Wednesday, September 19, 2007
By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

It came as no surprise to see a rookie nose tackle making play after play against the ***** last week. That was to be expected considering the Rams used a first-round draft choice on one in last April’s NFL Draft.

But what nobody expected was that the rookie defensive lineman having such an immediate and profound impact would be fifth-round choice Clifton Ryan and not first-rounder Adam Carriker.

Even Ryan was taken aback by his performance against San Francisco.

“I was shocked that I performed the way I did so early,” Ryan said. “I know I have some athletic ability to go out there and compete at a high level. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be out there. But I was shocked to the magnitude I performed last week. I was playing out of my mind.”

The scariest part of Ryan’s eight tackle, two sack, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble performance was that he did it all on just 18 snaps.

Working in a three-man rotation with Carriker and veteran La’Roi Glover, Ryan was given a chance after Claude Wroten received a four-game suspension last week.

Ryan had quietly earned praise from the coaching staff for his performance in the preseason, but was easily overlooked because of the immediate and solid work from Carriker.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who was one of the first to point out Ryan’s potential in the preseason, said he doesn’t have many ways to describe how Ryan gets his job done.

“He kind of mauls centers,” Haslett said. “He’s a typical nose guard. There’s no other way to describe him.”

Not many “typical” nose guards have the kind of performance Ryan had in just his second NFL game, though. Ryan wasn’t exactly a high profile player at Michigan State, where he went through multiple positions and position coaches in his time with the Spartans.

Those changes never allowed Ryan to settle in one spot and find his niche. He finally settled in at defensive tackle as a senior, racking up four sacks along the way.

Now, he’s already half way to that total after just a single NFL game.

“I can’t get ahead of myself,” Ryan said. “I had a great game. I just have to build on it. I think I laid the foundation for a good season last Sunday but at the same time, I can’t be complacent. I have to keep pushing myself day in and day out in practice.”

Make no mistake, Carriker is still entrenched in his spot as a starter, but Ryan has definitely done enough to catch the coaching staff’s attention.

If nothing else, it’s probably a safe bet that Ryan earned more snaps this week against Tampa Bay and has made a strong case to continue to be a key part of the rotation even upon Wroten’s return.

“No question,” coach Scott Linehan said. “He was one of the young players who really stepped up big in this game. We had some players playing for the first time with a lot more plays than they had. He had an opportunity with Claude not being out there and he took advantage of it. That’s a very encouraging thing to see a rookie (do).”

INJURY REPORT: On the injury front, some Rams appear to be making progress while others seems to be standing in place.

Cornerback Tye Hill (back) and guard Richie Incognito (ankle) did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Hill will miss Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay, but Linehan seemed to give a slight indication that there is at least a fraction of hope for Incognito this week, saying Incognito had “a gleam in his eye.”

Incognito, of course, suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason and then re-injured the ankle in the week leading up to the opener against Carolina. He has had the ankle in a brace since and might be moving toward a return as soon as this week or next week against Dallas.

Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa was limited in Wednesday’s practice because of continued problems with an ankle sprain. Tinoisamoa did do some work and Linehan said he would have a chance to go this week.

For his part, Tinoisamoa said he doesn’t want to rush back like he did last season and hurt himself more.

“Nobody likes being hurt,” Tinoisamoa said. “But you can’t control a lot of the stuff that goes on so I have to take it in stride and try to get better.”

Quarterback Marc Bulger (ribs) and guard Claude Terrell (thigh) were full go in the work out. Bulger took every repetition at quarterback.

Offensive lineman Milford Brown (ankle) and receiver Drew Bennett were fine and not listed on the injury report.

ROSTER MOVES: The Rams shook up the roster late Tuesday afternoon as they continue to alter the practice squad.

St. Louis began the shuffle Sunday when it called cornerback Darius Vinnett up from the practice squad to the active roster and released defensive end Eric Moore. Because of the injury to cornerback Tye Hill, the Rams needed an additional defensive back for depth.

On Wednesday morning, they signed cornerback Justin Phinisee. Phinisee is 5’11, 199 pounds and was last on Kansas City’s practice squad before just missing the final cut.

Phinisee was a seventh-round draft choice of Tampa Bay in 2006 and started 29 games for Oregon in college. There, he had 183 tackles, three sacks and seven interceptions.

The Rams also brought Moore back into the fold by signing him to the practice squad and releasing defensive tackle Keith Jackson.

Jackson was one of the team’s seventh-round draft choices this year and signed to the practice squad after being released on the final cut day.

RAM BITS: The first team offensive line had a bit of a different look in installation Wednesday morning with Adam Goldberg working at right tackle and Brown and Terrell splitting reps at right guard…Brian Leonard is unofficially officially listed as the team’s starting fullback on the “unofficial” depth chart.