Fifty-three million dollars heavier and 20 pounds lighter. Newly signed Bengals defensive tackle D.J. Reader is ready to roll with his new team. He has an opportunity to establish himself as one of the best interior linemen in the game.
When Reader officially became a Bengal a few months ago, he weighed over 340 pounds.
He made a concerted effort to get leaner. Now the 25-year-old is hovering around 320 pounds, which is music to the ears of his new coaches.
"You carry around a 20-pound weight on your back and then take it off and see how much of a difference it is," defensive line coach Nick Eason told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. "He's not a small guy. He's still big. He could lose 20 more pounds and still be bigger than most everybody. I think he's just doing what he can to be a better player and being more elusive and quicker.
"We talked about that level of expectation we're going to have for him. He’s going to be in involved in our sub packages and every package we have. His role is going to be expanded with us. His role is going to be more than in Houston."
Reader is doing everything he can to meet Eason’s expectations. Instead of being satisfied with a new contract, he wants to show the rest of the world that he's one of the NFL's best defensive players.
"I want to do the things that are going to make me a better player this year," Reader said. "Maybe get a little more quicker. My reps might go up, you never know. I wanted to be prepared for everything. I wanted to make sure I'm going to be in the best shape of my career. Play better and yet still be strong.”
Reader changed his diet this offseason. He told Hobson that he cut his carb intake when he wasn’t working out. He also drank more water and ate vegetables regularly.
The Bengals plan on using Reader more than the Texans did last season. They didn’t bring him in to compliment nine-time Pro Bowler Geno Atkins. They want the duo to star together in the middle of the defense.
"He's a multiple position guy. He's got position flexibility," Eason said. "I've seen videos of him training, doing things that are going to help him have a big time, Pro Bowl year."
Reader had the best season of his career in Houston last season. He finished with 52 tackles and 13 quarterback hits.
It’s a new year with a new team. Reader is hoping this is the beginning of a successful run in Cincinnati.