In 2008 the Bengals drafted linebacker Keith Rivers out of the University of Southern California with the ninth overall selection. He was expected to be someone that the Bengals could build the defense around. However, that hasn't been the case due to injuries that have derailed his career up to this point.
Rivers has missed the entire season up to this point due to a broken wrist that required surgery. At first he was only expected to miss approximately one month, but that hasn't been the case. Before the season started he was placed on PUP. Rivers has used that entire six-week period plus a three week exemption allowed by the NFL.
Now a decision must be made on the former first-round pick. The Bengals must decide by 4 p.m. Tuesday if they are going to place him on IR or find a spot for him on the team and release somebody else. As of now it would appear that the Bengals are more likely to place him on IR rather than activating him. He still has potential to be a contributing force on defense so why give up on him and put a healthy linebacker on IR?
In order to replace Rivers the Bengals signed former Oakland Raiders linebacker Thomas Howard to a two-year contract. His role with the Raiders had diminished drastically over the past two seasons after three consecutive seasons of 95 or more tackles. Howard added some much needed depth for the Bengals and he has provided stability at a position that has been bit by the injury bug frequently this season.
So far this season Howard hasn't disappointed anyone within Bengals Nation. He currently leads the team in tackles with 63, two forced fumbles, five tackles for a loss. Not bad for a guy who had a combined 88 tackles the past two seasons in 28 games.
As for Rivers, it will remain to be seen as to what his future with the team will be. During his four-year career Rivers has missed a total of 24 games up to this point of the 2011 season. If he is placed on IR then that total will reach 29 games. Last season Rivers compiled 77 tackles and one sack in 15 games. At Howard's current pace he will easily pass Rivers' 2010 numbers.
During his rookie season Rivers was off to a solid start before Hines Ward's jaw-breaking hit ended his season after seven games. He finished his rookie season with 37 tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble. Rivers hasn't been able to stay on the field for an entire season. Last season Rivers played in the most games in a single season for his career as compiled 77 tackles and one sack in 15 games.
Those aren't eye-popping numbers, but who knows what he could do during an entire season when he's completely healthy. Only time will tell what the Bengals decide to do with Rivers.