ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams have used a couple of first-round picks on the defensive line, but 2007 fifth-rounder Clifton Ryan has become the mainstay.
The defensive tackle plays alongside Chris Long, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Another defensive tackle, Adam Carriker, chosen with the 13th overall pick in 2007, is out for the season with a shoulder injury suffered in the preseason finale.
This Sunday's game at Detroit is a homecoming for the 324-pound Ryan, who grew up in Saginaw, Mich., and played at Michigan State. He has purchased 40 tickets for family and friends.
"I'm fired up," Ryan said. "I'm going back home. I'll be playing in front of a lot of family and friends. It's a dream come true to play there."
The Rams (0-7) will be trying to snap a league-worst 17-game losing streak when they face Detroit (1-5). The Lions, winless last season, are coming off a bye week.
"You've got two hungry teams in my opinion that are eager to get a win," Ryan said. "We need a win. They need a win. It's a huge test for us."
Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Ryan is a leader who plays like a seasoned veteran. So far this year he has 23 tackles, one sack and one pass defended. He has also played a big role in helping rookie middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, who leads the team with 66 tackles.
"He gets in there, he battles, and he's vocal," Spagnuolo said. "He is one of those guys that show up every day in practices and those are the kind of guys you like."
Defensive coordinator Ken Flajole agreed.
"There is nothing glamorous about the defensive tackle position, but he has done a nice job for us and hopefully he'll continue to get better and keep helping us," Flajole said.
Ryan cited a growing maturity, saying he listens to and soaks up what the veterans tell him.
"I had to learn how to be a pro," Ryan said. "When I first got here, I had no idea how to prepare each and every week. Every week you have to take pride in your job and take pride in what you put on the field."
Separately, the Rams said right guard Richie Incognito (foot) it out for Sunday's game. Adam Goldberg will start in Incognito's place. Rookie Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick, will start at right tackle, where Goldberg has started the last five games.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)