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Danny Woodhead Will be a Big Part of Ravens' Passing Attack


New Ravens running back Danny Woodhead figured it would take a little while to develop a rapport with his new quarterback, Joe Flacco.

He didn't plan on two days.

"Sometimes it can take a while," Woodhead said. "I really feel that it only took us a couple days. It was a lot faster than I expected, so I'm pleased with that."

Coming off a torn ACL suffered in just his second game last season, Woodhead said he isn't thinking about his knee. He's moving well and has no side effects.

What he's been more focused on is getting on the same page with his quarterback. Woodhead previously worked with two greats in New England's Tom Brady and San Diego's Philip Rivers. Woodhead earned the trust of both quarterbacks.

He caught 40 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns in his final year as a Patriot (2012). He caught 76 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns in his first year in San Diego (2013), then set career highs with 80 catches for 755 yards and six scores in his last full season (2015).

Now Woodhead is in the process of getting that same level of trust with Flacco.

"I'm like, 'Hey Joe, you like this? If you don't, let me know, because I will change it,'" Woodhead said.

"The most important thing is to do what he wants, because if I am going to get the ball or a receiver is going to get the ball, it is because we are doing it correctly how he sees it. That is just repetition, and that is getting on the same page."

So far, it looks like Woodhead has earned that trust. Fantasy football owners will be pleased to hear that Woodhead has been a targets hog so far during Ravens offseason practices. He's lined up everywhere, run just about every route and caught a ton of passes.

Count Flacco among those who are impressed.

"Really, ever since we lost Ray Rice, we haven't had a type of back that's quite like how Ray was and quite like how Danny is in the passing game," Flacco said. "They just have a very good feel for when they're open and how to get open, how to sit in holes, how to find my eyes and you can already see that. You can see he has a really good feel for those kinds of things."

Flacco leaned heavily on Rice as a receiver from 2009-2013. Rice averaged 67 catches for 552 yards per season over that span. He twice topped 75 catches and 700 yards (2009 and 2011).

While Woodhead likely won't see the same load of carries that Rice did (Woodhead has topped 100 rushes just once over his career in 2013), he could see a similar amount of targets in the passing game.

The Ravens' aggressiveness in pursuing Woodhead is also a sign of how big a figure he will be in their offense. While the running back market was slow to form this year (just look at how long Adrian Peterson sat unsigned), the Ravens scooped Woodhead up as soon as doors opened.

"He is a very versatile running back. He can carry the ball, but he is also a big part of the passing game," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday.

"Both in protection – because he is good in protection – but really the route running and getting open and doing the things that will help Joe and give Joe a great matchup against linebackers and even against safeties in critical situations to help us move the chains."

Last week, Harbaugh talked about how he tells the team's young running backs to watch Woodhead run a route and just copy that. So what makes Woodhead such a good receiver?

"You have to obviously understand concepts," Woodhead said. "[You have to understand] the route concepts and not just your route. I think you have to have a feel, and I think you have to have some sort of chemistry with a quarterback."

While Woodhead is pleased with where he's at with Flacco at this point of the offseason, he's was quick to point out that there's a lot more work to do. Flacco lost one of his most reliable, and favorite, weapons in tight end Dennis Pitta, who led the team in targets last season. Woodhead would be well-served to get on their comfort level.

"In order to be great, we have to keep progressing," Woodhead said. "That is what we want to do – we want to be great; we want to be the best."

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