BEREA - From the days when Andy Robustelli played defensive end in the 1950s until now, it seems as if the New York Giants have always had a strong pass rush.
It peaked in the '80s and '90s with Lawrence Taylor, George Martin, Leonard Marshall and Harry Carson, but it continues to thrive today with the likes of Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants have just eight sacks through the first four weeks of the season, but give it time. By the end of the season they'll be among the leaders in the NFL.
Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas knows the tempo will pick up a notch when the Browns and Giants play Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Giants come at offenses in waves, losing very little in production when they dig deep into the rotation.
"I don't see many defensive end units that are better in the NFL," Thomas said. "They've got four guys that are pretty good. When you talk about (Mathias) Kiwanuka. He's their sam linebacker, but he'll come in and play defensive end.
"The two Super Bowl years they've had, obviously (quarterback) Eli (Manning) played very well, but their defensive ends have been the difference. People can't account for them. There are so many of them, and they play so well together."
The Browns have allowed nine sacks, which isn't an alarming amount. Rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz hasn't been embarrassed in going against several difficult tests.
On the surface it would appear that Thomas isn't having a normal season. Normal for the five-time Pro Bowl selection is rarely getting beat in pass protection.
"I think I'm playing well," Thomas said. "It doesn't matter what I think."
There has been speculation that Thomas is dealing with a bad knee. He was listed on the injury report early in the season, but that hasn't been the case in recent weeks.
"Was I on the injury report that I didn't know about?" Thomas said. "Everyone is asking me about my knee."
The line has been criticized for its inability to consistently open holes for running back Trent Richardson, who has rushed for less than 50 yards in three games. He had 109 yards on 19 carries in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in week two.
This line isn't built for a power running game. That's one reason why rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden is averaging 41.7 pass attempts a game.
"I think we've done a good job of pass blocking, especially for the number of dropbacks we've had," Thomas said. "Fifty-some last week and the high 40s the week before that. There have been plenty of chances to sit back and throw the football. I think we've done a pretty nice job. We've been playing some outstanding defensive linemen."
Thomas will draw the task of keeping Pierre-Paul off Weeden's back. Pierre-Paul developed into one the elite pass rushers in just his second season in 2011, finishing fourth in the NFL with 16.5 sacks.
"He's big; he's strong; he's fast," Thomas said. "He has really long arms. Plays hard. He uses really good technique. Surprisingly slippery for a big man. He's got a rare bit of explosion in him that you don't see in a guy as big as he is. He makes it a long day for whoever he's playing against."
The Browns can't afford many more long days.