By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Derek Rivers may be just a third-round pick, but for the Patriots he was their top selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. The defensive end out of Youngstown State was lauded before the draft for his quickness and athleticism as an edge rusher, but still had room to improve (and perhaps bulk up) if he wanted to earn a consistent role on his new team.
For Bill Belichick and the Patriots, they’re trying to figure out exactly what that role will be.
While speaking at his Wednesday press conference before the Patriots’ joint walkthrough with the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Belichick was asked about Rivers’ physical attributes and whether he’d be able to move around on the field and play a variety of roles in the Patriots defense. The head coach explained the Patriots’ approach with Rivers to figure out how and where the rookie will fit on the team in his first year.
“We’ll see how it goes. Derek’s long, he runs well, he’s athletic, he’s got good quickness, good explosion,” said Belichick. “We’ve done that with a lot of players, especially younger players, putting them in multiple positions and see how they fit best in our scheme with different packages they might have value in or how we could use them in different roles, depending on what our needs are that particular week or in that particular grouping of people.
“So, definitely some trial and error on our end. But, Derek works hard. He’s adapted well. He’s tried to do everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s making good progress, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Rivers may not see much time on the Patriots defense as a rookie outside of situational pass rushing, but special teams could be where he gets significant snaps. It will be interesting to see how Rivers is used in the Patriots’ first preseason game against the Jaguars on Thursday night.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.