Woodhead, who’s been sidelined since the season opener with a hamstring injury, is considered to be Baltimore’s biggest mismatch for defenses and is expected to make a big impact in extending drives.
Only one running back (Darren Sproles) caught more third-down passes than Woodhead from 2010-16. Of Woodhead’s 78 catches on third downs over that span, he converted 51 percent of them (40) into first downs.
Woodhead is available to play as the Ravens (4-5) have a critical game at the Green Bay Packers (5-4) on Sunday.
“I think he can definitely make a big impact,” quarterback Joe Flacco said during the bye week. “I think it is on us to get him involved and put that fear in other teams that we can hurt people with him.”
The Ravens thought so highly of Woodhead that they made 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.
On Woodhead’s first and only drive of the regular season with Baltimore, he caught three passes for 33 yards (including a one-handed reception) and ran once for 4 yards. That’s when he aggravated a hamstring injury and was eventually placed on injured reserve.
“He was brought here in the role that you can all stand here and envision him playing,” coach John Harbaugh said earlier in the week. “We saw it a little bit in the first drive before he got hurt in the Cincinnati game. It’s an opportunity for Joe to have someone to work underneath a little bit, to drop the ball down to when he needs to, to run screens, to put out there as a wide receiver and create matchup issues for people.
“That’s the kind of guy that we’re looking for when we signed him. So we signed him for a reason, and it’s going to be nice to have him on the field.”
Staying healthy has been a problem for Woodhead. He has missed 35 games over the previous three seasons. A torn ACL ended his season last year with the Chargers after two weeks.
The return of Woodhead will significantly reduce the role of running back Buck Allen, who leads the Ravens with 39 receptions. Alex Collins will remain Baltimore’s featured back, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said this week.
To make room on the roster, the Ravens waived tight end Gavin Escobar.