Ryan Carrethers turned the corner.
This past Sunday, his first start, arguably was the best game of the Chargers nose tackle's season.
The rookie fifth-round pick was stout against the run, taking on double teams, shedding blocks. He, inside linebacker Donald Butler and outside linebacker Melvin Ingram blew up a third-and-1 run in the second quarter.
Carrethers showed the flashes of a quality NFL player.
He must wait to build on it.
The Chargers will face a run-heavy St. Louis offense Sunday missing a clog in the middle. Fortunately for them, the absence coincides with veteran Sean Lissemore's return to the lineup. Carrethers' progress, though, is encouraging moving forward.
The team hasn't depended on him much this year.
He was inactive the game before Sunday's win over Oakland. For that matter, he's been inactive three other weeks, playing 48 defensive snaps this season prior to the 25 from last weekend.
A dislocated right elbow ended his day. It'll will force him to be inactive versus the Rams.
Good thing for Lissemore. He's back from a quad injury suffered Nov. 2 in Miami.
"Ryan did an outstanding job of stepping in," coach Mike McCoy said.
"He's learning, and he's growing," defensive coordinator John Pagano said. "He's getting better each day and week. It's too bad he got hurt, but you know what? It's part of this business. He'll grown and learn."
Carrethers was admittedly and expectedly raw upon arrival.
He acknowledged Friday that in the spring, he relied too much on his athleticism, not enough on technique. He also still was coming off a posterior cruciate ligament injury from college.
Defensive line coach Don Johnson has mentored the 6-foot-1, 333-pound Carrethers. He also said that defensive end Corey Liuget often works with him before practice on various skills, be it footwork or hand placement.
The 23-year-old is not expected to miss heavy time.
Lissemore lessens the sting of the injury, which has forced Carrethers to wear an elbow brace.
"I've seen him develop a lot," Lissemore said. "I've seen him build a lot of confidence and understand how the coaches expect a nose tackle to play in this defense. He's done a great job of doing that."
"If I can keep getting better, that'd be great," Carrethers said.
Rookie Tre Mason paces the Rams run game.
The third-round pick from Auburn set season highs with 29 carries for 113 yards during last Sunday's 22-7 win over the Broncos. Benny Cunningham, out of the backfield, added four catches for 31 yards.
St. Louis also likes to involve wide receiver Tavon Austin, a 2013 first-round pick whose 19 carries this year outnumber his 20 catches.
"They pound the football," Pagano said. "You've got to do a great job once again of tackling. All three them are different. Mason is like when I'm watching my son play Madden, and on the controller it's circle, circle, X, square — whatever they do to make them move, he's got that.