Dolphins returner Marcus Thigpen struggling in 2013

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, the Miami Dolphins had a kick and punt returner on the verge of becoming a dynamic breakout player. A player who everyone wanted to see get his hands on the ball on offense. In 2013, the Dolphins have a kick and punt returner who disappears in games. What has happened to Marcus Thigpen?

Hesitation. Indecision. Lack of burst. Those are not exactly the scouting report you want for your kick and punt returner. Yet, that's exactly the description that fits the Miami Dolphins' retur specialist, Marcus Thigpen, right now.

It wasn't like that last year. Thigpen was on the verge of breaking out as a dynamic returner, capable of taking a ball to the house on any return. He returned a kick and apunt last year. He averaged 12.2 yards per punt return in 2012, and 27.4 yards per kick return. He was someone Dolphins fans everywhere loved to see get the ball in his hands, and one we all wanted to see get snaps on offense, because we all thought he could break runs from the line of scrimmage as well.

This year, Thigpen does not seem to know when he should return a kick, and when he should settle for a touchback. He does not seem comfortable calling for the fair catch, but he cannot decide which way to run once he has the ball in his hands.

The best example of Thigpen's difficulty this year came during yesterday's game against the Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton had just driven the Panthers to a go ahead touchdown, with just under a minute remaining in the game. Carolina then squibbed the kick, which bounced and rolled back to the goal line, where Thigpen hesitated, picked it up, and started trying to figure out how to advance the ball. By the time he was tackled, Thigpen had used five seconds to move the Dolphins to the 14 yard line. So, instead of 43-second and 80-yards on a drive to attempt to win the game, the Dolphins had 38-seconds to go 86-yards. Was it enough to change the game? Maybe, maybe not. But, Thigpen needs to be more decisive and either attack the ball, or let it be a touchback. He cannot sit somewhere in between.

In 2013, Thigpen has returned six fewer punts than he did in all of the 2012 season, when he split the duty with Davone Bess. Thigpen's return average on punts has dropped from 12.2 yards to 8.4, a 3.8-yards per punt return loss this year. His longest return of the season is 34-yards, as compared to a 72 yard return last year.

Similarly, kickoff return numbers are down for Thigpen as well. He's gone from 27.4-yards per return to 23.6-yards. When kicks are usually 5-yards deep in the endzone, that means Thigpen is not getting the ball back to the 20-yard line most of the time. He had a 96-yard return last year, while he has a 44-yarder this year.

Last season, we all wanted Thigpen in on offense. This year, we want him off the field on returns.

What has happened to Marcus Thigpen?

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