Since the 2011 season when the San Diego Chargers parted ways with all-purpose yards machine Darren Sproles, quarterback Philip Rivers’ numbers have struggled and so has the team as a whole. The Bolts haven’t made the postseason since Sproles’ departure and they’ve only barely had a 1,000-yard rusher on one occasion. Is this the curse of “Mighty Mouse”? No, but the numbers do suggest just how sorely the club misses a consistent change of pace both on the ground and in the air.
New General Manager Tom Telesco realized that deficiency as well and that is why he made one of the least noticed but most important additions by signing former New England Patriots do-it-all running back Danny Woodhead on Friday.
It’s unlikely that anyone will confuse Woodhead for Sproles any time soon, but if you look at the numbers they are more than just mirror images. Last year for Woodhead and in 2011 for Sproles (his most recent full 16-game season), Woodhead had just 76 carries for 301 yards while also catching 40 passes for 446 yards. On both the ground and through the air he scored a total of seven times. For Sproles, 2011 with the New Orleans Saints saw him carry the ball 87 times for 603 yards while hauling in 86 passes for another 710 yards. He found the end zone on nine occasions.
It may not be a direct correlation, but that was Sproles’ sixth full season in the league. 2012 was just Woodhead’s third year of suiting up on a regular basis. The potential is clearly there to provide that dump off option that can make tacklers miss and pick up much needed first downs in crucial situations. That was seen on a number of occasions by Tom Brady and the Patriots.
With Ryan Mathews’ continued inconsistencies with ball security, health, or just plain effectiveness, the Bolts needed to add a real complementary back this offseason. It may be too early to call Woodhead the next Sproles, but at 5’8” 200lbs. compared to Sproles at 5’6” 190, he certainly looks the part. If he can make a similar impact on the field in 2013, the Chargers will be thrilled with their newest addition.