‘Weapon' Montez Sweat's arrival has Bears' defense dreaming of possibilities

‘Weapon' Montez Sweat's arrival has Bears' defense dreaming of possibilities

‘Weapon' Montez Sweat's arrival has Bears' defense dreaming of possibilities originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A year ago, the departures of linebacker Roquan Smith and edge rusher Robert Quinn at the NFL trade deadline sucked the life out of a Bears' defense that was already barely treading water.

Three-hundred and sixty-five days later, the Bears went the other way by injecting energy into the locker room by adding star edge rusher Montez Sweat, who general manager Ryan Poles called a "multiplier."

The Bears' defense has once again struggled to get to the quarterback in 2023. Through eight games, the Bears rank dead last in sacks (10) and 31st in total pressures, per Pro Football Focus.

Sweat's arrival gives the Bears the type of game-changing talent that can turn the pass rush around in a hurry. On the season, Sweat has 6.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 11 quarterback hits. Bears defensive ends have combined for five sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and 13 quarterback hits. Sweat is one of seven players in the NFL with at least five sacks in each of the last five seasons.

Adding Sweat as the lead edge rusher should make life easier for DeMarcus Walker, Yannick Ngakoue, Justin Jones, and the rest of the Bears' defensive line.

"He brings another dimension of physicality to our line," Jones told NBC Sports Chicago on Thursday. "He’s a really good run stopper, really good edge rusher. He also is going to free up a lot of guys too because he’s going to demand a double team. If you don’t, you’re an idiot. If you don’t, it’s crazy. It’s going to free up other guys, which allows more guys to showcase their things."

"They got to turn to somebody. You know what I'm saying?" Walker said. "They've got to turn to somebody. It's like I said, it's good to have so many guys that can affect the passer. And just let us go, that's the biggest thing. That's the biggest challenge to the coaches, just let us go. Let us go and do our thing."

Bears defensive line coach Travis Smith said letting Sweat, Walker, and Ngakoue "do their thing" is code for trusting them to "get on the edge and get to the quarterback without having to design certain things."

Adding a player of Sweat's caliber makes it easier for Smith to let the defensive line go and get after the quarterback. But his job now is to figure out how all the pieces are going to fit together and how to deploy them.

The arrival of Sweat has an improving Bears defense dreaming about what they can be at full strength.

"You can't have enough weapons, especially at the defensive line position," Walker said. "I mean, I'm definitely happy to have him come. He's good talent. He's been in the NFL. So it's good to just continue going on and adding another weapon to our roster."

"I'm excited. Any time you can add playmakers on your roster, it helps everybody out," linebacker Tremaine Edmunds said.

Sweat played alongside three star defensive linemen during his four-plus seasons with the Washington Commanders. He now arrives in Chicago as the focal point of a rebuilding defensive line.

He's the kind of piece that is hard to acquire in the NFL, and one general manager Ryan Poles paid a second-round pick to acquire.

Adding elite talent costs a heavy tax. The Bears were going to have to pay it one way or another.

In Sweat, they believe they acquired a piece that can be an accelerant for their defensive rebuild.

"Those real competitive teams, they usually have two good edge rushers," Jones told NBC Sports Chicago. "Like one real dominant guy, and another really, really good one too. That’s what I’ve seen coming up in the league. Now I feel like we’ve got our second one and it’s going to start turning a lot of heads now because you can’t just scheme up just for one guy. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be scary."

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