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D.J. Reader sheds 20 pounds in first offseason with Bengals

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The prize of the Bengals’ lucrative free agent class will be playing a little lighter than usual.

Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

327 pounds—or somewhere in that general area—remains large for a NFL lineman; on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. As the game is getting faster and more horizontal, being lighter means being able to do more.

That’s the goal for Bengals’ defensive tackle D.J. Reader, who signed a four-year, $53 million contract this past March as a 6-3, 347 pound nose tackle. According to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, Reader is down 20 pounds since joining his new team over two months ago. The path to his weight loss could hardly be considered revolutionary, though.

“Pretty much it was just eating right and working out,” Reader said. “I changed a couple of habits. I stayed away from carbs. I didn’t have as many carbs if I wasn’t working out. Just trying to stay on the right side of that. Staying on the water and veggies. Lowering my intake.”

The reasoning for the drop in weight? Reader is expecting his role along the defensive line to be as diverse as we hope it will be.

”I want to do the things that are going to make me a better player this year,” Reader said recently. “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.”

It’d be difficult for Reader to play better than last year. Reader was Pro Football Focus’ fifth-best interior defensive lineman among all qualifying starters in 2019. It was the best season of his four-year career, and one that saw him play most of snaps as an under tackle rather than a nose tackle. His productivity as a pass-rusher was improved, and it’s something that defensive line coach Nick Eason hopes to see continue in Cincinnati.

“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.”

As a former defensive tackle who played at just over 300 pounds, Eason knows that 20 pounds to a lineman is different than 20 pounds to most others. Reader’s loss of weight can add more quickness to his game, but his remaining size is still plenty imposing to opposing blockers.

Expectations remain large for a slightly smaller Reader.