With a left tackle such as Joe Thomas, it's no wonder Brandon Weeden has time to go through his progressions and pick apart secondaries.
Thomas' primary job is to keep the Cleveland Browns' rookie quarterback from getting his uniform dirty. He's 6-foot-6, in his sixth season and already being talked about as possibly the NFL's best at his position.
“He gets voted to the Pro Bowl every year, so that’s pretty much an indication of what the players, coaches and everybody thinks of him," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He’s a premier left tackle. He’s one of the best. … I don’t know that there’s a better tackle in football."
The only players to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of their first five seasons are in the Hall of Fame: N.Y. Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor and late Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas.
"To be able to be mentioned with those two guys is pretty spectacular and it’s really humbling," Thomas said. "When I came into the NFL, I said I wanted to go to the Hall of Fame. That was my long-term goal. I had a lot of short-term goals along the way, and one of them was making the Pro Bowl.
"I’ve been blessed and been lucky enough to make the Pro Bowl and be able to start there in my first five seasons. I am just trying to do everything I can to help my team win and try to get back to the Pro Bowl and hopefully get this team into the playoffs, because it would be nice to taste that for once.”
Part of what makes Thomas so difficult is his length. The Ravens only got one sack of Weeden during their first meeting with the Browns on Sept. 27 while their quarterback, Joe Flacco, was dropped four times.
The Ravens still won 23-16, but they will travel to Cleveland on Sunday at less than 100% on defense. Their front seven has had difficulty getting push at the line of scrimmage to get pressure on quarterbacks even when everyone was healthy. Now starting defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been limited by a shoulder injury and defensive end Pernell McPhee hasn't practiced all week because of a thigh injury.
"It's a big advantage to be a tall tackle in this league with long arms. That’s what NFL scouts are always looking for," Thomas said. "Being able to get your hands on a guy and being able to use a little bit of a length and keep that separation between you and the defensive line is important, because what they want to do is get in close to you, and they can use all their moves and try to get around you.
"But, if you are keeping that space between you and them, it really limits their ability to get into your body and to use their pass-rush moves and get their hands on you and try to beat you to the quarterback.”