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It takes a team to protect a quarterback

Posted Sep 2, 2013

Being consistent in their approach to Sunday’s home-opener against the Miami Dolphins will be important in neutralizing the effectiveness of Cameron Wake for the Browns’ offensive line.

It all starts up front!

The “it” this week for the Cleveland Browns as they ready for the 2013 regular-season home opener against the Miami Dolphins Sunday is finding a way to neutralize the effectiveness of Miami’s defensive line, particularly, end Cameron Wake.

“You look at Cameron, and he’s a guy that’s always a force since he’s been in the NFL: getting to the quarterback, sacking the quarterback, making tackles for loss,” veteran Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas said Monday. “When you have a guy that’s that disruptive on the edge, he’s somebody that has to be accounted for on every play on offense.”

And the best way to do that, according to the six-time Pro Bowler, is with a group effort.

“You have to have team protection,” Thomas said. “It comes down to the quarterback having the right depth in his drops, getting the ball out on time, down to helping with running backs chipping him, tight ends that are double-teaming, slide protections his way. There’s multiple ways you have to try and take care of (Wake). Of course, you’re going to get those one-on-one situations, and you have to do a great job and give the quarterback enough time.”

Giving the quarterback enough time to throw was not a problem for the Browns’ first-team offense during the preseason. Quarterback Brandon Weeden completed 30 of 50 attempts for 334 yards and three touchdowns, and was not sacked.

Nevertheless, the Browns’ offensive line can expect to get a stern test to start the season.

Wake has 43 sacks in four seasons, including a career-best 15 in 16 starts last season. Wake’s 15 sacks surpassed the previous career high of 14 he set in 2010, just his second year in the league after he failed to land with an NFL team in 2005 and spent two seasons with the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League.

“Personally, it always goes back to your right footwork, your right hand placement, being in good body position with them,” right tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. “A guy like him, he’s a really good athlete. He’s fast, he’s explosive, he’s strong, but he knows how to use that to his advantage too.

“You see him able to play off a tackle. If a guy’s set to his speed, he’ll turn to power on you. He’s not just a guy that’s going to spin around the corner on you. He has that if he wants you, but he’ll set you up for that. He won’t just go right to it.”

Throughout the first six years of his NFL career, Thomas has faced many of the league’s best pass rushers, including Minnesota’s Jared Allen and James Harrison, currently of the Cincinnati Bengals and formerly, the Pittsburgh Steelers, among many others.

Getting the chance to line up against another in Wake Sunday is something Thomas embraces.

“They’re always great measuring sticks,” Thomas said. “They’re some of the best players in the NFL, and that’s why you get paid to do your job because you’ve got to block the best ones.”

While Thomas enjoys testing himself against the best, for Schwartz, the emphasis is on keeping as consistent as possible.

“You just take it one week at a time,” Schwartz said. “This week, you’re playing him and a couple other guys there. It’s a good opportunity to go get the first win of the season. If you’re going out there and doing your job, you shouldn’t put more into it than anything else. You should treat every opponent the same, every week the same and try to be as consistent as possible with your preparation.”