Danny Woodhead has taken over the role of Kevin Faulk in the Patriots’ offense and is playing it in only a way that would make Faulk proud
Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium was Kevin Faulk day at Gillette Stadium. Faulk was one of the most versatile players to put on the Patriots’ jersey. In the media and with the fans, Faulk was also one of the most respected players simply because he was always ready to be called upon at any given time and did his job to the best of his ability. He was never one getting the limelight, but Sunday was finally Kevin Faulk’s moment, receiving honor from the Patriots’ family and fan-base.
On that same football field that Faulk at halftime received his honor and appreciation, the current Patriots’ third-down back was establishing himself as the third-down back for the years to come. It was Danny Woodhead, the once undrafted free-agent player from Chadron St. who in the previous two years has established himself as a fan-favorite. This happened for a multiple of reasons with the most notable being that he was white player at the running-back position – a rarity in the NFL – his height made him look like the Patriots’ pulled a random fan out of the stands to play football, and he has a somewhat funny last name that leads to plenty of “wood” jokes, something that I am certainly not above.
Alert my doctor, my Danny Woodhead is RAGING right now. #Patriots
— Chris Bentivegna(@BosBettah_Benti) November 11, 2012
It’s funny that Danny Woodhead has adopted Kevin Faulk’s previous role as the Patriots third-down back. It was Danny Woodhead who the New England Patriots signed two-years ago to replace Kevin Faulk when he tore his ACL in a game against the New York Jets. During that season, Danny Woodhead was explosive. He rushed for 5.6 yards a carry and had six total touchdowns. He slipped and snaked his way through the line of scrimmage, played on special teams and even made tackles causing concern for my heart health. He was rewarded that year with a contract extension that will take him through to the end of this year.
The Patriots then rewarded his loyalty for signing the new contract by drafting two new running-backs in the draft following that season. It would have been okay if the Patriots’ had drafted two potential workhorse backs, but they drafted Shane Vareen seemingly to become the new third down back of the future. Suddenly, Danny Woodhead seemed to be inches away from losing his job just as spectacularly as he had won it. Danny Woodhead just looked to be a splash in the pan.
This had happened over the years with Kevin Faulk as well. Plenty of times over his career, it looked as if he was done and that the Patriots would find a new “Kevin Faulk”, but they never materialized. No one ran routes out of the backfield better than Faulk, no one worked harder than Faulk and no one protected and picked up blitzes better than Kevin Faulk. There was only one Kevin Faulk. He could not be replicated.
Except if it’s Danny Woodhead who is doing the best Kevin Faulk impression of his career. He always had the offensive ability that Kevin Faulk had as well as the work ethic. It was the pass-blocking that kept Danny Woodhead from ever being as good as Faulk was. It was also why many Patriots’ fans had Woodhead close to the chopping block. If Vareen did what he was supposed to, he was simply a better player than Vareen.
We forgot about Woodhead’s work-ethic. We forgot that entire back-story of the short, Division II kid that went undrafted. He shouldn’t be in the NFL. As I wrote a year ago:
It’s corny, but it’s true. There is no reason that a 5’7″ kid should be playing in the rough and violent National Football League. Hell, one big hit by one of these Patrick Willis like linebackers could put him out for a significant amount of time.
That still holds true, but Woodhead has worked harder than almost any player on the Patriots to stay on the roster. Sunday was the highlight of his young career. Woodhead fired his way through the line to gain yards and even break the plane on perhaps the easiest run of the season. He ran beautiful routes out of the backfield for first downs and a touchdown. Most importantly, he showed that his biggest weakness when he came into the league, his pass blocking ability, if close to the level that Kevin Faulk’s once was. I mentioned earlier how Faulk couldn’t be replicated, yet here is Danny Woodhead doing the best Kevin Faulk impersonation all being highlighted on Kevin Faulk day. With how connected that these two are through their career arcs, it was only fitting for Woodhead to put one of his best games of his career on Kevin Faulk day.
Danny Woodhead is a free-agent after this season, but much like Kevin Faulk he seems happy to be here and remain a Patriot. The coaches love him, his teammates love him and he works harder than anyone else on the team. He has found his niche in the NFL and that is playing the role of Kevin Faulk for the New England Patriots. Faulk may be gone for good now, but Danny Woodhead has taken one of the Patriots most important roles and is playing it in a way that would make Kevin proud.