Lack of Versatility Doomed Johnson, Dudley

Mike McLain takes a look at the depth chart impact of Browns surprising moves today. The Browns today cut two players (Ricky Dudley and Tre Johnson) expected to play a major role in a 2002 playoff drive. Who is in line to step up?

BEREA - In the final analysis, tight end Rickey Dudley and offensive guard Tre Johnson lacked versatility.

Both veterans were among five players waived Saturday by Browns coach Butch Davis. The team must reach the roster limit to 53 by 4 p.m. Sunday.

Other players waived were fullback Kevin McLeod, defensive end Arnold Miller and defensive back Calvin Spears. Placed on injured-reserve were defensive lineman Cecil Caldwell (knee), tight end Chris Eitzmann (shoulder), defensive back Earthwind Moreland (groin) and linebacker Michael Smith (hand).

In addition, the Browns acquired tight end Steve Heiden from the San Diego Chargers for a seventh-round draft choice in the 2003 draft. The Chargers have the option of switching sixth-round choices with the Browns next year.

The moves reduce the roster to 63 players.

Johnson's departure was somewhat of a surprise. He had been working with the first team after missing the first two preseason games because of a sprain ed knee.

"At this time, releasing Tre Johnson was in the best interest of our football team," Butch Davis said. "The versatility of many of our offensive linemen essentially resulted in him getting caught in a numbers game. It is always a juggling act when determining how many players to keep at each position, and offensive line is one of the toughest."

The release of Johnson could pave the way for Shaun O'Hara to start at right guard. O'Hara worked with the first team at left guard early in camp but was moved to right guard when Johnson went down. Barry Stokes then moved up from second team to start at left guard.

Another possibility is that third-round draft choice Melvin Fowler will be elevated from second-team center to start at right guard. Fowler split time at center and guard during camp, and Davis is optimistic about his future.

Dudley, who missed most of last season after having foot surgery, played well early in camp and was one of the offensive standouts when the Browns and Bills scrimmaged four weeks ago in Rochester, but he was never a major part of the offense in the four preseason games.

"Rickey Dudley got caught in a numbers game," Davis said. "The only way for him to make the team would be as a starter, and we did not feel his performance merited a starting role."

Mark Campbell has had a strong camp, and the Browns used a fourth-round draft choice on Ohio State's Darnell Sanders. Aaron Shea, who injured a shoulder last Monday against Green Bay, is another candidate for time at tight end, along with Heiden.


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