The Chargers offense found a much needed spark in 2013 when new head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt came to town. So much spark that Philip Rivers won the Comeback Player of the Year award. One of the most instrumental pieces to that success was a new passing system geared toward an increase in completion percentage that included crossing patterns and halfback screens. During that season, one player emerged as Rivers new safety blanket. That player was 5’8″ running back Danny Woodhead.
Oct 14, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (39) attempts to elude Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea (41) at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Rivers utilized those screens to the full ability by hitting 102 completions to the running back tandem of Ryan Mathews and Woodhead. Woodhead in fact, caught 76 of those 102. His chemistry with Rivers was undeniable. So many times while under pressure Rivers would hit a quick dump-off and the shifty play-maker would split defenders to move the chains.
Full stats for Danny Woodhead in 2013:
106 carries, 429 yards, 4 ypc, 2 touchdowns
76 receptions, 605 yards, 6 touchdowns, 30 first-downs
Sep 21, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (39) gets taken off the field after a injury against the Buffalo Bills during the first quarter at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
After a successful 2013, Woodhead broke his fibula in just the third game of 2014 and missed the remainder of the season. Undrafted rookie Brandon Oliver quickly stepped up and showed an ability to make plays in space, but the absence of Woodhead grew evident as the season wore on. Oliver caught 36 passes for 271 yards as a rookie, but lost third down work to unimpressive veteran Donald Brown. Woodhead will look to rebound in a big way in 2015. It remains to be seen how the Chargers will split reps between Woodhead, Oliver, and Brown this coming season. Especially if Mathews is somehow extended, or another back is drafted or signed to take early down work. Regardless, Woodhead has earned his reps in passing situations and shouldn’t be overlooked as an elite weapon. With the recent offensive line struggles, the check-downs could begin to come more often. Expect big things.
2015 is time to shine for #39!
Take a look at the video below for some of the best Woodhead moments as a Charger.