When I learned I was getting the Browns vs. Steelers game on CBS I was thrilled. It wasn’t because the Browns have been the surprise of the season and I was looking to see if this was a changing of the guard in the AFC North. It wasn’t to watch the maturation of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow as they received passes from fantasy darling Derek Anderson. It also wasn’t to see if Fast Willie could put up another 200+ yards on the Browns. The reason I was so excited was I would finally get to watch Joe Thomas this season.
There are no statistics (at least not readily available) to show how well an offensive lineman is doing. The only way I’ve heard to tell if an offensive lineman is doing well is if you haven’t heard his name much. But, the truly great offensive linemen you will hear about, like Ogden and Pace. Joe Thomas will be the next offensive lineman everyone will know.
The Browns took Joe Thomas 3rd overall and he has lived up to the expectations that come with such a high pick. According to Browns head coach Romeo Crennel, Thomas has yet to yield a sack all season long. At left tackle, Thomas protects Derek Anderson’s blindside and has provided time for Anderson to stay in the pocket with the confidence that he’s safe. That protection has led to Anderson ranking 4th in the NFL with 20 touchdown passes.
In the game against the Steelers Thomas didn’t make a single mistake. He was mainly matched against defensive end Brett Kiesel, who he kept out of the pocket all day. Not once did Thomas let the pocket collapse around Derek Anderson. Last week linebacker James Harrison had an unbelievable performance against the Ravens. Harrison had 2 forced fumbles, an interception, and 2.5 sacks in just the first half. But, when he blitzed on the left side, Thomas was there to stop him. On the touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards, Thomas held his ground against Harrison and allowed Anderson the time to find his receiver.
The Browns lost to the Steelers 31-28, but are still in the thick of the playoff hunt in the AFC. Joe Thomas’ contributions to the Browns surprising turnaround have to be recognized. No matter who the Browns have at quarterback, whether it be Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn, they know they will be well protected by a player that seems destined to be making annual February trips to Hawaii.