As I’m sure plenty of you are aware of, the Baltimore Ravens outbid both the Chargers and Broncos to secure the services of Chargers running back Danny Woodhead for the next three seasons. The move might come as a surprise as the Chargers had previously had success locking down the shifty, gritty all-purpose offensive weapon to a 2 year deal the last time Woodhead would have hit free agency, in 2015. Additionally, it’s not as though Woodhead’s popularity and perception had taken a nose dive off a cliff, as the majority of the readership here on Bolts From the Blue indicated a desire to re-sign Woodhead to a market value contract.
You can attribute Woodhead’s signing to the Ravens to two likely things (three if you consider the cap ceiling the Chargers have uncomfortably nestled themselves up against by virtue of injuries and bad contracts). The first thing would be Woodhead’s close relationship with former Chargers and current Ravens Safety Eric Weddle.
Look who I found wondering around the airport???????????? U here Booooooooo! @danny__woodhead pic.twitter.com/qyvpvFoZbu— Eric Weddle (@weddlesbeard) March 10, 2017
I mean, just look at those two. They’re so happy to be reunited! It’s clearly meant to be (in some spiritual sense).
Now, the second (and more controversial) reason why Woodhead was not to return to the Chargers in all likelihood is the following opinion:
Due to the Chargers offensive brain trust (whatever variation of Mike McCoy, Ken Whisenhunt and/or Frank Reich you prefer)’s inability to run/design an offense to simultaneously/harmoniously field Woodhead and Melvin Gordon, Woodhead (due to age and accumulated injuries, plus the investment made in Gordon and Gordon’s transformation into a capable three-down back last season) was ultimately expendable.
This article is meant to be more celebratory of Woodhead so I won’t dwell on this point for too long, but I think it needs to be spelled out. It’s my strongest feeling (one substantiated by the split in snap counts from the incredibly frustrating and eerily portending Chiefs game in week one) that Melvin Gordon would not have had as significant a breakout season (to the extent that him not getting a vote for Comeback Player of the Year is a crime) had Woodhead been healthy.
Part of that has to do with my suspicions on how the team intended to split Woodhead and Gordon’s snaps, but a large part of it also has to do with Danny Woodhead being among the most reliably productive and impactful players this team had in years. It’s just unfortunate that, well...
Danny Woodhead Had Two Great Seasons As A Charger (and Two Seasons Evaporated By Injury)
Ravens fans will be hoping that the trend of Woodhead’s odd-numbered seasons yielding beastly numbers will continue because, man, if we had gotten more than just 34 excellent 2013 and 2015 games out of Woodhead, maybe things had would have gone differently this free agency period.
Just to summarize Woodhead’s contributions: In 2015 alone, Woodhead led the league in every receiving category among running backs. His reception numbers in 2013 and 2015 are the 19th and 13th highest single-season totals in team history (not just among running backs, Woodhead’s numbers put him in the same criteria as Chargers receiving legends like Kellen Winslow and Antonio Gates). Danny’s tied for 24th in total career touchdowns scored for the Chargers (with Ronnie Harmon and Dickie Post), just three touchdowns shy of similarly-skilled Darren Sproles’ mark. And he leaves the team as the player to accumulate the 17th highest number of total targets, showing that even in his relatively short tenure, Woodhead was asked to shoulder a lot of responsibilities (even if his rushing numbers don’t bear this out in any “against historical context” sense of the matter).
Danny accomplished so much in just two healthy seasons that (Melvin Gordon development issues aside) it’s an utter shame we really never got to see him play more for the Chargers.
Personally, I think it’s definitely worth asking what might have been had Woodhead not suffered an injury against Buffalo in 2014. Would he have put up a third 1k all-purpose yard from scrimmage type of season like he had in 2013 and 2015? I think it’s fair to suggest that Woodhead, with his squirming, cutting, flowing running style and knack for getting open in arguably the most comically unbelievable sense would have matched that figure.
So with that, I leave the following words: Sometimes when analyzing the game of football it’s good enough to recognize a player’s shortcomings and be aware of them but shelve that criticism in favor of recognizing them for their strengths and ability to positively impact the team’s game. Sure, most teams didn’t have to take the notion of Woodhead gashing them for 200-300 yards in a game seriously since he’s not exactly Jamaal Charles, but he’d still find ways to make even the most tactically sound defenses forget about him long enough for Philip Rivers to find and connect with his safety valve these past 4 seasons.
And with that... Time for gifs!
Danny Woodhead 14 yard TD pass from Phillip Rivers. #SDvsCHI pic.twitter.com/xsSw57lELQ— NFL (@NFLonLive) November 10, 2015
Danny Woodhead TD— NFL (@NFL) December 20, 2015
Danny Woodhead TD
Danny Woodhead TD
Uh, it's still the first half, Danny. #MIAvsSD https://t.co/Yyn0VIMfTF
Best of luck in Baltimore, Danny. I know this
sufferer fan of yours will be rooting for you and will cherish your play for the Chargers fondly.