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SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Danny Woodhead #39 of the San Diego Chargers catches a touchdown pass against the Dallas Cowboys on September 29, 2013 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Once a week throughout the 2013 season, we will focus upon on a player or matchup that could prove troublesome for the Giants in their upcoming game. This week’s spotlight is on Chargers running back Danny Woodhead.
There was a time in Super Bowl XLVI when the Giants looked to be in trouble, and then-Patriots running back Danny Woodhead had a little something to do it.
Woodhead scored the Patriots’ first touchdown of Super Bowl XLVI, which gave New England a 10-9 halftime lead back in February 2012. On the final four plays of the drive, Woodhead touched the ball each time, rushing once and catching three passes, including the four-yard score to put New England ahead. The Patriots’ offense had hit its groove, and it would score another touchdown on its first drive of the third quarter to take a 17-9 lead.
In the end, the Giants would eventually win Super Bowl XLVI, and Woodhead, after one more season with the Patriots, would join San Diego in free agency before the 2013 season.
In San Diego, Woodhead (5-8, 200) has been a bigger part of the offense than he was in New England. Through 12 games, Woodhead, 28, has a combined 138 touches (77 carries, 61 receptions), with seven touchdowns (five receiving, two rushing). He has had multiple catches in every game, and he’s had between five and nine carries in all but one contest.
Overall, Woodhead had gained 770 total yards this season, and he’s gaining about 5.6 yards per touch. 43 of his touches have ended in first downs.
Woodhead (161 catches) has a nice feel for the passing game. He has quick feet and sure hands. He runs good routes, and he’ll adjust routes as needed, as he showed during his second-quarter touchdown catch at Kansas City in week 12. On the play, Woodhead was covered initially, but he kept moving, and quarterback Phillip Rivers found him for the score.
Woodhead has been reliable target for Rivers, who’s thrown 71 passes thrown his way. Woodhead has caught all but 10 of those throws — a completion rate of about 86 percent.
Typically, Woodhead is on the receiving end of a short Rivers pass, and it’s up to the running back to work his magic thereafter. Woodhead is catching the ball just 1.74 yards past the line of scrimmage, but he's averaging 5.79 yards after catch.
As a tailback, Woodhead can pick up some quick yardage if there’s a crease. He’s not a big-play threat as a rusher — he’s gaining just 3.7 yards per carry, and he hasn’t had a rush of longer than 19 yards since 2010. Still, he can get the Chargers a handful of valuable yards here or there.
Look for Woodhead to be a rusher or receiver about 10-12 times against the Giants on Sunday in San Diego. The more the Giants can limit his chances to those where he’s getting the ball in cluttered areas of the field, the better.
Woodhead is a space player. He won’t overpower NFL defenders, but he can run away from a whole lot of them, and he will take the yardage available to him. The Giants can’t make it easy for him. Their tackling will be key — Woodhead will get his catches; it’s what he does after those receptions that merits watching Sunday.