CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Marcus Thigpen doesnt always make the wisest decisions, but what he lacks in discernment he often makes up for with courage.
Thigpen, the first-year running back out of Indiana, got his first try as the Dolphins kick returner in Fridays night exhibition game against the Panthers.
Thigpen, who missed the preseason opener with a leg injury, tried to make up for lost time on the opening kick despite catching it nine yards deep. He only made it out to the 16.
Then on his next return, Thigpen caught it at a more reasonable place near the goal line but went for broke, going airborne in traffic. It didnt end well for him, with Sherrod Martin and Jordan Senn meeting in the middle.
Still, Thigpens guts and Brandon Fields leg were the few bright spots in another brutal first half for the Dolphins. Fields boomed punts of 61 and 58 yards before halftime.
Meanwhile, with the first round of cuts coming Aug. 27, the Dolphins special teams gave an early glimpse of which bubble players appear to be in the coaching staffs favor.
Jonathan Freeny, Tyrone Culver and Jamaal Westerman all worked on the Dolphins first-string kick return or coverage teams.
Roberto Wallace went from the fourth team to the starting lineup in just one week.
In the Dolphins first game since cutting Chad Johnson, Wallace and Legedu Naanee were their starting wide receivers. They werent at all effective in the first half, combining for one catch for 11 yards.
Davone Bess wasnt much better off the bench. He caught two passes for 12 yards. But in a sign of the Dolphins struggles, that was more than anyone else on the team in the first half.
A little strange
The Panthers had some bizarre downs and distances Friday night. In the first half alone, they faced both a first-and-2 and a first-and-33 (both set up by holding penalties).
And even more strangely: They couldnt convert on the short one, but picked up the first-and-forever (although lost the ball when Mike Tolbert fumbled on what would have been a first-down catch).
Carolina outgained Miami 295-94 in a glacial-paced first half that lasted nearly an hour and 45 minutes.
This and that
• Dolphins inactives: QB David Garrard (knee), CB Kelsey McCray (foot), RB Jonas Gray (knee), LB Kevin Burnett (back), LB Karlos Dansby (knee), OG Eric Steinbach (knee), DT Tony McDaniel (leg), WR Brian Hartline (leg) and DE Cameron Wake (back).
• LB Josh Linam, who signed with the team Wednesday, also did not dress.
• Wake has not practiced since being involved in a minor car accident Monday afternoon. Burnett was a late scratch prior to last weeks preseason opener against Tampa Bay, although his injury was not made public until Friday.
• OG Artis Hicks missed most the week of practice with an undisclosed injury, but dressed and started Friday night.
• LB Jon Beason, a University of Miami product, was among the Panthers inactives.
• The Dolphins were introduced as a team Friday night. Fields, OG Richie Incognito and DT Randy Starks were the teams captains.