Last year when Derek Rivers walked off the field at Jacksonville, Head Coach Lovie Smith had taken notice. In his first career start, the defensive lineman had recorded a sack, a quarterback hit and made a career-high two tackles for loss in Week 15.
"We had a lot of injuries, and Derek stepped up, and we liked what -- he's got excellent speed," Smith said. "You look at him, he's our profile that we're looking for on the outside."
Signed to the Texans practice squad last September, Rivers was elevated to the active roster and played five games with one start in his first season in Houston. Despite not getting a heavy share of reps, the six-year veteran has produced whenever he is on the field, according to Smith. Humble and full of gratitude for the opportunity, Rivers gives credit first to God and then his teammates for what he's been able to accomplish.
"I've learned more from Rio (Mario Addison), Obeezy (Ogbo Okoronkwo) and I've learned more this year about rushing than I have honestly my whole career from (DL Coach) Jacques Cesaire, Malik (Collins) and just the group we got," Rivers said. "The group of guys we have has been awesome because everybody just learns from one another. And so we get to take little things from somebody else's game that we were never taught and try to add it to our own. It's just been it's been a huge help and a blessing and makes our team better."
Fast-forward to his second season with the Houston Texans and in Smith's defense, Rivers has only built on that momentum. In the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, River came up with a 2.0 sacks, two TFLs and two quarterback hits.
"If you put defensive end behind your name, you need to be able to rush the passer here," Smith said. "He showed up throughout. That's what he's been doing in training camp. Again, you cannot ever have too many pass rushers."
The Texans will play the Los Angeles Rams in their second preseason game. Kickoff against the Rams is set for Friday at 9 p.m. CT from SoFi Stadium.