New England Patriots defensive end Derek Rivers has been afforded every opportunity to make an impact on this team over the past three seasons.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick must see something he really likes in fourth-year player Derek Rivers.
The former third-round pick out of Youngstown State had a spectacular college career, albeit for a smaller FCS school. When he was brought aboard the Patriots machine back in 2017 as the 83rd overall pick, the hope was that he’d be able to potentially replace some of the lost production from all the names that left New England that offseason through free agency or retirement at pass-rusher (Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, etc.).
Rivers was the Patriots’ highest draft pick that year, and one of just four players Belichick drafted (the smallest class in his New England tenure).
To date, Rivers has been a monumental bust.
Granted, it’s not entirely his fault at all. Injuries have been the primary culprit for why he hasn’t made any kind of impact over the past three seasons on this team. He tore his ACL during training camp and missed his entire rookie season.
Rivers returned in Week 3 of the 2018 season, though he only played six games that season and was a healthy scratch for the Patriots’ run up to and through Super Bowl 53. Trey Flowers, John Simon, Adrian Clayborn, and Deatrich Wise Jr. were all ahead of Rivers on the depth chart during his second season, as he mustered just two tackles and one sack over the course of his six games of action.
Rivers again ran afoul of the injury bug last season, hitting injured reserve once again after hurting himself during the second week of the preseason.
Once again, he finds himself somewhat buried on the depth chart up in Foxborough as we enter the 2020 season. Flowers and Clayborn are gone, but Simon and Wise Jr. are definitely still ahead of Rivers when it comes to the Patriots’ starting defensive end spots — not to mention impressive second-year player Chase Winovich, who’s also in line to start this season barring a massive setback this summer.
If Rivers is going to leapfrog one of those guys to earn himself some playing time, he’ll need to make an impact this training camp and preseason.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported back in February that Rivers has been a constant presence around Gillette Stadium this offseason as he works his way back into playing shape. That’s certainly the right move for Rivers, as he must know better than anyone that his time in New England — and perhaps in the NFL overall — could be coming to an end if he doesn’t establish himself over the coming months.
It’s a sad story thus far since the injuries aren’t necessarily something Rivers can explicitly control, but that’s also the nature of the game. This is a business, and as the old saying goes, the best ability is availability.
Hopefully, for his own sake, Rivers manages to stay healthy over the coming months and proves to everyone why he was the Patriots’ top draft pick three years ago.