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Thomas and Mack lead line in the trenches

Posted Jul 10, 2013

Over the next few weeks, ClevelandBrowns.com will take a look at the 2013 Browns, position-by-position. Today’s spotlight is on the offensive line.

Overview:

Four members of the Cleveland Browns took every snap on their respective side of the football in 2012, and all were offensive linemen.

Left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack, have played every snap of their respective careers. Coupled with right guard Shawn Lauvao and rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, Thomas and Mack displayed a consistency in the Browns’ offense that allowed several rookies to break franchise records.

In 2012, the offensive line blocked for running back Trent Richardson, who equaled or broke seven franchise rookie records, and quarterback Brandon Weeden, who set rookie marks for wins (five), passing yards (3,385), and yards in a game (364 in a 20-17 win at Oakland on Dec. 2, 2012).

Richardson broke six team rookie records in 2012, including most rushing yards (950), most rushing touchdowns (11), total touchdowns (12), points scored (72), rushing attempts (267), and total yards from scrimmage (1,317). He also rushed for 100 or more yards in three games, which equaled William Green’s total from 2002.

Schwartz was one of six rookie offensive linemen to start every game last season.

Key Number:

Ninety-six.

Since the Browns selected Thomas with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the left tackle has started and taken every snap in 96 consecutive games, tied for the sixth-longest streak of consecutive starts made by an NFL offensive lineman.

Thomas has another streak going, as he has been selected to and appeared in six straight Pro Bowls, which is tied for the third-most in team history.

Thomas is tied with a Browns Legend, Dick Schafrath, and two Pro Football Hall of Famers, Leroy Kelly and Gene Hickerson, for third place, trailing only running back Jim Brown and tackle Lou Groza, who each played in nine NFL all-star games.

Only 15 players in NFL history have ever made it to the Pro Bowl in each of their first six seasons, and 13 are enshrined members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including Brown.

Players to Watch:

Jason Pinkston and John Greco.

Despite a position change from tackle, where he played in college, to guard, Pinkston started every game of his rookie season and the first six of his second NFL campaign. However, after encountering what was thought to have been an illness in a 34-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 14, Pinkston was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung and was placed on injured reserve.

In Pinkston’s absence, Greco filled in at left guard. There, he started 10 straight games and did not miss an offensive snap in those first nine contests.

Pinkston has recently been cleared for football activities and was able to participate in some of the on-field work during the offseason program.

“Some days when you come in here and you’re sore, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I’m so sore. I don’t want to be here,’” Pinkston said during organized team activities. “When I was off for those six months, man, that was the only place I wished I could’ve been. You never want to take anything for granted, that’s for sure.

“I feel great now, no problems, no problems running, no nothing. I’m just trying to get back into shape and get ready for a good season. With new coaches, everybody’s competing, so I’m just trying to get a starting job, get back in there and hopefully, run out of that tunnel opening day for the Browns.”

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