On of the biggest frustrations Miami Dolphins fans have had over the past few seasons is watching Davone Bess catch a punt, and head out of bounds. It seemed like Bess, who was sure-handed in catching the punts, never broke a return for any sort of distance. Last year, those frustrations increased as, sitting on the bench during punt returns, was Reggie Bush.
This year, that may finally change.
Throughout the OTA process, both Bess and Bush, along with wide receiver Clyde Gates and rookie running back Lamar Miller, have been back returning punts. Could the Dolphins, who protected Bush last year as they turned hi minto a feature back, who racked up over 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career, be shifting their idea of an ideal punt returner?
And, do they need to?
Bess actually ranked fifth in the league last year in punt return average. His 11.9 yards per return ranked him behind just Devin Hester, Patrick Petersno, Javier Arenas, and Ted Ginn, Jr. It put him one spot ahead of Josh Cribbs. However, Bess' long return of 25-yards was the shortest, long return among the top 25 returners last year.
So, should the Dolphins stick with a solid returner who is going to get your 10-15 yards per kick every time, or should they transition to a dynamic returner who may or may not make those same yards every time, but could break a long return at any time?
"We'll have to figure out the best ways to move the football, and punt returns are a big weapon in field position and impacts field position," said Miami head coach Joe Philbin. "We'll have to evaluate the different candidates that we have for that position and come to the best decision for the football team. I won't rule anything out, and certainly we are not opposed to using a starting receiver."
Bess is expected to take the starting wide receiver position opposite Brian Hartline this season. The team could also look to use Marcus Thigpen, who excelled as a return man in the CFL, and wide receiver Marlon Moore as a punt returner.
However, the obvious name that will excite the fans is Bush. During his five years with the New Orleans Saints, Bush returned 92 punts, with a long of 71-yards and 4-touchdowns. However, his average was only 7.8 yards per return. Last year with Miami, Bush returned six punts, averaging 8.7 yards per return.
During his three years in college, Bush averaged 12.7 yards per return with three touchdowns at the University of Southern California.
What do you think the answer should be for the Dolphins? Should they look to someone like Bess, who is going to get a solid return average, or should they look for the dynamic, home-run threat, like Bush, who might not get many yards every time, but could always break it all the way at any time?
Which do you want to see this year for the Dolphins?