Cincinnati Bengals expect D.J. Reader to step into larger role
D.J. Reader has had an offseason that will prime him for a larger role with the Cincinnati Bengals than he had with the Houston Texans.
Last season in Houston, D.J. Reader played 58% of the Texan’s defensive snaps on his way to racking up 52 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 12 pressures. When the Bengals landed him in free agency, it was largely expected that he would play a similar role in stripes, focusing on helping Cincinnati fix their run defense that finished dead last in the NFL a year ago. However, after the offseason Reader has had, defensive line coach Nick Eason expects him to play an even larger role.
According to Bengals.com Senior Writer Geoff Hobson, Reader is down 20 pounds from his playing weight of 340. That kind of weight loss should enable the former Clemson Tiger to expand on his snap count moving forward. When Hobson questioned Eason about this, that’s exactly the sentiment he shared,
"“He’s going to be involved in our sub-packages and every package we have. His role is going to be expanded with us. His role is going to more than in Houston.”"
One of the biggest knocks on Reader and the contract he received this offseason was that he didn’t add much in the way of pass-rushing.
While it may not have shown up in the stats, Reader often commanded double teams with Houston, freeing up his teammates to reach the quarterback when he was on the field during passing situations. The other factor to consider is that the Texans didn’t ask him to be on the field for passing downs, limiting what he was able to do.
Now faster and more elusive than ever, it sounds like the Bengals will give him a chance to fully grow into his potential and take a leap in development. Whether he continues to draw attention away from his teammates, allowing them to rack up the sacks, or he himself gets to the quarterback more often, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Reader’s numbers increase in 2020.
Add in the fact that he’ll be flanked by Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard, and Carl Lawson, and there is a good chance that Reader could have a career year in his first season donning the orange and black. The Bengals could certainly use a performance of that caliber as they attempt to claw their way out of the cellar of the AFC North.