FOXBORO- While the New England Patriots didn’t have a first or second round draft selection in last year’s draft, they took a highly coveted prospect in the third round.
Defensive end Derek Rivers was considered a high commodity and a huge piece of the team’s defensive future.
“This guy can get to the quarterback,” Draft analyst Mike Mayock said after they drafted him. “They got another versatile piece that they can add to that puzzle.”
Heading into his rookie season, it looked as though Rivers would be an important cog in the defensive machine. At the start of camp, Rivers gave the Patriots enough reason to get rid of defensive end Kony Ealy with Rivers earning the starting nod in one of the Patriots’ first preseason games.
However, after great showings in training camp and quality play in game action, Rivers tore his ACL and was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 2 of last year.
While others would sit back and reflect on this and say it was a lost season, Rivers looks at the whole situation as a positive. During his time recovering from his injury, Rivers became more knowledgeable in the Patriots’ system.
“It’s been a blessing honestly, Rivers said. “It’s a time to learn the defense as it was something like a red-shirt year staying around the building and get bigger, stronger and try to get ready for this year.”
Rivers is not only taking advantage of his year of delving into the playbook, but also some new experienced members coming in as mentors. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn who came over from the Atlanta Falcons has been a huge help learning new things on the field.
“It’s awesome, [Clayborn] is an awesome guy,” Rivers said. “He’s got great character and will help out with anything, we’ve had a bunch of guys that have walked up to him and asked him things like ‘I’ve got to learn things from you like how do you do this and how do you do that.’ Just an awesome dude, love him.”
Rivers will be a player to watch this season as he will be looking to make an impact on the Patriots’ defense, which had one of the worst pass rushes last season.