Today we will be continuing the series that is taking a look at the Dallas Cowboys players who’ve left and what the team has done to replace them. This next position has been one that has been a hot topic for Cowboy fans, draft guru’s, and sports writers for years now, the safety position. It seemed like for years the Cowboys under Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli focused more on building up the defensive line instead of solidifying the back end of their defense.
This led to one of the more polarizing players manning the safety position for the Cowboys the last four seasons.
The Old: “The Goat” Jeff Heath
Where to begin with Heath? He was a player that would make you jump out of your seat for making a game-saving tackle or even a big hit to an opposing player. But, he was also the player that would get picked on by offenses constantly, and also the player that took poor angles when trying to make a stop or just straight up whiff on a tackle in the open field.
For years the Cowboys fans and had to take the good with the bad with Heath in the starting lineup. He was a leader of the secondary and had the respect of the locker room, but in the end his style of play would be his downfall with the new coaching staff for the Cowboys. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan prides himself on defenses that create turnovers and making tackles. Those were two things that the Heath was very hit or miss with, especially the tackling.
His style of play was also starting to take a toll on his body as he continued to pick up shoulder injuries due to his hard-hitting style. So it was pretty easy to see that this change was in the works once he became a free agent and the Cowboys wasted no time in finding a replacement that fits their need at the position.
The New: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
When the Cowboys were shopping for a safety on the open market, they were looking for someone who would be able to cover the middle of the field, make plays on the ball and make open field tackles. As luck would have it Clinton-Dix, a former Mike McCarthy draft pick, was looking for a new team and fit the bill for Nolan. Clinton-Dix had bounced around to a few teams, but during his time with the Chicago Bears last season he seemed to return to his former play-making self, more resembling the player he was during his time with McCarthy in Green Bay.
Clinton-Dix was creating turnovers and making plays all over the field, great news for a Cowboys team that was looking to put a second safety on the field with Xavier Woods. Both have the ability to create turnovers, cover running backs and tight ends, and the ability to cover the middle of the field. With both on the field, Nolan now has the ability to disguise his defensive coverages, something that the previous defensive staff seemed to never want to do.
The Cowboys made a good decision in choosing Clinton-Dix and did it at low cost as well. They gained a safety that will be a better playmaker than Heath, and also a player that can lead the secondary thanks to his experience in the league.