Pro Football Focus latest to highlight and laud Lions' addition of DJ Reader

Alim McNeill became a star last season, and Pro Football Focus is also on the bandwagon to praise the addition of DJ Reader.
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After an offseason where he reshaped his physique and worked on his game, Lions' defensive tackle Alim McNeill became a star last season. His emergence, while great, also exposed the lack of a suitable running mate next to him on Detroit's interior defensive line.

It carries some injury risk, with two torn quad tendons in the last four seasons (including last year), but the Lions took a notable step to bolster the nose tackle spot by signing DJ Reader in March. It looks like a significant steal, but time will tell if that is proven.

Mike Sando of The Athletic (subscription required) recently named his favorite offseason move for each NFL team. Signing Reader was his favorite move for the Lions.

"Adding D.J. Reader in free agency to bolster the defensive line comes with injury risk, but his all-out playing style seems like a great fit at a position of need for the Lions, who might need to slow the 49ers’ ground game to reach a Super Bowl", Sando wrote.

Pro Football Focus latest to laud Lions' addition of DJ Reader

We know how much Pro Football Focus loves McNeill. Their grades have also liked Reader's work, however injury-truncated it has been in recent years. So it makes sense the site would love the possibilities of the two together on the Lions' defensive line.

To wit, PFF's Sam Monson has ranked the top-32 interior defenders (defensive tackles) ahead of the 2024 season. The Lions are one of few teams that have two on the list, and they're both in the top-15.

Reader landed at No. 13.

"A 335-pound defensive tackle, Reader has always been more than just a run-stuffer but has consistently improved his ability to create pressure throughout his career. His last two years in Cincinnati were the best of his career from a pass-rushing standpoint, and he can singlehandedly destroy run plays with his power and quickness as he maneuvers into the backfield."

McNeill, with the real possibility he's significantly higher in these rankings a year from now, comes in at No. 15.

"A former third-round pick, McNeill has improved each year of his professional career and was a star in 2023. He earned impressive PFF grades as both a run defender and a pass-rusher, resulting in an 86.8 overall mark that ranked him among the best players in the league."

"If McNeill isn’t done improving, he could shoot up these rankings with an even better 2024."

Reader's presence (assuming health) to command attention will help McNeill and everyone else on the Lions' defensive line be better this year. In terms of impactful offseason additions, as the team looks to take the next step, there may not be one clearly above him when it's all said and done.


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