The biggest stars and most recognizable names on the Bears defense have helped fuel the team's impressive 4-1 start. But several unheralded reserves have also made an impact for the unit this season.
The under-the-radar contributors include defensive end Brent Urban, outside linebackers Barkevious Mingo and James Vaughters, and safety DeAndre Houston-Carson.
Urban played the final nine games last season with the Bears after being released by the Titans, registering 16 tackles. A year later, the 6-7, 300-pounder has also helped fill in at nose tackle in the absence of Eddie Goldman, who opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19.
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In the first five games, Urban has recorded nine tackles, one sack and two tackles-for-loss. His sack came Oct. 4 against the Colts when he dropped quarterback Philip Rivers on third-and-goal from the 8, forcing Indianapolis to settle for a field goal.
"We've asked him to play a couple different roles going into the season," said defensive line coach Jay Rodgers. "[He] never played nose until the last few weeks; [he's] been mostly a defensive end his entire career. He's a team guy who will do whatever it takes to get on the field and play at a high level, and he has made some impactful plays.
"Even though he had the one sack versus Philip Rivers, there are at least two or three other times when his hands were up, which led to other people having production. He's done a lot of really good things for us both in the run and the pass. It seems like every week there's an impactful play that he has made."
Before joining the Bears, Urban had played in 41 games with 19 starts in five NFL seasons with the Ravens (2014-18) and Titans (2019), compiling 52 tackles, 3.5 sacks and seven tackles-for-loss. A native of Canada, he was selected by the Ravens in the fourth round of the 2014 draft out of Virginia.
Mingo and Vaughters have provided excellent depth behind starting outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn. Mingo has compiled 10 tackles, one sack and one tackle-for-loss. He signed with the Bears this year after appearing in 110 games with 38 starts over seven NFL seasons with the Browns (2013-15), Patriots (2016), Colts (2017), Seahawks (2018) and Texans (2019).
Mingo arrived in Chicago having recorded 220 tackles, 10 sacks, 24 tackles-for-loss, 33 quarterback hits, 14 pass breakups, five forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and one interception. He was a member of the New England team that won Super Bowl LI by rallying from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to stun the Falcons 34-28 in overtime.
Vaughters has recorded eight tackles, one sack and two tackles-for-loss. His first career sack came in last Thursday night's victory over the Buccaneers and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Vaughters signed with the Bears last year after spending two seasons with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders, appearing in 33 games and registering 50 tackles, 11 sacks and eight special-teams tackles. He played in three games with the Bears last season.
"Those two guys are worth their weight in gold," outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said of Mingo and Vaughters. "Those guys are two really good football players who probably have the widest variety of things we ask guys at our position to do, and both of them are doing a really nice job at everything we ask them to do.
"They both have dominant traits in certain areas and we use them as often as we can. They are both also equipped to go in there in every situation, run downs, pass downs. They are both playing really well for us right now. I know that when you think of those two players, you may not get all fired up, but I know I do. They have exceeded expectations in everything that we have asked them to do."
Houston-Carson took advantage of rare playing time on defense last Thursday night, clinching the Bears' win over Tampa Bay by breaking up Brady's fourth-down pass with :33 remaining in the game. It was the first career pass breakup for Houston-Carson, who has played predominantly on special teams since arriving in Chicago in 2016 as a sixth-round pick out of William & Mary.
Houston-Carson served as the Bears' sixth defensive back in their dime defense because reserve safeties Deon Bush and Sherrick McManis both sat out the game with injuries.
"I was really thrilled for him," safeties coach Sean Desai said of Houston-Carson. "He's the consummate pro. He can probably play every position on defense and do it at a good enough level. He hasn't had many snaps on defense or many opportunities in his time here, but it just goes to show you he's always prepared. He'll always be ready when his number's called, and it showed you [on the pass breakup]. He does a great job with his mental preparation."