The Cleveland Browns need to add players on defense who know how to rush the passer. Could they look at Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers to help solve the problem?
The Cleveland Browns had multiple issues on defense during the 2016 NFL season and near the top of the list was the team’s inability to consistently pressure the passer.
That is a problem no matter who the Browns are playing, but it is magnified by facing Ben Roethlisberger (21-2 in his career vs. Cleveland), Joe Flacco (15-2) and Andy Dalton (9-3) six times a year in division games.
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams knows this – “we are going to play defense as much as we can in an attacking way” he said at his introductory news conference – as does left tackle Joe Thomas – he went on record this week saying he wants the team to draft a pass rusher.
The front office and head coach Hue Jackson are likely listening and the Browns have been linked to Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett for weeks now. But even if the Browns decide to make Garrett the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, they may not be done looking for players who can make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.
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If the Browns decide to add more defensive playmakers in the draft they may only have to look about 75 miles to the east, where they will find Youngstown State outside linebacker Derek Rivers, who is catching the attention of a lot of people during practices for Saturday’s Senior Bowl.
A four-year starter for the Penguins, Rivers was a three-time first-team All-MVFC honoree who finished his collegiate career with 173 career tackles, including 56.5 tackles for loss. The numbers that really jump out are his 48 quarterback hurries and school record 41 sacks in 49 career games.
Rivers also had an impressive day of during the second practice session this week, according to firstcoastnews.com:
"Derek Rivers had himself quite the day. He owned his matchups during 1-on-1 drills and was a consistent presence in the backfield during team sessions. He had at least one “sack” and displayed impressive quickness on a pass breakup in redzone drills."
The 6-foot-5 and 250-pounds Rivers has also caught the attention of the Cincinnati Bengals as he is preparing for the draft at Ignition Sports in Cincinnati, with Clif Marshall, who has close ties to Bengals strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton.
Marshall compares him to Connor Barwin of the Philadelphia Eagles, who has 50.5 career sacks since entering the league in 2010.
“He’s the same size, same weight and has similar arm length and he has the athletic ability Connor Barwin had,” Marshall told the Bengals website. “I think teams are going to be intrigued by how strong he is on the bench press, as well as the long arms.
“He’s big enough and strong enough that he can play a 4-3 end … More and more you’re seeing in the league 4-3 defensive ends in college and could even be productive but don’t have the size and they’re moved to 3-4 linebacker and it’s hard to learn how to drop into coverage and come out of their breaks. But when you have a guy like Derek who can do both, he’s attractive to every team.”
A player who knows how to get after the quarterback, who can also drop into coverage and has been described as a high-character person? That definitely sounds like someone the Browns should be interested in come draft weekend.