On Halloween, the Cleveland Browns won their first game in over a month.
Now sitting at 3-5, the Browns are still in third place in the AFC North but their schedule gets even tougher.
After the bye week, Cleveland takes on a sneaky good Dolphins team followed by the hot Buffalo Bills and then Tom Brady and the Bucs.
There is hope amongst Browns fans that the team will use their off week to work on some troublesome areas.
Specifically, the defense, which looked better against Cincinnati but is still ranked 26th in the NFL in points against.
During the Bengals game, rookie defensive end Isaiah Thomas looked good for the second game in a row.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) May 13, 2022
It’s still early, and Thomas hasn’t played a lot, but his performances in the past two weeks have been promising.
Seventh Rounder from Oklahoma
Thomas was a four-star recruit coming out of Memorial High School in Tulsa and picked the Sooners over Alabama.
After matriculating to OU, Thomas played as a freshman and only got better.
During his junior year in 2020, he netted 8.5 sacks, tying him for eighth in the FBS.
Playing both defensive end and tackle for the Sooners, Thomas was named a second-team All-Big 12 for the year.
Then, as a senior in 2021, Thomas was a second-team All-Big 12 again when he had eight sacks, 38 tackles, three forced fumbles, and four passes defended.
Oklahoma's Isaiah Thomas (6'5 262) is one of those 'no-nonsense' DEs that we love…
Prototypical H/W, 3-down player, alignment versatility (3-tech in subpackages), heavy handed/stout at POA, violent handed pass rusher, etc
Loves to swat/chop to soften edge for himself! pic.twitter.com/W73bbvff0p
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) July 21, 2021
Standing at 6’5” and 265 pounds, Thomas was lauded by scouts before the 2022 draft for his ability to attack quickly at the snap, use good leverage on opposing linemen, and for using an effective chop to maneuver around blockers.
Honored By Pro Football Focus
After being selected by the Browns in the seventh round of the ‘22 draft, Thomas learned the nuances of NFL defensive line play from teammates Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
He didn’t see much action until coming in for 23 plays against Baltimore in Week 7.
During that contest, Thomas had a fumble recovery, two tackles, and a quarterback pressure.
He played well enough that Pro Football Focus ranked him in the top 15 rookies for Week 7.
The Top-15 rookies in Week 7 ⬇️https://t.co/U9n0xRMANP
— PFF (@PFF) October 25, 2022
PFF gave Thomas an overall grade of 77.8 and the highest pass-rushing grade, 90.5, among defensive linemen.
Solid Performance Against Cincy
Thomas was inserted again during the Bengals game and took advantage of his opportunities.
Late in the first half, Thomas noted that Cincy left tackle Jonah Williams was playing sloppy.
I’ve been saying it for months now, #Browns rookie DE Isaiah Thomas is incredibly special. He shows more pass rush savvy and on-field awareness than most rookies should. The sky is the limit for this kid.
— Matt Wilson (@CoachWilson66) November 1, 2022
Thomas then used his aforementioned chop move to great effect, dropping Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow for a sack that lost Cincinnati nine precious yards.
“Just seeing it, just watching it, I could just see in the game that his hands just kept coming low,” Thomas told cleveland.com after Monday’s game. “Every time he tried to block, every time he made contact, his hands came low. And I’m like if I knock that hand down I’m going to be able to get free and that’s what happened.”
Thomas has been involved in just 94 plays so far this year, so expectations are somewhat muted.
However, he continues to get better and PFF has given the rookie a 70.0 pass rush grade and a 64.8 defensive grade overall for the year.
His development is crucial in giving the Browns more depth on the defensive line and giving Clowney and Garrett a breather when needed.
“I really feel like I’m coming into my own now. Just trying to make the most out of every opportunity and show these coaches I belong,” said Thomas.