OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Danny Woodhead looked as elusive as ever during the Baltimore Ravens' offseason. Upon catching a pass in the red zone, the shifty back used a stutter-step to fake out Kamalei Correa so badly that the linebacker fell to the ground.
While the Ravens are excited about what their new weapon can do after the reception, everyone has been more impressed with what Woodhead has done before the catch.
"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," quarterback Joe 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. If you remember back, obviously, Ray was really good at doing that, and that gives a lot to your offense for sure."
From 2009-13, no running back caught more passes than Rice, who averaged 67 receptions a season during that span. Over the past three campaigns, no Baltimore running back has totaled more than 45 catches.
This is why the Ravens were so aggressive in going after Woodhead, making him their first free-agent addition on offense. Baltimore signed Woodhead to a three-year, $8.8 million deal, reportedly beating out the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers to land the 32-year-old.
Woodhead is expected to play a big role in the Ravens' passing game because two of Flacco's top underneath targets are gone. Tight end Dennis Pitta was released after re-injuring his right hip, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk signed with the San Francisco 49ers in free agency.
"I tell them, 'You watch [Woodhead] run a route and whatever that route is, just do it like he does it,'" coach John Harbaugh said. "We can talk about all the coaching points we have, but pictures are worth 10,000 words. Watch him do it, and he will show you how to do it."
The Ravens' backs have received plenty of lessons, because Woodhead was actively involved in Baltimore's passing attack during offseason practices. Whether he lined up in the backfield or split outside, Woodhead appeared to get the most passes thrown his way.
Woodhead, who is coming off a torn ACL suffered in Week 2 of last season, has been among the NFL's most prolific backfield pass-catchers. He is the only running back to produce multiple seasons of more than 75 catches over the past five years.
Asked what it takes to be a good receiver coming out of the backfield, Woodhead pointed to chemistry with his quarterback. For most of Woodhead's career, that has meant building a rapport with Tom Brady and Philip Rivers.
"Everywhere I have been, that has been really important to get on the same page, whether we are running routes and I'm like, 'Hey Joe [Flacco], 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 [Flacco] 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."
How long did it take the speedy back to get on the same page as Flacco? Woodhead said they only needed a couple of days.
"It was a lot faster than I expected, so I'm pleased with that," Woodhead said. "But there is a lot more that we have to do. In order to be great, we have to keep progressing. That is what we want to do: We want to be great; we want to be the best."