The Cincinnati Bengals run defense in 2020 was abysmal. They allowed just over five rushing yards an attempt to opposing offenses, which was the second worst. The Houston Texans were the only team that did worse.
In 2022. However, the Bengals were in the middle of the league among yards per carry, but they allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards in the entire NFL.
It is hard to credit one player with that change, but after the 2019 season, the Bengals went out and paid D.J. Reader to play nose tackle for one of the worst rushing defense in NFL history.
Unfortunately, he went down during the fifth game of the season.
But in 2021, he played almost every game. His return was one of the biggest reasons for this team’s defensive turnaround.
- Height: 6’ 3”
- Weight: 347 lbs
- Age: 27
- College: Clemson
- Hometown: Greensboro, NC
- Experience: 7 years
Reader is going into the third season of his four year $53 million contract. He will account for just over $13.6 million in cap space for the 2022 season.
Reader was drafted by the Texans in the 2016 NFL Draft. He quickly became one of the best run stuffers in the entire league. In 2018, he helped the Texans have one of the best rushing defenses.
So it was no wonder that Cincinnati signed him to a monster contract. He lived up to that deal in 2022 as he forced opposing offenses into being honest without just being able to run whenever they felt like it.
Fit with the Bengals
Nothing personifies what Reader means to this team than how he helped shutdown the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs. The game was viewed as a mismatch that running back Derrick Henry was going to dominate the Bengals defense in his return. You can tell by the way Reader played, he took that personally.
In fact, Reader confirmed he took the week of disrespect personally following the win. When asked about what he thought about the noise surrounding the game and the team as a whole.
“You see what’s on Twitter,” Reader told reporters after the game. “Y’all see Good Morning Football. Y’all know what’s going on, it’s not a surprise. It’s personal. It matters to you every time...
“We’ve been getting slept on the whole year. It’s something we take pride for in this locker room. We take it as disrespect every time. All year it’s been something. ‘We won’t do this, we won’t do that.’ We don’t worry about outside noise. We read it, [but] we’re not worried about it. We’re confident in us. We’re going out there every game feeling like we’re the ones who need to get beat.”
Reader’s presence in the middle makes it that much harder for teams to move the ball on this defense. It also allows the young athletic linebackers behind him to make plenty of plays. It shouldn’t be controversial to think he is one of the most vital players on this team.