Scouting Report: Danny Woodhead

The Chargers made an underrated -- and undersized -- addition when they signed former Patriots RB Danny Woodhead. Proficient as a receiver and deadly in space, Woodhead adds an element to San Diego's offense that has been missing since Darren Sproles left town. For more on Woodhead, we talk to Patriots Insider publisher Jon Scott.

The Chargers signed Danny Woodhead to a two-year, $3.5 million contract. It comes with a $1 million signing bonus and base salaries of $750,000 and $1.75 million, both of which are non-guaranteed.

The contract has the looks of a bargain, especially given Woodhead's history of big plays and San Diego's need for playmakers in the offensive backfield (running backs combined for just four TDs in 2012).

How much help can Woodhead provide? To find out, we check in with Jon Scott, publisher of Patriots Insider and member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

Michael Lombardo: What are your thoughts on Danny Woodhead?

Jon Scott: Bill Belichick once had a running back with the Cleveland Browns named Eric Metcalf, a scat back who had tremendous kick return and open-field running abilities. Belichick tried many times to use Metcalf in certain packages, often trying to run him up the gut. While that didn't work so well, what did work was Metcalf in open space. He was deadly one-on-one with a linebacker.

Belichick learned his lessons with Metcalf and applied them to Woodhead. Playing behind a strong offensive line, Woodhead was solid on draws up the middle on third-and-long. Actually, that's when Woodhead was most effective.

Undersized backs typically don't do well in between the tackles, as Metcalf showed, but for Woodhead that was never the case. He always found ways to get a yard when there was none. Woodhead almost always would find ways to squeeze between defensive maulers to land on that first-down marker. He was an improved version of Metcalf in the run game, but not nearly as dangerous on special teams.


RB Danny Woodhead
Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports
ML: What does Woodhead do best and where is he most limited?

JS: Woodhead's role with the Patriots was one of a specialty back, not always used, but used with extreme effectiveness against certain defenses. He's unreal in open space on a defender when he knows he has time. Woodhead has the moves that can embarrass defenders, even in practice in the one-on-one tackle drills.

Woodhead can take over a game, as the Colts found out after closing the score to 21-14 in this clip: http://bit.ly/YHfpCj

Woodhead is not big (listed at 5'8" but more like 5'7"). Size and durability are the biggest concerns. How he'll hold up after being hit numerous times can be something teams don't want to test.

But as this clip shows, when used correctly, he is as dangerous as any back in the league: http://bit.ly/107ymQ2

Watch him embarrass guys in the open field. Most importantly, look at the down and distance in this highlight reel. It's why Woodhead gets the call. He's always a threat to make something good happen. New England relied on Woodhead in the hurry-up offense because no other back could execute as reliably and consistently.

ML: How is he in pass protection?

JS: Woodhead's size has been problematic. Some defenders have been able to leap over him. When facing a larger, blitzing defender, he does his best to slow the blitz but can be overpowered at times.

ML: What about special teams?

JS: Woodhead has been tried at kickoff and punt return duties. One of the bigger concerns, when I watched him in camp, was his ball-handling skills as he tried to make the catch. Once the ball is in his hands, he's a weapon, but making a clean catch and then transitioning into attack mode on the return hasn't gone as well.

He's solid as a runner. And in coverage, when he's not stoned off the line, Woodhead can get to the ball as a gunner very quickly.

ML: Are there doubts about his ability to be as productive outside of New England's wide-open offense? How do you think the Chargers should utilize him?

JS: The Chargers have been a predictable offense in dire need of some innovation. Although there are some twists Norv Turner added over the years, it was basically an offense where execution was key. San Diego relied on the talent to get the job done. In New England, Woodhead's role changed constantly. It wasn't about his ability as much as it was about where he could be used to attack a defense.

So it's a tough call to say if Woodhead's going to be used the same way in San Diego as he was in New England. With that being said, Woodhead can certainly do what's needed to gain positive yards for San Diego's offense as long as the Chargers don't telegraph their plays.

For example: Don't put Woodhead in a one-back set where his only option is a run to one of three sides. That would be too easy to defend and a poor use of his skills. He needs to be in space as a secondary option. The quarterback must have time to find him as a receiver in the flat or an option run play.



What are Bolts Backers saying about Woodhead? Find out in the message boards.




Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


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