CLEVELAND — Alternate no more.
A first alternate for the 2019 Pro Bowl, Cleveland Browns left guard Joel Bitonio received word Thursday morning that he was named to the NFL’s annual All-Star Game to replace Pittsburgh Steelers interior lineman David DeCastro.
And it did not take long for those who know Bitonio best to extend their congratulations to the fifth-year lineman.
Bitonio is the seventh former University of Nevada player to earn Pro Bowl status and the first since Brock Marion in 2003.
Bitonio’s hometown of Long Beach, California showed some love and extended their congratulations on the Pro Bowl honor.
It has been a heck of a few days for Bitonio, both personally and professionally.
Bitonio became a father for the first time when his wife, Courtney, gave birth to their daughter, Zoey Grace, on Monday, January 7.
Then, Bitonio was elevated to Pro Bowl status just one week after being a second-team All-Pro honoree.
The Browns found much offensive success behind Bitonio’s blocks, specifically over the second half of the season following a coaching staff upheaval.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield broke the NFL record with his 27th touchdown throw of the season with 3:24 to play in regulation of last Sunday’s 26-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC North Division clash at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
After taking over the first-team offense in the second quarter of a Week 3 win over the New York Jets, Mayfield completed 310 of his 486 attempts (63.8 percent) for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
Individually, Mayfield set franchise records for the most passing touchdowns and yards by a rookie, and his 3,725 yards rank as the sixth-best single-season in team history, regardless of years of service. Additionally, Mayfield had three of the top five passing yards games by a rookie, as well as the fourth-most accurate season of any Browns quarterback ever.
Under the direction of interim coordinator Freddie Kitchens, Mayfield completed 180 of his 263 attempts (68.4 percent) for 2,254 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Mayfield averaged 281.75 yards and 2.375 touchdowns per game with Kitchens calling the plays.
Of all rookie running backs who have played for the Browns since their founding in 1946, no one rushed for more yards than Nick Chubb, as he set the franchise single-season record in a 26-18 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 23.
Chubb rushed for a game-high 112 yards on 19 carries, which gave him 972 yards on the season.
Chubb broke the old mark for rushing yards by a rookie that was set by Trent Richardson during the 2012 season. Richardson rushed for those 950 yards on 267 carries, while Chubb eclipsed his yardage total on 84 less attempts.
Chubb finished the 2018 season, one in which he was seldom used in the first seven games, with 996 yards and eight touchdowns on 192 carries. Chubb had 11 20-yard runs, four 40-yard bursts and 47 first-down conversions.
Used sparingly by Todd Haley over the first half of the 2018 season, Chubb rushed for 788 of his season total of 996 yards and five of his eight touchdowns on 140 carries under Kitchens. After the changes in the coaching staff, Chubb averaged 5.63 yards per carry and became a contributing member in the passing game as well.
Not known for having great catching ability out of the backfield, Chubb turned 18 catches into 139 yards and two touchdowns over the second half of the 2018 season.