Patriots: Injury-prone DE Derek Rivers appears ready for major comeback
By Adam Weinrib
Patriots DE Derek Rivers has almost never been healthy, but his gleaming smile will convince you he’s ready.
Ever since the Patriots drafted Derek Rivers in the third round in 2017 out of Youngstown State, they’ve been waiting for the payoff.
Instead of exploding in his first year as a diamond-in-the-rough, Rivers instead spent the Foxborough fall on IR, felled by a torn ACL during training camp.
That was just the start of his unanticipated fall from grace, unfortunately. His NFL debut came midway through the 2018 season, with his “Belichick steal” shine long since discarded. The Patriots made the Super Bowl — and he wasn’t a part of it, held out of the action. 2019 was a chance to prove himself after that slight on the big stage, but the moment never came. Instead, Rivers lived through another four months on the IR and another wasted year.
But 2020 is different. Rivers has several openings on the defensive line in his sights, and played his fourth training camp as if he could smell the opportunity, with a never-diminishing grin on his face. After an exemplary camp, the kid made the roster, and his post-verdict media session made it clear he’s excited for all the hard work (done by the man himself and his training staff) to pay off.
Credit where credit is due, to all the right people. Rivers knows he wouldn’t have been in a position to show off his still-there skills without years of frequent rehabilitation, and he’s now ready to unlock his full package of talents.
When plenty of rostered players opted out of the 2020 season, and when New England chose not to retain a large portion of their LBs and pass rushers, some Patriots rooters saw doom and gloom. The Patriots who remained? They smelled an opportunity.
If you don’t want to believe Rivers himself, and would rather hear from impartial observers, then it’ll make you feel great that the people who watched Pats camp think Rivers elevated himself into the pass rush rotation after several key names from the past few seasons departed.
Without Dont’a Hightower, Chase Winovich and Josh Uche have gotten a lot of the publicity surrounding a likely Year 2 forward burst.
But don’t sleep on Rivers, who absolutely did not sleep on himself. He’s impressed the decision-makers who matter, and now, as the bright lights turn on, it’s his turn to impress you, too.