Few, if any, have been successful implementing that approach, or any other, against Thomas, who continues to catch passes game after game for the Saints. Nine times this season, he caught at least 10 and twice more, he caught nine.
"Greatness," said former NFL receiver Chad Johnson, who caught 766 passes for 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns in 12 seasons. "This is a league of consistency and what-have-you-done-for-me-lately.
"For him to be able to come in and be consistent, for one, is difficult. There was a quarterback change (with Brees' injury), and consistency still remained. The discipline in his craft and doing everything the right way is the reason he is 迈克尔·托马斯. He's one of the best for a reason."
Johnson, a cousin to Thomas' uncle, Keyshawn Johnson – another former NFL standout receiver – said there's a pride that goes along with being a team's No. 1 receiver and still managing to produce game-changing numbers even while opponents know you'll be a top target.
"I wouldn't say it's hard," he said. "That's the joy of it. That's the joy of being No. 1, being able to accept that challenge and, for me, when I played, to tell you it's coming and still be able to go out there and do it. Mike walks a little different, a little quietly and does the performing with his play. Which is why he's one of the best."
Johnson said he sees no ceiling for Thomas, even after this historic season.
"The game is different – the way they take care of you, the way technology is," he said. "The ceiling for him, there is none. The possibilities are endless. With Drew Brees and a coach like that, Sean Payton? There is no ceiling."
Smith seems to agree with that.
"All the elements are in place for him to thrive," Smith said. "And his ability to want to be great also makes him better as well. He's in a perfect situation: Great quarterback, great offensive play design and also a great play-caller with Sean Payton. Because you can be a great play designer, but not be able to call the plays in the thick of the fire.
"He has all the perfect ingredients; however, he's exceeded all expectations of him. All the things I hear about him, he works his butt off, he doesn't take days off, he works for everything he's gotten. You rarely hear a negative thing about him, other than maybe he works too hard. And I don't think that's a negative thing."