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Cleeland, Allen are cut; rookies could move up
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Despite interim head coach Joe Vitt's vow Monday to focus on the present, the Rams made a couple of personnel moves Tuesday that seemed to have the future in mind.
They released veteran tight end Cam Cleeland and return specialist David Allen. Rookies Jerome Collins and Jeremy Calahan, who have been on the practice squad all year and never have suited up for a regular-season game, are expected to replace them on the 53-man active roster.
Collins, a 6-foot-4, 267-pound tight end from Notre Dame, was a fifth-round draft choice last April. A solid blocker, he's been working on sharpening his pass-catching skills. Calahan, a 6-2, 298-pound defensive tackle from Rice, was an undrafted free agent and a long shot to make it through training camp. But he landed on the practice squad, and the coaches, impressed by his strength, have been drilling him on proper technique.
Cleeland, an eight-year veteran, was coaxed out of retirement in early October after fellow tight end Roland Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury. Cleeland played in nine games, catching five passes for 17 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown pass against Indianapolis.
Allen was signed Nov. 9 after spending most of the Canadian Football League season with the Calgary Stampeders. Allen, who was with Jacksonville in 2003 and part of the '04 season, averaged 5.4 yards on seven punt returns and 20.5 yards on 23 kickoff returns for the Rams. The Rams probably will return to Shaun McDonald as the primary punt returner and Aveion Cason or Chris Johnson as the No. 1 kickoff-return man.
Chillar grades well
Vitt deemed linebacker Brandon Chillar's first start of the season in the base defensive alignment a success.
"I wasn't surprised, because he had a good week of practice," Vitt said. "We put him into some positions that we hadn't done all year long, putting him on the line of scrimmage on the tight end. He did a good job in the run game and did a good job managing our dogs and blitzes. ... I thought he played very well."
Chillar, a second-year pro, took over at strongside linebacker Sunday at Minnesota for veteran Dexter Coakley, who suffered a season-ending leg injury the previous week vs. Washington. Previously, Chillar had been used mainly in passing situations.
High marks for defense
Although they didn't sack Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson, the Rams swarmed about him much of the afternoon in what might have been their most aggressive defensive showing of the season.
"The pressure package, I thought, was excellent," Vitt said. "I think we put him on the ground something like 18 times. So that was good, that was encouraging. ... He's a veteran quarterback, and on his third step, he's getting the ball out. He's not going to take a sack, he's not going to throw the interception, he's not going to take negative yards. ...
"We obviously disrupted his rhythm. I think it was something we can probably build off of."