Examining Danny Woodhead's impact

The New England Patriots have found a real asset in Danny Woodhead. And the coaching staff has the intellect and intuition to maximize his unique skill set.

Woodhead is listed as a running back but is almost equal parts wide receiver and runner. That might be the most important thing that Woodhead brings to New England’s offense. Labeling him is very difficult for defensive coordinators. If the Jets account for him as a running back, quarterback Tom Brady will often motion him outside the formation, where he can abuse the Jets’ heavier 3-4 outside linebacker coverage.

Like most of the Patriots’ receiving threats, Woodhead is a small, shifty player who has amazing short-area quickness and is a very sharp short-route runner. That skill set lends itself to New England’s route tree very well, and with Brady’s uncanny accuracy, Woodhead and the other receivers are often in great position to excel after the catch. Because he is a much better space player than power player, this is right up Woodhead’s alley.

If New York accounts for Woodhead as a wide receiver, the diminutive multipurpose weapon probably will line up in the backfield and get the ball as a running back against a lighter group of Jets defensive players. Woodhead isn’t equipped to carry the ball interior run after interior run. But there is an excellent group of blockers around him, and the Patriots make exceptional use of their terrific tight ends in the run game. Woodhead certainly isn’t bashful about attacking the line of scrimmage and giving every run everything he has in his small body. That small body also can be useful when operating from a traditional running back position in that he can be difficult to find among all the giant people in front of him.

Woodhead is decisive and has a knack for getting into the end zone. He runs very low to the ground and with great leverage, but just isn’t built to take a huge pounding, break a lot of tackles or move the pile.

Woodhead has become an essential piece of an elite offense and also can help out a great deal on several facets of special teams. Maybe the best part of the whole situation is that New England got him for nothing, and even better, it snagged him from the Jets.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.