Monday, October 6, 2008
By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

To anyone watching the Rams’ Sept. 28 game against Buffalo, it was blatantly clear that the defensive line was having its finest performance of the young 2008 season.

A group that had been gashed by the run the week before against Seattle and struggled to piece together much of a pass rush in any of the first three games was suddenly stuffing the run and pushing the pocket.

The difference? Changes, many changes.

Early in the week, the Rams shook up the line, starting Victor Adeyanju at end with Clifton Ryan taking over at the nose tackle spot. End Leonard Little and tackle La’Roi Glover worked in a rotation that apparently made both of them more effective.

“Playing the younger kids, I think La’Roi was much better Sunday because he didn’t have to play the whole game,” defensive coordinator Rick Venturi said. “He’s at the point where if he can play fast for fewer plays, he’s going to be good so Carriker and Clifton Ryan not only solidifies things in there, it also allows some role playing.”

The man in the middle of the changes literally and figuratively is Ryan. In his second season in the league, Ryan has emerged as perhaps the team’s best run stuffing defensive tackle.

With Ryan and Adeyanju in the lineup, the defensive front was as good against the run as its been all year.

The injection of youth not only gave the line some fresh legs but a different feel, a feel Ryan and Co. seemed to enjoy.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I love playing with the young guys,” Ryan said. “No disrespect to the older guys because I love playing with them too, I look up to those guys, I have been watching those guys, they have 30 plus years of experience. But when we get the four young guys out there on the D line together, there’s a certain type of energy we bring. We love playing together; we goof around together off the field. We are closer in age; we have a lot in common. There’s just something about being out there with those guys. We are hungry. We’ve got a combined eight years of experience so we are ready to show what we can do in this league.”

Those changes likely will continue this week against Washington as Ryan is expected to stay in the starting lineup. Little will likely return to his starting spot now that he’s completely healed from a hamstring injury but Adeyanju will continue to work in the mix with Carriker and Chris Long still heavily involved.

Ryan’s presence in the middle could be the key to the whole thing, though. Ryan said though he wasn’t perfect against the Bills, he thinks there is plenty of potential for him to make an impact.

“I am nowhere near a finished product,” Ryan said. “I only have 20 games under my belt in this league. I am still a pup, man. I am still kind of a rookie in some instances. There’s some things out there I haven’t seen, there’s some things out there I play real well so I am just learning with every game and every practice. I appreciate the coaches and my teammates believing in me and giving me the opportunity to be on the field.”

INJURY REPORT: There wasn’t much change to the injury report Monday as the Rams went through a mid-morning practice.

Some of the players who missed workouts last week did return, though. Linebacker Will Witherspoon (shoulder) and receiver Dante Hall (hamstring) participated in parts of the practice.

Receiver Keenan Burton did some work on the side in the practice but isn’t likely to play this week. A return next week against Dallas is possible, though. Drew Bennett could also be back next week as he is walking without a boot and headed toward a recovery.

“I’m hoping next week, I hope him and Drew will be back next week,” Haslett said. “There’s a chance we could bring in (WR) Derek Stanley from the practice squad this week, depending on how he works, but again we’ll make that decision later on as the week goes.”