August 29, 2014

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Browns’ Thomas proving to be a quick study

BEREA — Kamerion Wimbley dropped his shoulder and sped to the outside. Joe Thomas went with him.
Wimbley started outside and spun toward the middle. Thomas wasn’t fooled.
Wimbley put his head down and went straight ahead. Thomas didn’t budge.
The education and evolution of Thomas has been one of the best stories to come out of Browns training camp. Sure, the third overall pick is supposed to be athletically gifted. But Thomas has also shown the ability to adjust quickly, especially when it comes to slowing down last year’s No. 1 pick and team sack leader.
“Thomas is a great athlete,” said Wimbley, who had 11 sacks at outside linebacker. “I guess he’s watching tape and he’s executing and improving off mistakes he’s made in previous practices.
“He’s improving every day.”
In the early days of camp, Wimbley made Thomas look silly a couple of times. But during the aforementioned pass-rushing drill last week, Thomas stonewalled Wimbley three times in two minutes.
“The thing with Kamerion that is unique to him is his ability to keep his pads low and turn the corner quick,” Thomas said. “That’s something I’d never seen in college.
“Talking to some of the older guys, watching things that weren’t quite where they needed to be in my technique, they helped me refine those and then come back and work on them in practice and be able to beat him a couple days later.
“He’s one of the top pass rushers in the NFL. To go against him every day is tremendously helpful.”
Thomas’ improvement hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Anytime you got a guy who can keep up with Wimbley play in, play out, you know he’s got something to him,” defensive end Robaire Smith said.
Thomas is entrenched as the starting left tackle after Kevin Shaffer’s shift to the right side. That was the goal from the beginning.
“It’s good to be able to get out there and work with the ones,” Thomas said. “If you’re going to be a starter, those are the guys you’re going to work with.”
Thomas played the first half Saturday night in the preseason opener and didn’t allow a sack.
“Joe did a pretty good job,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “I think that he learned a few things in the game.”
Thomas wasn’t perfect. He was beat inside once but managed to push the guy out of the way, and he was called for two holding penalties on runs. In four years at Wisconsin, he was only penalized three times in 2,571 snaps.
“It’s a fast game, sometimes they get you with holding, sometimes they don’t,” Thomas said. “Sometimes you go a couple seasons without getting hit with a holding and then get two in one game. It’s just part of playing the position.”
Thomas’ athleticism allows him to be an effective pass blocker. At 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, he looks more like a sleek power forward than a flabby lineman, which makes some question his run blocking.
“Joe’s very physical,” said Smith, in his eighth year. “He stays on his block and never gives up on the play.
“He ain’t stopping till he hears the whistle and he still might keep going after that. That’s just Joe. I take that as a good thing. He wants to win.”
Smith has been impressed with Thomas’ approach off the field.
“He doesn’t look like he has a problem taking coaching,” he said. “It’s good anytime you’ve got a guy who’s young and willing to learn, don’t say nothing back, don’t say nothing to nobody.
“I’m sure he’s going to be one of the best offensive linemen around this league for a long time if he just keeps working on it.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.