Know the enemy: Saints on Joe Thomas

METAIRIE, La. -- Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas is a rarity.

Offensive linemen usually fly under the radar. For that matter, so do Cleveland Browns players.

But Thomas has managed to be widely recognized and respected as arguably the NFL's best lineman for more than a half-decade. The 6-foot-6, 312-pounder has made the Pro Bowl in each of his seven seasons, and he has never missed a game or a start -- 113 games and counting.

The former No. 3 overall pick out of Wisconsin was by far the highest-rated lineman on both ESPN’s #NFLRank project this summer and the NFL Network's top 100 list. He was ranked by ESPN as the 10th best offensive player in the league and finished 18th among all players on the NFL list.

Here is what the New Orleans Saints had to say about Thomas this week:

Right tackle Zach Strief: "Consistency. Look, there’s positions in this league that you need to show a flash to be recognized, and there’s positions where you need to never show a flash. And Joe Thomas, certainly from a pass-protection standpoint, they just kind of leave him out there. He’s had a carousel of quarterbacks and offensive coordinators and all those things. That's a tough position to be in. And yet, no matter what, he seems to be holding up.

"He’s been there a long time, never missed a start, never missed a game. There’s a lot of reasons why Joe Thomas gets the respect that he does. And he deserves all of it. ... He’s certainly an admirable guy to watch. I don’t get much out of him, because I can’t do a lot of the stuff that he does. We’re pretty different. But good player, good all-around player."

Tight end Benjamin Watson (a former Browns player): "We always joked that, 'Hey Joe, you’re walking right down to the Hall of Fame [in nearby Canton, Ohio].' And he very well may be. ... He’s a guy that prepares very well. He’s very technically sound. And the thing with Joe when you watch him is, he does everything the same, all the time. He gets in his stance the same way, he blocks guys the same way. And they just can’t seem to get off the block."

Outside linebacker Junior Galette: "He’s legit. He’s the real deal. I can’t think of another tackle that’s better than him. ... His athleticism, how smart and savvy he is, how patient he is. Everything, he has all of it. Whatever you’re looking for in a left tackle. He can stop whatever moves, speed, bull [rush]. But we’ll see this week. ...

"I feel like I’m up there, as well. You know, [Michael] Jordan always wanted to go against the best guys. The same mentality I have. I’m hungry, I want to challenge the best guys and see exactly where I’m at."

Coach Sean Payton: "They have a real good offensive line. Their left tackle and center [Alex Mack] are guys that are Pro Bowl players. Joe’s someone who’s very consistent in his pass sets and pass protection. He’s been a very, very durable and reliable player for them, as well. So when you go against someone like him, you’ve gotta have obviously your rush moves in place, you’ve gotta really play with good leverage. He’s an outstanding player."

Defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick: "Smart player. He’s a seasoned vet, so he knows all the tricks. He’s just a solid guy, moves his feet well, can set down, sink his hips, moves really well. Just knows what he’s doing."

Defensive end Cameron Jordan: "Knowledgeable. Has good feet. Able to settle down and be calm. So it’ll be fun going against him."