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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Joe Thomas’s absence robs fans of the best Vikings-Browns matchup

By Matthew Coller

There are only a few players in the NFL that you can call no-doubt Hall of Famers. Tom Brady. Adrian Peterson. Joe Thomas.

The Cleveland Browns’ franchise left tackle has been at the top of his position since entering the league in 2007. A model of consistency at his position, Thomas played 10,363 straight snaps before suffering a torn tricep last week. He underwent surgery and is out for the rest of the season.

“Joe Thomas, No. 1, is a tremendous person,” Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I had a chance to coach against him in Cleveland when I was in Cincinnati. Super player. To play that long and that many reps over the course of time is like Joe DiMaggio, I guess it is, right?”

The Vikings’ matchup with the Browns is lacking in intrigue with Cleveland off to an 0-7 start. A matchup between Thomas and Vikings pass rusher Everson Griffen would have offered some great theatre.

“I was hoping for Joe Thomas,” Griffen told NFL Network Thursday. “I would have him more 1-on-1 battles. I feel like I’m going to get chipped a little bit more, but at the end of the day, whatever guy they put in front of me, I’m going to gameplan and stick to that.”

Griffen is having his best season – and that’s saying a lot. After signing a long-term contract extension this offseason, he’s picked up a sack in every game. His 9.0 sacks has already surpassed last year’s total and is three away from his career high. According to Pro Football Focus, he also has 17 hurries and four additional QB hits.

The Vikings’ defensive end isn’t just a pass-rush specialist, he’s also been a key player in Minnesota ranking third in the NFL against the run. PFF ranks Griffen as the 12th best run-stuffing edge rusher.

Griffen only faced Thomas once in his career and the Browns’ tackle got the best of the matchup as the Vikings’ star only picked up one tackle. However, that was before Griffen was a full-time starter.

Sunday could have given Griffen a chance to shine against one of the all-time best. Instead he’ll match up with Spencer Drango, a second-year player who started nine games last season and scored a so-so 70.9 (out of 100) rating from PFF last year. Drango talked to the Cleveland media about replacing Thomas, saying, “Just go out there and do my best, stay calm and play as hard as I can for the guys around me.”

He won’t exactly be allowed to ease into the spot with Griffen across from him – and that’s OK by Vikings fans. The rest of the world watching, however, missed out on a display of football greatness.

The post Joe Thomas’s absence robs fans of the best Vikings-Browns matchup appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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