heath Fantasy Football News & Stats". www.rotowire.com.
  41. ^ "2018 Dallas Cowboys Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  42. ^ "Jeff Heath Career Game Log". Pro-Football-Reference.com.

External linksEdit