Montez Sweat already affecting games for Chicago Bears’ defense

Sweat looks to build off his 8-pressure performance last week

Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young throws a pass as Chicago Bears defensive lineman Montez Sweat chases him down on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023 at Soldier Field.

LAKE FOREST – Following a Thursday night game against the Carolina Panthers, the Bears had a long weekend with no game. New Bears defensive end Montez Sweat used that layoff to head back to Washington, D.C., and get more of his things.

“I actually went home,” Sweat said. “I actually took that time to move a little bit of my stuff from D.C. back up here and go visit family.”

Midseason trades are never easy. Sweat was traded from Washington to Chicago at the Oct. 31 trade deadline, was practicing two days later, signed a huge $98 million contract extension Nov. 4 and appeared in his first Bears game Nov. 5 against the New Orleans Saints.

Sweat, who spent his first 4 1/2 seasons in Washington, never had a chance to move his life to Chicago.

“Football’s not the only thing they deal with,” Bears defensive line coach Travis Smith said. “We’re all professionals, coaches, players, but we all have families, kids. He has a son. All the sudden, midseason, you end up being part of a trade, you’ve got to take care of the extracurricular things, too.”

It has been a quick adjustment for Sweat, much like it has been a quick adjustment on the field.

Sweat doesn’t yet have his first sack as a member of the Bears, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t affected games. Against the Panthers last week, NFL Next Gen Stats registered Sweat with eight quarterback pressures. It marked the most by a Bears defender since 2020.

On the season, Sweat’s 45 pressures are the fifth most in the NFL.

The Bears traded for, and subsequently signed, Sweat in order to improve their pass rush. He had 6.5 sacks in his first eight games this season with the Commanders. He’s here to change the equation for a Bears defense that still ranks last in the league in total sacks and sack rate.

Thursday’s game, with his eight pressures, is a perfect example of how he can do that.

“A lot of guys really focus on sacks a lot, and it’s a great tool to be judged by, but there’s a lot of other ways to affect the game rather than just getting a sack, whether it’s a hit, a pressure or even being stout in the run game,” Sweat said. “Any of those things can help you out a lot.”

A lot of guys really focus on sacks a lot, and it’s a great tool to be judged by, but there’s a lot of other ways to effect the game rather than just getting a sack, whether it’s a hit, a pressure or even being stout in the run game.”

—  Montez Sweat, Bears defensive end

Sweat is rushing with an entirely new defensive line. For a guy whose job it is to run at the quarterback, that might not sound like it matters much, but it does.

DeMarcus Walker, Yannick Ngakoue, Justin Jones and Andrew Billings rush differently than Sweat’s Washington teammates such as Chase Young, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen.

“He has [few] reps other than what we’ve gotten in practice,” Smith said. “Really getting to know and talk with [his new teammates], and obviously there’s different styles with everyone.”

Sweat is expected to be a big-time contributor as a run defender, too. That’s why general manager Ryan Poles liked him so much. He’s a three-down player, not a one-trick pony.

His pressures against the Panthers led to opportunities for his teammates, too. Three Bears had sacks in that game. Sweat recorded three quarterback hits.

“Incompletions, quarterback hurries, quarterback hits,” Smith said. “He was able to do the gamut. We’ve just got to keep working. He’s right there.”

His presence affects the entire defense, both on and off the field. Even if his teammates are sacking the QB, that’s a win for Sweat.

“He’s just a positive guy,” linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi said. “You see when the other guys got sacks, Tez was the most excited guy on the field. It’s been pretty unique to see the player – we knew the player was good – but just the person, too.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.