When teams bring in competition for the incumbent starter at any given position, one of two things happens: either the player steps up and turns into the player the team has always wanted or the player crumbles under the pressure and fades into oblivion. The San Diego Chargers’ decision to sign Danny Woodhead this offseason signaled such an oncoming event for current running back Ryan Mathews, but Woodhead doesn’t really care much about that.
The former New England Patriots’ Jack-of-all-trades figures to have quite an extensive role with the Chargers in the upcoming season. Woodhead has never had more than 547 yards on the ground in any one season nor has he ever had more than 446 yards receiving in any one year, but the Chargers have to like having that type of versatility at their disposal.
Woodhead seems like a shoe-in to have around 100 carries and 50 catches with the Bolts in the upcoming season, and given the fact that quarterback Philip Rivers has been under a ridiculous amount of pressure in recent years, perhaps he will get even more catches as an outlet receiver. The health of Mathews could also play a role in his total number of touches with the incumbent starter missing 10 games over his first three years in the NFL.
Trying to pretend that the competition in training camp will involve anyone other than these two backs is simply not being truthful. Ronnie Brown will certainly still see some snaps on third down where he is quite effective, but Woodhead figures to dominate that role as well if all goes according to plan.
Preseason more than training camp may be where this battle is ultimately won. That was where everything came unraveled for Mathews a year ago as he fractured his clavicle on his first carry of live game action. If both backs emerge from the four games of preseason unscathed it really is anybody’s game, but if an injury again occurs, Woodhead will be called upon to take up the workload.
This really is going to be a shared backfield in 2013, and the Chargers need to be glad that the same adage for quarterbacks doesn’t hold true for running backs. If you have two, you actually have two when it comes to ball carriers, and that should really benefit San Diego in the upcoming season.