So this week’s amateur adventure in film was inspired by the block ‘em up podcast where Geoff and Duke selected Joe Thomas as their all NFL left tackle through the first half of the season, and then I watched him get beat for a couple of key plays in that week’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. There is a thin line between success and failure and so having spotted those plays last week, I wanted to take a closer look at Thomas for the whole game.
I have watched Thomas before, and the thing that struck me then was his balance, and whilst I’m not expert on line play, he always seemed to be in control. For most of the game in Baltimore, Thomas was indeed in control. He is not the kind of lineman that is constantly flattening opposing players in the run game, but he seals his player up very effective in the run game, and he still looks balanced in the pass game.
It is interesting to me that the Browns seem to use run style blocking on passing plays without any play-action motion from quarterback quite a lot, and I don’t remember seeing that from other teams before. Perhaps I should be paying more attention.
However, for most of the game Joe Thomas seemed in control of his man whilst pass blocking, occasionally getting help from left guard Spencer Drango, but for most of the time he was asked to matchup man to man and usually he was up to the job.
The problem seemed to come however when he was matched up against Terrell Suggs, as unlike when blocking someone like Za’Darious Smith, there were multiple occasions when Suggs was able to get round Thomas and affect the play. There were two occasions where this really made the Browns pay.
In the third quarter Suggs was able to get round Thomas and get a piece of Josh McCown’s arm as he threw the ball and his pass was intercepted.
In the fourth quarter, getting round Thomas again he was able to knock the ball out of McCown’s hand and recover the football.
These were the major plays, but there were a couple more where Suggs was able to get round Thomas but couldn’t make the play. On all of these plays, some combination of Suggs speed and angle meant that Thomas was reaching and not able to stay in front of Suggs. Let’s not forget that Terrell Suggs has been an effective pass rusher and quality player so it should not surprise that he represented the major challenge that Thomas would face in this game.
For the majority of the game though, Thomas looked good, but such are the margins in the NFL, and particularly for a tackle, that it only takes perhaps a handful of plays that are not quite right for your quarterback to have a bad day. What I don’t know, is the line calls, whether the ball should have been out of the quarterback’s hand earlier. From the rest of his play you wouldn’t say that Thomas is a declining player, and I’m certainly not going to disagree with NFL lineman when they say that Thomas is as good as anyone in the league. However, on a short week as part of a bad team, a handful of eventful plays can catch the eye, and certainly Joe Thomas deserves to have played on better teams than he has, but the Browns show signs they could take real steps if they stick with the plan, and I don’t think Joe Thomas is going anywhere in the near future.