Chicago Bears’ defensive leader has high praise for rookie

Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA

Chicago Bears’ defensive end Montez Sweat has already established himself as a leader on defense. Despite only being with Chicago for half a season, he has been vocal about his desire to win, and he’s taking notice of the new talent on the defensive line. He has been particularly impressed with rookie defensive end Austin Booker. Booker was selected by the Bears in the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft.

Mandatory minicamp began Tuesday for the Bears. Sweat was not present for team drills but got to observe Booker firsthand. It only took one day of practice for Booker to earn high praise from the fifth-year veteran, who spoke to the media afterward.

It’s great to hear these words from Sweat, not just because of the obvious talent Booker possesses, but because Sweat is continuing to embrace the leadership role on this defense.

Sweat was drafted in the first round (26th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. He racked up 35.5 sacks over four and a half years in Washington before being traded to the Bears last season. The Bears were desperate for a pass rusher as their defense ranked last in the NFL in sacks with just 10 through eight games. Sweat came in and made an immediate impact, notching six sacks in nine games and earning his first Pro Bowl selection.

As for Booker, he comes to Chicago after appearing in 18 games over three collegiate seasons. His first two years were spent at Minnesota where he appeared in just six games, recording two tackles. In 2023 he transferred to Kansas, where he finished the season with 56 tackles (12 for loss) and eight sacks. His eight sacks were the most single-season sacks for the school since 2016.

The Bears selected Booker 144th overall after he skipped his remaining eligibility at Kansas to enter the Draft. Having only played 18 college games, Booker was a bit of a gamble, but in the fifth round it was a gamble the Bears were willing to take. At 6 ‘6” and 245 pounds, Booker has a great frame for the position.

Booker’s upside overshadowed the risk for general manager Ryan Poles. And if there’s one thing we know about Poles, he isn’t afraid to take risks. As for Sweat, he’s excited to get more resources to terrorize opposing quarterbacks. His enthusiasm regarding Booker is an exciting development for Bears fans, but seeing him grow into a leadership role could be even more rewarding.