Montez Sweat and Gervon Dexter Sr. Keys to Bears 2024 Defense

The Bears have a budding bromance on offense with Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze, but a pair of defensive linemen share a similar affinity for each other. Those two, Montez Sweat and Gervon Dexter, will be the keys to a surging Chicago defense that hopes to repeat its success in 2024. Let’s recap:

  • The Bears had the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense in 2023, allowing a total of 1,468 yards. The unit also ranked second in rushing touchdowns allowed (8) – second-fewest in the NFL – and fourth in yards per carry (3.8).
  • Chicago allowed one player to rush for 100 yards or more – the Packers’ Aaron Jones in the final game of the season.
  • The Bears tied the 49ers for a league-high in interceptions last year and tied for fifth in total takeaways with 28.
  • Sweat, the team’s top pass rusher, became the first player in NFL history to lead two teams in sacks during a single season. He started the season with the Commanders and recorded 6.5 sacks through eight games. After being traded to the Bears on Oct. 31, Sweat produced 6.0 sacks in nine contests.

Chicago needs to improve its defensive third-down efficiency and its average yards per pass attempt, though those numbers were significantly better after Sweat arrived. The Bears did not address defense at the top of this year’s draft. Fifth-round selection Austin Booker is a bit of a project, and GM Ryan Poles had to trade back into the draft to select him. The team also lost starting DT Justin Jones to free agency, so Dexter is expected to take the vacated position.

The Bears have one of the league’s better back seven on defense, led by Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, Jaquan Brisker, and Jaylon Johnson. The defense will be dominating with better play from its front four. That includes new starter Dexter. Sweat has a lot of confidence in the second-year lineman. He predicted Dexter will have a breakout campaign in 2024.

“You’re gonna see man. He’s pretty good,” Sweat said about Dexter. “I feel like he’s still just kind of unlocking himself and being himself. And I think that’s gonna really flourish this year, but he’s a really talented kid. He’s one of those quick [defensive] tackles and [he’s] strong as hell. It’s really is a sight to see. But yeah, he’s gonna jump out on on the scene for sure.”

That endorsement made it a lot easier for Poles to take Odunze at No. 9 instead of adding a pass rusher. As a rookie, Dexter showed improvement as the 2023 season wore on. He was a Week 1 starter against Green Bay and saw about 40% of the team’s defensive snaps all year. The second-round pick out of Florida played a critical role in the interior of the defensive line as a rotational piece. Dexter split snaps between Jones, Andrew Billings, and fellow rookie Zacch Pickens at the position.

Overall, Dexter finished the season with 2.5 sacks, 20 combined tackles, 12 QB hits, and two pass deflections. According to Pro Football Focus, Dexter’s 11.9 pass rush win percentage ranked third among rookie interior defensive linemen trailing only Jalen Carter and Kobie Turner, each of whom were finalists for the 2023 Defensive Rookie of the Year award. His best game was a Week 14 victory over the Lions, facing All-Pro tackle Penei Sewell. That win was a product of Chicago’s improved defense.

Billings and Dexter will be the anchors of Chicago’s 2025 defense, with Sweat and DeMarcus Walker as ends. Dexter needs to improve his run defense, but the Bears remain high on his ability. They let Jones walk and didn’t address the position in free agency or the draft. Sweat helped elevate the defense, and Dexter will have to pull his weight this season. That’s because Sweat made a bold prediction a few weeks ahead of this year’s draft.

“I’m letting you know right now, man, I’m not losing to Green Bay this year,” Sweat said. “I can’t do it, I can’t do it, man. I’m not losing to Green Bay this year. We’ve created a real rivalry over there.”

The Bears have won two of their last 20 contests against the Packers. Sweat will lead Chicago’s surging defense in an attempt to turn that around, but he’s going to need a big season from Dexter for that to happen.

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