Montez Sweat

PFF ranks Bears defensive line one of worst in NFL. Read their explanation why

Montez Sweat is great, but one man doesn't make a full defensive line

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The Bears have improved their roster nearly across the board as they’ve turned the page from rebuilders to postseason hopefuls, but a group of football data analysts believes one important position group is lagging behind. On Tuesday PFF released its rankings of the best defensive line units in the NFL, and they put the Bears at No. 27 out of 32 teams.

“Chicago’s defensive line improved massively with the addition of Montez Sweat, who provided a real and consistent source of pressure after the team traded for him at the deadline,” wrote Sam Monson for PFF. “Sweat tallied 64 quarterback pressures last season, but the Bears' defensive line will be determined by the growth in Year 2 of defensive tackles Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens. Dexter flashed playmaking ability as a rookie, but the Bears need more from him in 2024.”

The Bears defensive line was one of the worst in the NFL before Sweat arrived, and he instantly raised the profile of the group, not just with the pressure he created, but how he opened things up for his teammates.

In the eight games before Sweat joined the team, the Bears had just 10 sacks and six interceptions. In the nine games after Sweat arrived, they doubled and nearly tripled that production, with 20 sacks and 16 interceptions. Only six of those 20 sacks belonged to Sweat, too.

But the Bears subtracted more pass rush production this offseason than they added. Last year’s starting three-tech Justin Jones is with the Cardinals now, and starting defensive end Yannick Ngakoue remains an unsigned free agent. GM Ryan Poles has added a couple of rotation-caliber players and one project prospect in Austin Booker, but no one with a track record of serious sack numbers.

As things stand, DeMarcus Walker is the man in line to start opposite Sweat at defensive end. He played well for stretches of last season, both as a starter and a rotational player. There’s reason to believe Walker can play even better in 2024 since he’ll be working alongside Sweat for a full season, but there’s not much depth behind him. As Monson mentioned, the Bears will be relying on both Dexter and Pickens to take a big leap in year two, to help dent the interior of the pocket. If not, opposing quarterbacks could have an easier time avoiding pressure from the edge by stepping up, or Matt Eberflus will have to dial up blitzers to make up the difference.

Last year, Walker notched 3.5 sacks, Dexter had 2.5 and Pickens assisted for 0.5. Newcomer Jacob Martin had 2.0 sacks with the Colts.

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