D.J. Reader Makes the Cincinnati Bengals Defense Scary

Cincinnati Bengals, D.J. Reader (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals, D.J. Reader (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals made a splash in free agency, signing former Houston Texans defensive tackle D.J. Reader.

According to Ian Rapoport, the Cincinnati Bengals are signing defensive tackle D.J. Reader to a 4 year, $53M deal. The move marks the team’s first outside free-agent acquisition.

The 6’3″, 327-pound monster is a force to be reckoned with on the interior. His numbers aren’t eye-popping (37 solo tackles and 3 sacks in 2019) but his Pro Football Focus grade is. He earned an outstanding 86.7 grade a year ago, putting him among the best defensive tackles in the league.

Reader’s been a bit of an unsung hero for the Houston Texans. He commands double teams often and as a result, his teammates get the benefit of facing favorable matchups and improving their stat lines. Adding him to the Bengals defensive line, however, could unleash Reader to reach a level the league hasn’t witnessed quite yet.

Solely starting with the fact that Reader will be placed along Geno Atkins, means offensive line coaches around the league are going to be scratching their head to figure out how to contain the two of them together. Atkins alone can wreck a game plan but with Reader, each guy will now see single matchups more than they’ve grown accustomed to.

For a defense that ranked last in stopping the run a year ago, this is a huge step into fixing the problem. Earlier this off-season Zac Taylor stated he and the front office were on the same page to get what they needed. This signing proves that to be true.

Atkins isn’t the only dangerous defensive piece along the trenches either. Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard, and Carl Lawson are all tremendous pass-rushers and they’ll see offensive tackles matched up against them on an island, with Reader and Atkins occupying the interior lineman. This will surely help the Bengals get more of a pass rush this season, after ranking 28th in the NFL a year ago with just 34 sacks.

In addition, the newfound pass rush should help mask deficiencies in other areas. The Bengals missed out on the top free-agent linebackers, and while there’s still hope they can address the unit through the draft, adding Reader should help calm the nerves about that situation somewhat.

Reader is just as tremendous off the field as he is on it. He was nominated to be the Texans Walter Payton Man of the Year representative in 2019, due to his work in the community. The North Carolina native will fit right into the culture Taylor wants to build and be a leader among the locker room.

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The Bengals still have work to do after finishing with one of the worst defenses in the league and a 2-14 record. However, the addition of D.J. Reader is a tremendous first step and gives the defensive line a dynamic it hasn’t seen before. Perhaps the best part: Atkins finally has his suitable running mate.