D.J. Reader has a bright future.
Just ask his head coach.
"He's a really good young player that has a really good future as long as he continues to understand this is what it's going to take for me to get to the level I want to get to as a player and help us get to that level as a team," Bill O'Brien said.
The rookie defensive lineman finished his first year in the NFL with a sack, two tackles for loss, a pair of quarterback hits and 22 total tackles.
This time a year ago, he was coming off a 2015 National Title game appearance with the Clemson Tigers. He spent January through March working out and getting ready for the National Scouting Combine and his pro day. Focusing on the Texans playbook and getting better with a season's worth of NFL experience under his belt is a welcome change.
"It's going to be fun," Reader said. "It's going to be fun to be able to just get to straight football, get on your body and work on yourself better."
Reader started in place of Vince Wilfork at nose tackle when the Texans played Jacksonville in Week 10. He also started at left defensive end in Week 8. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said the rookie showed
"good progress" throughout the year.
"These young guys when they come in, they don't understand how the game is played or how to play the game, per se," Crennel said. "I think over this season, he's learned his abilities and how he can use his abilities in the game. I think he's playing better as a result of it."
O'Brien, with eight years of NFL coaching experience, reeled off a list of reasons Reader is "one of the better defensive linemen" he's been around in the League.
"He's tough," O'Brien said. "He's built low to the ground. He's hard to move. He's got good pass rush skills and there's a lot to improve on."
Reader explained why he's confident he can continue to improve and slide into Wilfork's spot if the veteran opts to retire.
"Just trusting myself, trusting my keys, playing hard and physical every play," Reader said. "Good body for it, built for it. I'm just excited to be hard-nosed out there."
Reader and the Texans will reconvene in mid-April at NRG Stadium for the offseason conditioning program.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 3/2/2021)