(Editor's Note: With the offseason in full swing, the focus is now shifting to the 2016 season, where the Cowboys have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. Not only do the Cowboys face five playoff teams but many of the top players in football. So the writers of DallasCowboys.com have ranked the Top 50 players expected to be on the field this season, including the Cowboys. Today, we continue the list with Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas.)
Experience: 9 seasons
2016 vs. Cowboys: The Cowboys will travel to Cleveland for a Week 9 (Nov. 6) matchup with the Browns – the 31st meeting between the franchises. Cleveland leads the all-time series, 17-13.
What's the Deal:Thomas has probably exceeded extremely high expectations since entering the league as the Browns' third overall pick in 2007. He's the first offensive lineman and only the eighth player in NFL history to reach the Pro Bowl in each of his first nine seasons. (The other seven players made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.) Thomas is as durable as he is productive at the left tackle position. He's never missed a start in his career – 144 for 144.
Expect This:The Cowboys must begin the season with a patchwork pass rush, but Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence will be back from their respective four-game suspensions by Week 9. Gregory and restricted free agent signing Benson Mayowa are candidates to start at right defensive end, and Thomas would likely be their toughest matchup of the entire season.
Previous Meetings:Thomas has faced the Cowboys in 2008 and 2012, both losses for Cleveland. The Browns averaged 15 points and 258 total yards and allowed three sacks. Many faces have changed on both teams – the Browns have started 15 quarterbacks since 2008 – but Thomas remains a Cleveland cornerstone at left tackle.
Bryan Broaddus Scouting Report:
- Plays left tackle. Outstanding combination of size, athletic ability, and nasty style. Shows balance, power, and explosion in the run game. Will drive defensive tackle off the line of scrimmage.
- Good change of direction on second level and in the open field. A finisher that plays hard on every snap. Excellent flexibility and a fine open space player. Drops his hips and breaks down on linebacker in open. Can run and hit in the open field.
- Top level pass protector that has kick, range, and awareness. Will get a little overaggressive and throw hands early in pass protection. Has anchor and balance. Can handle both speed and power rushers.
- Will overextend and waist-bend at times in run blocking. Plays high when he loses his knee bend.
- Angular tackle with good balance and pass protection technique. Slides his feet laterally and maintains contact with defender. Can generally push the defensive end up the field and by the quarterback. Rides the defensive tackle out of the hole on stretch blocking scheme. Maintains a good base.
- One of the top tackles in the league – very consistent in his technique and finish.
The writers of DallasCowboys.com have ranked the Top 50 players expected to be on the field this season, including the Cowboys.