FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The headline-grabber during the first two days of training camp has been a position switch for quarterback Danny Etling, who has been catching passes, working with the punt team, and also takes reps at QB.
Though Etling's switch is odd and could be an attempt for the coaching staff to find ways to keep him on the roster, there is another player on the opposite side of the ball who may be taking a similar approach, but one that is not so drastic - Derek Rivers.
It was reported by Henry McKenna of the Patriots Wire on Friday that Rivers was practicing with outside linebackers coach Demarcus Convington. This is interesting because Rivers spent his first two years in the NFL playing defensive end.
Rivers has underwhelmed so far during his Patriots tenure. After not playing in a single game in 2017 because of a torn ACL during the preseason, he appeared in six games last season for New England, recording just one sack, two tackles, and one tackle for loss.
With the addition of Michael Bennett and Chase Winovich this offseason, Rivers will have plenty, maybe too much talent to compete against at the DE position. Him practicing at outside linebacker could be a hint that Rivers not only understands he is on the roster bubble, but there is also an opportunity to earn a spot on the roster in a reserve role with the OLBs.
As it stands, the starters for New England at OLB are Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy with Jamie Collins having a specialist role. Outside of them, Brandon King is a core special teamer and Shilique Calhoun, Terez Hall, and Christian Sam are fighting for roster spots.
If Rivers can impress during training camp and surpass Calhoun, Hall and/or Sam on the depth chart, he may be a versatile threat the Patriots defense could utilize and develop even more in the near future. If not, then the 2019 preseason may be the last time we see Rivers in New England.