Joe Thomas, LT, ninth Pro Bowl selection: Thomas' annual venture to Hawaii puts him in select company in Cleveland Browns history. Thomas' ninth Pro Bowl matches the total of all-time great running back Jim Brown and all-time Browns favorite Lou Groza. Thomas deserves to be with this company. He also is one of eight players to make the Pro Bowl in their first nine seasons. All are in the Hall of Fame: DT Merlin Olsen, S Mel Renfro, RB Barry Sanders, LB Lawrence Taylor, Brown, RB Franco Harris and LB Derrick Thomas. Joe Thomas has not missed a snap since he was drafted in the first round in 2007, and has played hard on every play of every season for some very bad teams. This season is no different. The Browns are 3-11, but Thomas has never been better. His first step off the ball has become an art form, and ProFootballFocus has him as the NFL's highest-rated tackle. On Sunday against Seattle, he did not even give up a pressure. In answering a question on Monday about rookie Cam Erving, Thomas provided great insight into the way he plays the position. "I am probably one of the weakest offensive linemen in the NFL," he said, "but it doesn’t matter if you have good feet and you are constantly in good position. You are using leverages. You are using angles. You are winning the science of your position." A scientist at left tackle. Somehow that seems the most fitting description of Thomas possible.
Alex Mack, C, third Pro Bowl: Mack becomes the first center in Browns history to make the Pro Bowl three times. His selection is a bit of a surprise. Though Mack was having a solid season, it took him a while to round into the form he had shown early last year. Evidently he found that form sooner than the conventional wisdom thought. Mack missed 11 games in 2014 after breaking his ankle in a win over Pittsburgh. He worked his way back in the offseason, and has not missed a snap this season. “It was a lot of work during the offseason to come back from injury," Mack said in a statement released by the team. "But it was all worth it to be back on the field with my teammates. As a lineman, you depend on the man next to you, and I owe a lot of this honor to my teammates and coaches." Mack certainly doesn't hurt his postseason bargaining position with this honor. He can void his contract after this season and be a free agent if he so chooses.
Gary Barnidge, TE: There may be no more heartwarming story than Barnidge's rise to Pro Bowl status this season. At the age of 30, he stepped into the position following the free-agent departure of Jordan Cameron, and has tied Ozzie Newsome for the most touchdown receptions by a tight end in Browns history (nine). Barnidge ranks fifth among NFL tight ends with 68 receptions, fourth in receiving yards with 930, and third in touchdowns. Forty-seven of his receptions have resulted in first downs, second among tight ends. And he has put up those numbers while playing with three different quarterbacks on a team that is 3-11. Barnidge does much in the community, both locally and internationally with his American Football Without Barriers program. He is the Browns' nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. It would be hard to find a player more deserving of Pro Bowl than Barnidge. He deserved better than being an alternate.
Johnson Bademosi, special teams: It's tough to be noticed as a special-teams player, but Bademosi has been as good as anyone this season. The Browns felt he deserved consideration last season; this season they thought he definitely deserved to go. He is especially good on coverage units. Bademosi's candidacy may have been hurt by the Browns' record, a mark that is tough to overcome.