Arriving in South Florida after a stint in Canada, where he was the first player in CFL history to score five different ways in a season (kickoff return, punt return, missed field goal return, rushing, receiving), the speedy running back had started to flash a bit during the early offseason workouts
Thigpen flourished once he was sent back to field kicks, locking down a roster spot and becoming a real factor on a solid special teams unit. Whereas Davone Bess, who still would return the occasional punt, brought dependability, Thigpen was a big-play threat every time he touched it, becoming the first Dolphin to return a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the same season.
Now, as he enters his second season, Thigpen still has big goals for the return game — seven return TDs, he says — but he is also poised to earn some time on offense — a third-down run here, some time in the slot, playing as a de facto receiver.
That type of positional flexibility has endeared to him his teammates and Dolphins coaches.
“They call me the hybrid, or the utility guy, the jack of all trades. Those are all the names I’ve been given,” Thigpen said in a recent interview with The Finsiders. “Wherever they need me, I’m able and willing to play. I played receiver, I played running back, so I know those positions pretty well.
“I’m looking forward to that challenge as well. I definitely want to play running back – that’s where my heart is. But we have a lot of receivers that went down, so I’m willing to play that as well.”
What translates from the return game to the offense is Thigpen’s open-field speed, whether it’ comes after a catch or a handoff. He’d like to earn some time in the backfield, his natural position, though Lamar Miller, in his second year out of Miami, Fla., is the presumed starter. But that’s the beauty of Thigpen’s game; he can give the offense a quick spark wherever he’s needed.
“I’ve been playing running back since I was nine, so that’s been second nature to me,” Thigpen said. “Playing receiver is a bit out of my comfort zone, but I’m definitely getting used to it now.”
A minor injury kept Thigpen out of the Dolphins’ preseason opener last Sunday night, but he said he expects to play on Friday in Jacksonville, perhaps a first opportunity to earn an expanded role on offense.
If the Dolphins are to “take a leap” this year, it could use a boost from an offense that lacked a scoring punch.
That was likely the thought behind bringing in Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller, who should help bring a different dynamic in Ryan Tannehill’s second year.
“It can look way different. We have way more explosive guys this year with the signings that we had,” Thigpen said. “We had a year under our belt with the game plan, with our new system. Now I just feel as if we just need to go out there and execute.”
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