Danny Woodhead isn’t concerned that he’s one of the most underappreciated players in the league. It’s never been about that.
What the Chargers’ sixth-year running back does worry about is maximizing every opportunity he gets and being able to execute the weekly game plan.
“It can always be different, you never know,” Woodhead told FOXSports.com on Wednesday. “Every week [the game plan] is different. Some weeks you’ll be asked to do things and other weeks you won’t be asked to do things. Honestly, I just try to take advantage of every opportunity I have and I don’t worry about what my role is. Whatever I’m told to do whether it’s block, run or catch the ball I’m going to try to execute my job the best that I can.”
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Woodhead, 28, is familiar with persevering when he’s met with adversity. Coming out of Chadron State, the 5-foot-8, 190-pound running back went undrafted. After being signed to a short-term deal with the Jets, he finished his rookie season on Injured Reserve. A year later, when the Jets released him, the Patriots picked him up and turned him into a weapon.
Woodhead uses his miniature stature to his advantage by hiding behind his offensive linemen and springing free for large gains.
Quarterback Philip Rivers, rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Ryan Mathews have earned a large part of the attention for the team’s turnaround, but Woodhead has been the constant cog. The Chargers, who rank No. 1 in the NFL in third-down efficiency, will line up their potent attack against a stifling Bengals defense on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET.
After three seasons in New England, the scrappy Woodhead was intrigued to come to San Diego because of head coach Mike McCoy’s offense.
McCoy, who was in the offseason after coordinating the Broncos offense for four seasons, was putting together a roster that would fit his scheme.
Opposed to the San Diego offenses of old, which relied on the big play, the new Chargers’ way would be dinking and dunking the ball down the field. It was about managing the clock and sustaining long drives. Woodhead was intrigued and quickly agreed to a two-year, $3.5 million deal.
“Talking to [general manager] Tom [Telesco] and talking to Mike [McCoy], I was on board with the direction the organization was headed,” Woodhead said. “It made me excited to be a part of it.”
The signing didn’t make much national news, but the Chargers knew what they were getting in Woodhead.
After posting career highs in touches (182), all-purpose yards (1,034) and touchdowns (8), don’t think that he’s resting on his laurels.
“Everything that I do I want to improve on,” Woodhead said. “I don’t think there’s one thing. I always want to improve my running. I always want to improve my pass blocking. I always want to improve my receiving aspect of my game. I think every day you want to improve on everything that you do.”
As a personnel director, it’s impossible to get every decision right. The Chargers allowed Shaun Phillips and Louis Vasquez to leave for Denver last offseason, which has proved to be ill-fated. Maybe the Woodhead signing has made up for it.
“We were looking to add playmakers on offense, and he’s one of those guys that when the ball gets in his hands, he’s got some magic to him,” Telesco said in a conference call in May. “So he’s going to be a fun player to watch during the season.”
If the Chargers can handle business on a national stage this weekend, Woodhead will earn more exposure.