Aside from Brandon Fields, one of Miami’s most consistent and reliable players last season was return man and running back Marcus Thigpen. In 2012, the quick speedster returned a punt for a 72 yard touchdown while also returning a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. He totaled 1,040 yards on 38 kickoff returns and 316 yards on 26 punt returns while splitting time with Davone Bess. Throughout the first half of this season, Thigpen has struggled. Through eleven games he has just 589 yards on 25 kickoff returns (zero TD’s) and just 167 yards on 20 punt returns (also without a TD).
Granted, it is true that kickers are averaging more touch-backs this season, but Marcus Thigpen does not seem like the same player he was last year. He struggled again yesterday against the Carolina Panthers. On his kickoff returns, Thigpen looked tentative, content to dance around tacklers rather than finding a hole and bursting through it, as he did many times last year. He also struggled determining when to return a kick and when to take the 20 yards from a touch-back. On the final kickoff of the game, with Miami down 4 points and the clock winding down, Thigpen chose to return a bouncing squib kick from Carolina’s Graham Gano. The bouncing kick was difficult to handle, and Thigpen struggled to control the ball before barely returning the kick past the 10 yard line. Thigpen’s lack of judgment cost Miami 10 yards and around 8 seconds of precious clock.
To me, Marcus Thigpen is not struggling because he has not returned a kick or punt for a touchdown, but rather because of his lack of fire and judgement. Many times this season we have seen him fair-catch a punt that he should have returned or field a punt that would have gone into the end-zone. When he does elect to return the ball, it appears as though he has lost his quickness and ability to find a hole and hit it hard. Thigpen’s performance needs to improve over the final stretch of this season. Due to Miami’s inability to finish games, they have relied on their special teams and defense to step up and make a play. Thigpen is too explosive not to make plays. If his struggles continue, it may be time to give him some competition or shop other options.