With the Giants trading for Keith Rivers yesterday, I thought it might make sense to get a quick scouting report on him from someone that’s been following him since he entered the league in 2008, so I turned to Cincy Jungle’s Josh Kirkendall.
Jimmy: I’ve heard some Bengals fans say that Hines Ward’s crackback block in 2008 ruined Keith Rivers. You buy that?
Josh: Not really. It’s the same assumption that Kimo Von Oelhoffen ruined Carson Palmer’s career, despite returning the following year and putting together career numbers. Rivers turned into a very productive linebacker after Ward’s lick, finishing near 100 tackles each season (per coaches tape), second behind Dhani Jones in 2009 and 2010.
Jimmy: Details of Rivers’ wrist injury are sketchy. He showed up to camp post-lockout with the injury, had surgery to “rebuild his wrist,” was placed on the non-football injury list, and finally IR’d. I’m not sure I have a specific question here. Just anything you can add about his wrist injury would be helpful.
Josh: Rivers himself disputed a Cincinnati Enquirer report that he was suffering from a degenerative wrist condition, though offering no alternative. We’ve also heard that he’s fine, but we’ve been suspicious since last year. How did the injury occur? Was it to address a degenerative issue, or was there a specific event?
Ultimately we’ve been convinced that the team had planned on releasing Rivers with an injury settlement at some point during the offseason.
Jimmy: Ignoring where you think he might fit in with the Giants, what is Keith Rivers’ best LB position, and why?
Josh: Last time we watched him play a game was during the 2010 season. He’s a natural weak-side linebacker. He’s strong on the back-side away from the run. Quick and strong, but he always appeared somewhat bulky in regards to lateral movement. Run at him and you won’t get through. Run away from him, and he’ll track you down. But run near his side, he seemed to miss more often than not.
Jimmy: Can he play the other LB spots?
Josh: The Bengals rarely, if ever, moved him out of position. He was also taken out of the game in nickle and dime sets.
Continued after the jump…
Jimmy: Way back in 2008, Rivers didn’t work out at the Combine because of an ankle injury, but he put up some seriously impressive Pro Day numbers. 42 inch vertical, 10’7 broad jump, 4.51 40, etc. Did Rivers display that athleticism on Sundays?
Josh: Leaping most of all, especially against diving offensive linemen to avoid the block. Not that he actually made the play on the running back, but impressive enough. Despite that he appeared to rely more on strength, instinct and closing speed than he did natural athletic ability.
Jimmy: Obviously, Keith Rivers was the 9th pick overall pick in the 2008 draft, and when a high draft pick under-performs, fans will often give that player the benefit of saying he still has “upside.” Do you think Keith Rivers can still be an above average starter in the NFL, or is it more likely that his “upside” is more hope than reality?
Josh: It really depends on the source of your expectations. For us we had expected a foundation-level player that would become a leader of the defense, making plays and generating turnovers. That never happened. If you’re expecting a guy to generate turnovers (only three in his career) or make marquee plays throughout the game, you’ll be disappointed. Looking for a solid linebacker that does his job, especially as a run-stopper, then he’ll do just fine.