Bears Work Out 3, Including Ex-Vikings DT & Nephew of Former Coach

Carlo Kemp

Getty Carlo Kemp was one of three DLs to work out for the Bears this week.

A week after their bye, the Chicago Bears brought in three defenders for workouts, per the NFL’s waiver wire.

The team worked out defensive ends John Daka and Carlo Kent along with defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa, signaling it could be looking to add another defensive player to the practice squad.

Chicago has two defensive linemen on its practice squad, which is currently at capacity. The 16 players on the Bears’ PS are: Nsimba Webster (WR/PR), Dazz Newsome  (WR), Isaiah Coulter (WR), Rodney Adams (WR), Artavis Pierce (RB), Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (OL), Arlington Hambright (OL), Dieter Eiselen (OL), Charles Snowden (OLB), Cassius Marsh (OLB), Sam Kamara (OLB), Ledarius Mack (LB), Rashad Smith (ILB), LaCale London (DL), Margus Hunt (DL), Thomas Graham Jr. (CB).

Daka, Kent and Mata’afa have intriguing backgrounds — and one is the nephew of former Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.

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John Daka: Background & Stats

A defensive end out of James Madison, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Daka (he has also been listed at 227 pounds) had 137 total tackles (47.5 for loss), 27.5 sacks, four PDs, six forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 51 his college games, playing from 2016-2019.

Daka signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2020 but was part of the team’s final roster cuts. He had brief stints with the New York Jets and the Los Angeles Rams this year, but it didn’t work out with either team.

One interesting note: The Rams listed Daka as 227-pounds, which is not the frame you expect to see on a d-lineman — but L.A. also utilized him differently, incorporating him as an edge rusher and outside linebacker, which could be what Chicago has planned.

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Carlo Kemp: Background & Stats

Another defensive end, Kemp played his college ball at Michigan, where he was a team captain his junior and senior seasons. At 6-foot-3 and 286 pounds, Kemp had 83 total tackles (10.5 for loss), 5.0 sacks and a fumble recovery in two years as a starter at Michigan. A versatile player with the Wolverines, Kemp has also flirted with playing outside linebacker before.

“At the NFL level, I could see myself going back and forth like I did here at Michigan,” Kemp said before the draft, per MLive. “Being able to put my hand in the dirt and possibly even standing up, I think, really helps myself going to that next level where you definitely have to be a versatile guy.”

Kemp signed with the rival Green Bay Packers as an UDFA this year, spending his summer in Wisconsin, but was ultimately part of the team’s final roster cuts. The young pass rusher does have an interesting familial connection to the Bears: He is the nephew of former Indianapolis Colts head coach and ex-Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.

DT Hercules Mata’afa: Background & Stats

Mata’afa, who stands at 6’2″ and weighs in at 254 pounds, played his college ball at Washington State. He tallied 121 total tackles (45.5 for loss), 21.0 sacks, two fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles in his three seasons as a starter in the Pac-12.

The defensive tackle has the most NFL experience of the three defensive players Chicago worked out this week, as he’s the only one that has ever played in a regular season game. Mata’afa signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2018, but an ACL injury ended his season before it began.

He made Minnesota’s final 53-man roster in 2019, and played in six games, registering a tackle for loss and one PD. He played in 13 games for the Vikings last season, finishing with 24 total tackles (three for loss), 2.5 sacks and six QB hits. Mata’afa was waived by the Vikings in August, and has yet to catch on anywhere else.

We’ll see if any of the three catch on in Chicago.

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