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Q&A about Keith Rivers with @joegoodberry and @UltimateNYG

It is two Q&As for the price of one player. The Bills signed former 1st round pick Keith Rivers and I'm bringing in NFL Draft analyst and player evaluator for CincyJungle.com (SBNation's Bengals blog) Joe Goodberry to let me know what the deal is with him.  Follow him @JoeGoodberry.  I also got Andy Furman from Ultimate NYG to talk about Rivers time with Big Blue. His Q&A starts right after the photo of Rivers playing with the Giants.

I also sprinkled in some Profootball Focus stats about his rankings as an OLB in a 4-3 defense at both his stops.

1) Can you tell me a little about Keith Rivers time with the Bengals?

After being drafted ninth overall, Keith Rivers was late to camp and it was the first unfortunate series of events that killed his career in Cincinnati. While he was holding out, an obscure free agent signing, Brandon Johnson, was the talk of mini camp. He was playing Rivers' eventual spot and so well that Johnson became the teams nickel backer even when Rivers finally suited up.

Rivers started to hit his stride midway through his rookie year before the next speed bump arrived in the form of a Hines Ward patented blindside block. Rivers' jaw was wired shut and he missed the remainder of the season. Brandon Johnson took his place and was the team's best linebacker.

The two continued to split time over the course of River's career until he was traded in 2012 to the Giants. He was traded because during the 2010 season, Rivers hurt his wrist pretty badly. He played with a brace to finish the year. When everyone returned in 2011 after the lockout, Rivers finally elected to have wrist surgery… in August. The team placed him on non-football injured reserve and that's the last we saw him.

2) What were his strengths and weaknesses?

Rivers displayed great athleticism, but far too infrequently. He wasn't very tough and often seemed lost in pass coverage. An unfortunate mix of talents because his athleticism would imply natural coverage abilities. Rivers was a secure tackler and a good character teammate.

3) How did he do in run and pass support?

Rivers was at his best against the run. He has good closing speed and was at his best moving forward. Rivers didn't get many Nickel snaps, so his pass coverage opportunities were limited. I was always interested in seeing him get more chances.

4) Would you say there's a defensive system he'd be better off in?

Either outside linebacker spot in a 4-3 scheme would suit Rivers. He also played in a 3-4 scheme at USC as the weak-ILB.

5) Were there games you can remember where he had an impact or stunk up the joint up?

I really can't think of one game where Rivers was incredibly bad. But one game sticks out in his favor – 2009 at San Diego Chargers. This was right after Chris Henry's death and the entire team was on fire. It's no wonder Rivers had a few memorable moments. If you go back to watch, look for a nice interception while covering Antonio Gates.

6) Anything you want to add?

I think there's some upside left in Rivers, but I question his passion and toughness. He has the ability, but rarely seemed to be going full speed. He should be a solid depth pickup that can play everywhere and start if needed. And, I think he's content just being that.

–In 2009, Rivers was ranked as the 13th best OLB in a 4-3 defense for the Bengals. He ranked 14th in tackles at that position and was ranked 25th in solo stops with 27. He started 13 games for the Bengals and ranked 11th in run defense for his position.

–In 2010, Rivers was ranked as the 9th best OLB in a 4-3 defense for the Bengals in 13 starts. He ranked 15th in solo stops with 29 but ranked 3rd in most missed tackles with 14.

1) Can you tell me a little about Keith Rivers?
 

The best way to sum up Rivers is that he is inconsistent.  This means unreliable.  He flashes. And then he gets roasted.

2) What were his strengths and weaknesses? 

Rivers greatest strength is that he can move from sideline to sideline pretty well and cover a lot of area.  His weakness is that (as mentioned above) he is inconsistent, delivering bad plays as often as he delivers good ones.  

3) How did he do in run and pass support?

PFF has him at near zero in both run and pass.  And that makes sense.  Because I have seen him make good plays in run, good plays in pass, and bad plays in run and bad plays in pass. The net is he fills a space and is worthy of a roster spot as a backup. He's a body.

4) I know being a 1st round pick, he had a lot of expectations when he entered the league with the Bengals. As you've watched him with the Giants, why don't you think he met expectations?

He never recovered from that hit he took from Hines Ward.  Ward hit with a barely legal shot that rung MY bell when I watched the video. He just hasn't been the same since.  He was worth a shot for the Giants with low risk and some reward if he could regain form.  I just didn't see enough consistency from him.  He is capable of making a great play and he is capable of getting gashed… from play to play, quarter to quarter, game to game.  

5) Can he be a starter in this league?

A starter for a weak team or a team with weak LBers like the Giants.  The Giants have not drafted a LBer #1 since 1984 (Carl Banks). So what that should tell you is why the Giants seem to be a weigh station for FA linebackers.  They always have a need for 98.6 degree bodies because they are too busy drafting elsewhere (poorly at LBer in later rounds).  So Rivers was worth a shot to see if the opportunity with a stable franchise could reignite his career.  It did not happen.  He's a backup who can start and hold the fort until the 1st string guy returns.

—Keith Rivers was ranked as the 18th best OLB in a 4-3 defense in 8 starts during the 2013 season. He was also ranked #11 in supporting the run by PFF for an OLB in a 4-3. He did rank 35th in solo defensive stops with 11.

–For his career Rivers has just 12 tackles for losses. In comparison, Kiko Alonso had 11 all of last year.

 

For Q&A archives for Bills FA signings:

Q&A about Chris Williams with @Ramsherd

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