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Newly signed DL DJ Reader eager to mentor Brodric Martin

New Detroit Lions defensive tackle DJ Reader joins forces with Alim McNeill to give the Lions over 600 pounds of run-stopping power in the center of their defensive line next season as both players ranked in the top 10 in the NFL last season in run defense.

They also provide some pass-rush prowess, combining for six sacks and 77 total quarterback pressures last season.

As it stands right now, Levi Onwuzurike and Brodric Martin provide depth at the position behind McNeill and Reader. Martin played sparingly as a rookie – just 28 defensive snaps in three games – but he saw the work McNeill put in last offseason to change his diet and flexibility and told after the season that he wanted to attack this offseason similarly to have a bigger impact in 2024.

The signing of Reader could also help Martin's development in a big way if Reader has anything to say about it.

Reader, a two-time captain for the Bengals, said he benefitted from having good mentors early in his career in Houston with Vince Wilfork and JJ Watt. He hopes to do the same with Martin.

"He's a young pup, he's running around, trying to figure things out so I can't wait to get my hands on him and just talk to him, talk to him about ball, how to play this position, especially that nose guard position," Reader said of Martin.

"It's a unique position and there's a right way to do it and there's a wrong way to do it and there's just things you can learn that'll help you out. Especially I think you can be asked to take double teams on all the time, so hopefully I can help him a lot."

Martin is a massive load inside at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds with unique athletic traits and power. When that is developed and he continues to improve his pad level, Martin's skillset could really jump out as a rotational player in the center of the Lions' defense. Hopefully Reader can help accelerate that.

"I'm going to be in his ear about it," Reader said. "Whether he wants to hear it or not, I'm going to be in his ear and just trying to help and push him to be better cause you want your team to be in a great spot, so I want him to be the best he can and hopefully he pushes me to be the best I can and we can all elevate this whole group."

Reader said last week at his introductory press conference he's also excited to work alongside Lions Pro Bowl edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who recorded 11.5 sacks and 33 quarterback hits last season.

"Aidan's one of the most unique edge rushers we have in the league right now," Reader said. "I mean, one, you don't have too many people that size, who can bend the edge like he can, who's pretty relentless in the rush like he is.

"He gets hot. He's like a hot shooter. You watch him during the playoffs, those games when he has like multiple sacks or catches a pick or those things, he gets hot and he's feeling it. You can tell he's feeling it. That's always fun to play beside."

If Reader and McNeill can push the pocket up the middle as a tandem like the Lions expect, Hutchinson might just end up being the biggest beneficiary coming off the edge.

"You find a player who gets hot like that and you can help push the pocket, maybe things a little bit easier for him that way he can really run the edge, you don't got to counter inside, those things," Reader said.

"But when you got a guy like that who's got pretty much every move in his bag and can do whatever, you just try to be able to be a good teammate, man. I'm just trying to be there and motivate him. I know how hot he gets. I want to be on that sideline giving him — like when he is hot, I want to be hyping him up. Be his biggest cheerleader on the sideline and when he isn't, I want to get him in that zone. So it's fun. It'll be fun to be able to tap into that young talent."

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