Is Joe Thomas’ play on the decline?

John Kosko searches for reasons behind the steep drop-off in PFF's No. 1 offensive tackle at the end of last season.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/David Richard)

(AP Photo/David Richard)

Is Joe Thomas’ play on the decline?

A perennial All-Pro, Browns left tackle Joe Thomas has produced a Hall of Fame-worthy career. He has been arguably the best OT in the NFL since being drafted in 2007, grading as one of the best tackles in our system every season. Last season looked just like any other in his career, but there were some troubling signs toward the end of the year.

To be clear, Thomas still enters 2015 as our top-rated offensive tackle. But his significant late-season drop-off is worth noting.

Through the first 12 weeks of the season no one could touch Thomas. Even J.J. Watt was only able to get one pressure versus Thomas in their matchup. He was PFF’s top-graded OT heading into Week 13, had given up just nine total pressures, and was producing his best run-blocking season since 2009.

However, in the last five weeks of the season Thomas took a big step back from his usual elite play. He was our No. 41 OT, giving up another eight total pressures (17th in NFL), including four pressures and a sack in Week 17 versus Baltimore. His excellent run blocking took a turn for the worst as he graded 51st out of 75 eligible OTs.

There are qualitative reasons we can use to explain this downturn. The Browns were dealing with inconsistent QB play. He may have been dealing with an unreported injury. During that stretch, the Browns faced two outstanding pass-rush defenses in Buffalo and Baltimore.

But this steep dip in his performance is certainly concerning. We may have seen the start of the decline of one of the best offensive tackles in recent NFL history.

| Analyst

John is an analyst for Pro Football Focus and former safety for the University of Kansas Jayhawks (2004–2006).

  • LightsOut85

    What I’d be interested in knowing, is what caused Thomas to go from an elite run-blocker (in PFF’s first few years) to having negative run-seasons (while his pass-pro remained elite). Given the usual state of the Browns, my only guess is scheme change, where his original scheme was much more suited to the “type of run-blocker” Thomas is.

  • ArsOrientalis

    The Theory of 150 – when the cumulative ages of the five offensive linemen hits 150 (average age 30), their productivity starts to decline. Thomas is 30. No surprise. Decline doesn’t mean demise though.

  • eldaveablo

    He recently announced that in his career he has played through 3 torn MCLs and a couple high ankle sprains – while not missing a single snap. My guess would be an unannounced injury.

  • Leo Dougherty

    NO. This was written WAAAAY to soon! Through week 5, he has only “.5″ sacks given up. Decline? DEFINITELY STILL ruling at L.T!