Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor
The Miami Dolphins need to finally close the book on running back Daniel Thomas in order to make room for more involvement by return specialist Marcus Thigpen.
The team originally drafted Thomas in the second round of the 2011 draft. He repaid the team by averaging 3.5 yards per carry in 2011, 3.6 yards per carry in 2012 and currently 2.6 yards per carry in 2013.
The running excuse for his continued presence on the field despite poor performance has always been his ability to block for the quarterback in the backfield. Yet according to Pro Football Focus, this season Thomas is personally responsible for allowing two sacks on quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Thomas catches the football fairly well. However, his overall lack of speed makes him unfit to run some of the more aggressive routes run by running backs such as the wheel route.
Though Thomas is a large back, he has never established any consistent success in short-yardage situations.
Both his uses and his excuses are dwindling fast, and it is time the team gives his snaps to a player with more promise.
The primary beneficiary of snaps taken away from running back Daniel Thomas should be return man Marcus Thigpen.
On a 2nd-and-7 during the first quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints, the Dolphins lined up with four receivers unattached to the offensive line with Marcus Thigpen in the backfield.
Thigpen ran a screen pattern as offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin released out front of him. Tannehill was forced to float the football overhead hoping Thigpen could track it and run under it for the catch, as Saints defender Junior Galette had noticed the screen setup and had got between the quarterback and his intended target.
Unfortunately, this pass fell incomplete. Yet, the play showed tremendous potential as Thigpen may not have stopped running on it until he had gained 62 yards and a touchdown had he and the quarterback made the connection.
Luckily, the Dolphins followed up during the Saints game by having Thigpen run a quick release from the backfield as the Saints blitzed on 3rd-and-9. This time, Tannehill and Thigpen were able to connect for a 50-yard gain which led to an eventual touchdown.
The Dolphins need to think outside the box with Marcus Thigpen. The coaching staff seems stuck on the idea that the player they rotate with Lamar Miller must be an accomplished blocker.
The 50-yard gain on third down shows exactly why this is not the case. Instead of having the back stay in to block the extra pass-rusher, the Dolphins sent him out for a quick pass that challenged the defense.
The Saints have been using Darren Sproles in this manner for years. They do not obsess with his prowess as a blocker. They utilize his pass-catching prowess as a means of keeping quarterback Drew Brees’ jersey clean.