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Do the Cleveland Browns have the best offensive line in the NFL?

Posted Oct 6, 2014

Joe Thomas and company are stonewalling defenses

The Cleveland Browns offensive line is manhandling opposing defenses through the first four games of the season. This isn’t a fluke. This is who they are.

Coaches and players alike raved about Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey the entire week. The disruptive 300-pounder was completely muted on Sunday and was the only Titans starter on defense without a tackle.

Some who follow the Browns are under the impression Cleveland is only a solid run blocking offensive line. That just isn’t true. The Browns legitimately may have the best offensive line in the league.

Here are a few numbers for you to digest how fantastic the unit is playing from ProFootballFocus.com

  • The Browns have allowed 15 quarterback pressures in five games, the best in the league. By comparison, the San Diego Chargers have given up a league leading 69. The median number is 46.
  • Brian Hoyer has only been “hit” (not touched, but hit hard), two times. The only quarterback who’s stayed upright more is Ben Roethlisberger.
  • Hoyer has only been sacked five times and routinely has a clean pocket to throw from. The only fulltime starting quarterbacks with less are Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.

More so than ever, the Browns’ offensive line is playing passionately. They’re knocking people’s socks off. You saw it firsthand with 9:40 left in the fourth quarter. After a Hoyer pass was picked off and returned for nearly a touchdown by Jason McCourty, a borderline hockey fight broke out.

Left tackle Joe Thomas was at the center of the melee, wrestling with linebacker Shaun Phillips. It may seem out of character for the gentle beast, but Thomas’ leadership style has been more present than ever in 2014. Thomas routinely mentors rookie guard Joel Bitonio and he was one of the first players to standup and support Josh Gordon through his lengthy suspension hearings.

Seeing Thomas involved in a fight on the field serves as a metaphor for how he will protect every single one of his teammates. And his message to them has been clear – let’s go be the best.

“We can be as good as we want to be,” Thomas said. “The talent is here. We’ve invested money and draft picks into the positon. We’ve got studs all across the board. The offense we are running fits perfectly with the personnel that we have.”

It sure does, Joe. The Browns have scored 21 straight points to open the season for the first time since 1969. The lowest Cleveland has rushed for is 89 yards against Baltimore, and they are averaging 143.2 per contest.

More PFF.com for you – Joel Bitonio is ranked as the fourth best guard in the entire NFL.

“I’m just learning every day,” said Bitonio. “From the beginning, I said I didn’t want to just just-a-guy, or just that rookie guard. I wanted other teams to know who I was on film. I think I’ve done a good job of that so far.”

It would be tough to name a better center in league than Alex Mack, who has totally dictated the middle of the field, often times pancaking his matchup. We dove deeper recently with John Greco and the big impact he’s had in 2014.

And how about Mitchell Schwartz? Perceived by outsiders as a potential weak link in the unit, the 25-year-old has more than held his own at right tackle. He’s helped stonewall Casey, Elvis Dumervil, Cameron Heyward and a plethora of blitzers from Rob Ryan and the Saints.

It’s time to recognize the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line. They haven’t just gelled together. They are together, as one.

Video: The keys to the Browns comeback

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