Aug 8, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Gerald Rivers (94) tries to get around Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Kevin Pamphile (70) in the second quarter at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports
Amid the news last week that the Denver Broncos had added Shaquil Barrett to the active roster (who has now been waived in hopes of returning to the practice squad), we completely missed another little roster move the team made. With an open spot on the practice squad, the Broncos signed defensive end Gerald Rivers, a second year pro out of Ole Miss, formerly of the St. Louis Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Miami Dolphins.
Of course, not every practice squad player is destined for greatness, but we feel like you should at least know what these guys bring to the table and why you should care that they are part of the Denver Broncos.
Rivers sat out the entire 2012 season at Ole Miss due to academics, but flashed upside. He didn’t get much playing time prior to departing Mississippi, finishing with just 4.5 sacks, but the athletic upside was something teams took notice of at the Dallas Regional Combine, which Rivers absolutely lit up.
At 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, Rivers is a physical marvel who ran a 4.56 second 40 yard dash at the regional combine he was invited to, a number that would have ranked him first among every defensive lineman that was at the scouting combine that year. He showed impressive explosiveness with a 39.5-foot vertical leap and a 10’8″ broad jump.
With impressive athletic numbers, Rivers was picked up by the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent, and despite the long odds, he actually made the team. The Rams had Rivers as a bottom of the roster player, but on a team that would go on to co-lead the NFL in sacks, he was able to crack the roster and stayed there until the Rams needed to add someone at another position due to injury.
Making a sacrifice they didn’t necessarily want to have to make, the Rams waived Rivers to make room to replace –at the time– the injured Tavon Austin. They had hoped to sneak him onto the practice squad, but Rivers was claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Gus Bradley. Bradley was with the Seahawks when they drafted Bruce Irvin, a player that Rivers has been compared to physically and athletically.
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You will see guys coming and going all the time throughout the season and beat reporters usually just bring the hard news and move forward to the guy that’s coming in rather than focusing on the bottom of the roster player that was just let go, but this article from ESPN seems to indicate the Rams would have been better off having kept this guy to develop.
At any rate, Rivers ended up in Jacksonville and missed making the team at final cuts this year, ending up on the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad for for games. Now, Rivers is part of the Broncos’ practice squad where he joins fellow defensive end Zach Thompson, a completely different kind of player, as pass rushers developing in the system.
If Shaq Barrett returns to the practice squad today as is expected, it will give the Broncos some really intriguing young pass rushers in their ‘farm system’ developing and practicing with the team. Not only do they have Thompson, Rivers, and potentially Barrett on the practice squad, the Broncos placed John Youboty, Greg Latta, and Kenny Anunike on injured reserve in hopes of competing again for spots next offsesaon.