So should he be a primary return man any longer? It’s nice to have the threat, but if you lose a key piece of your offense to an injury suffered on special teams, it’s brutal.
I’d vote for using him rarely.
Jack Del Rio, who still hears from Maurice Jones-Drew about wanting to return punts, sounds like he’s leaning that way.
“I think what typically happens is once a guy establishes himself as an every-down, all-the-time player offensively, you tend to look for somebody else to fill [the return man] role,” Del Rio said. “A guy like Cecil Shorts will get some opportunities back there, and Deji Karim. Scotty McGee was drafted to be that guy. Can he be healthy and maybe give us a spark?”
“Maurice, Mike and Rashean (Mathis), those guys are all capable of being returners. They’ve all done it. They’ll always stay alive as possible returners. But we’d certainly like to shift the bulk of that responsibility over to a different player.”
But part of what makes for an effective return man is his belief that he can flip a game with a big play on any touch. Thomas was steady, but even with a 78-yard touchdown return his average was 10.1 yards, good for just 14th in the NFL.
Jacksonville should be able to get that from someone else while keeping Thomas out of harm’s way.
That doesn’t mean he won’t stay in Del Rio’s ear about how a special-teams touch once in a while might help his offensive flow.
“I kind of feel like if I haven’t got a touch or two in a quarter, I’d jump back there in a heartbeat, just to touch the ball,” Thomas said. “I love punt returns. Just get a touch and make something happen. I’m pretty sure if it’s a tight game or the game’s on the line they’d prefer me back there. I have more experience with it, but I leave it up to the coaches.”