D.J. Reader still has a chip on his shoulder, wants to prove he's the best nose tackle in the NFL

James Rapien

CINCINNATI — The Bengals signed D.J. Reader to a four-year, $53 million contract in March because they think he can be a difference maker in the middle of their defense.

The 25-year-old is the highest-paid nose tackle in the league. He lost 20 pounds this offseason in hopes of being even better in 2020. 

"You gotta stay hungry," Reader told Dan Hoard on the Bengals Booth Podcast. "It's nice to see that people think that you're that good and they reward you for it, but you gotta go out there and prove it. Now that I got this deal, I gotta go out there and prove it again. 

"I feel like I'm the best nose tackle in the league, but I gotta go out there and prove it. I can say that all I want to in my head, but I got to go prove that everyday, day in and day out."

Reader earned a career-high 86.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus last season. He's never been a big name, but the former fifth-round pick quickly exceeded expectations in Houston. The Texans took him with the 166th overall selection. 

"I carry a chip on my shoulder about that every day," Reader said. "There's plenty of people who got picked before me that I didn't feel like were better than me. I don't get salty about it, I just put my head down and work."

The Bengals have been blown away by Reader so far this offseason. 

"Great guy. Very, very motivated guy to be the best," defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said of Reader. "He came back in unbelievable shape... I know how he is as a player. I did not know him as a guy, but we hit a home run there as an organization."

Reader wants to establish himself as the best nose tackle in the game. He also wants to be a big turnaround in Cincinnati. He thinks the Bengals can get turn things around in a hurry. 

"Just win. No matter how it comes down. You're scratching and clawing to win," Reader said. "You gotta go out there and fight your ass off to win the game. That's probably my biggest thing — you gotta go out there every Sunday and feel like you're the baddest guys on the field. Of course the other team is going to feel like that too, but you gotta impose your will on them."

For more on the Bengals, including the latest training camp news, go here!

Listen to Hoard's entire conversation with Reader below. 

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