The New England Patriots begin training camp on Thursday, and nobody needs a big performance more than edge defender Derek Rivers. Rivers was New England’s first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft but hasn’t started his career on the highest of notes. The former third-round pick has only played 78 snaps through his first two years and could be out of a job if he doesn’t break out this summer.
Derek Rivers Entering Make or Break Training Camp
Derek Rivers has not had an easy NFL journey to date. The 2017 Patriots needed help on the edge after losing Chris Long and Rob Ninkovich in the previous off-season. Rivers looked ready to compete, as the Youngstown State product reportedly looked good in training camp. However, Rivers tore his ACL early in the preseason, ending his rookie year before it ever began.
Not only did Rivers miss a year of playing time, but he also missed a year of NFL development. The transition from college to the NFL is daunting enough, and Rivers had to deal with that while simultaneously rehabbing from a devastating knee injury. He was understandably playing catch up for the majority of 2018 and spent most of the year on the bench or as a healthy scratch. In total, Rivers played in six games and recorded two tackles, one sack, and one tackle-for-loss.
This obviously isn’t what you want from a former top-85 pick, but Rivers still has time to turn it around. However, the clock’s ticking, and Rivers needs to do something to show that he’s still worthy of a roster spot.
Reasons to Believe in Rivers
Derek Rivers is down, but he’s not out. Even though he didn’t do much in 2018, there are plenty of reasons to believe in his NFL future. For one, Bill Belichick still believes there’s a great player in there. Back in December, Belichick acknowledged that Rivers has been in a tough situation and said that “he’s got a good future.” The 2018 Patriots had solid edge depth and fantastic injury luck, so Rivers simply never had the opportunity to see the field. With Trey Flowers in Detroit, Adrian Clayborn in Atlanta, and Deatrich Wise on the PUP, Rivers should have every opportunity to earn playing time in 2019.
Additionally, Derek Rivers is a physical freak. According to MockDraftable, Rivers tested in the 88th percentile for the bench press, 93rd percentile for the 40-yard dash, and the 90th percentile for the 3-cone drill. Going solely off the measurables, Rivers’ closest NFL comparison is Washington Redskins defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. It obviously takes more than just athleticism to succeed in the NFL, but being a great athlete doesn’t hurt.
Rivers was more than just a workout warrior at the college level. During his final year with Youngstown State, Rivers recorded 58 tackles, 14 sacks, and one forced fumble. This is obviously great production, even if it didn’t come against the greatest of competition.
Trey Flowers may be gone, but the Patriots brought in Michael Bennett to effectively replace him in the lineup. The Patriots don’t need Rivers to be a star, they just need a solid role player. Rivers has the athletic prowess for the job and the trust of the coaching staff. All he has to do is prove that he belongs in the NFL over the course of the next month.
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