BEREA - Butch Davis simply did not want the Browns to go through what they did last year. That was the main reason behind cutting Tre’ Johnson.
While a healthy Johnson may have been valuable to the running game, the fear that he would miss practices and eventually be lost with another serious injury provided to big a scare for Davis.
Having players like Johnson in and out of practice due to injury hurt continuity and led to breakdowns in technique.
Johnson played reasonably well in two preseason games, but he was in fewer than 25 plays.
The current starters - Ryan Tucker, Shaun O’Hara, Dave Wohlabaugh, Barry Stokes and Ross Verba - are all healthy. That means they are all capable of practicing now. To Davis, that is of ultimate importance.
Last year, Davis made a switch in the starting offensive line in the week before the season opener. That created some chemistry problems that lingered through the entire season. Davis was asked on Sunday if he worried changing the starting lineup again so near the start of the season would cause similar problems.
"The guys we kept are the guys who played 85-percent of the preseason," said Davis. "(Johnson) played 23 snaps the entire preseason. I don’t think that will disrupt our continuity."
The decision to release Rickey Dudley came down to versatility and the fact that the Browns don't think he would bring much more to the first team than Mark Campbell would bring.
Davis has hinted since the start of the preseason that Dudley might not be giving his all in practice. If he worked to tap his potential, Dudley would have a value as a starter. As a backup, he just doesn't do enough to merit a position on the roster.
The Browns feel they can afford to keep starters who have just one role on the football team. Backups, however, have to be able to contribute on special teams.
Campbell has soft hands and a strong work ethic that make him of similar or greater value to Dudley in the starting lineup. Campbell also plays on most of the Browns' special teams packages. That makes him more valuable than Dudley.
Steve Heiden has value as a backup in that he can play not only tight end, but possibly H-back, and he can long snap in a pinch. Darnell Sanders may have the best up-side on the unit. He also plays on some special teams packages.