He spent a very short time on the active roster late in the year, but saw no playing time on defense. A lot has changed since then.
Now, with starting right outside linebacker, DeMarcus Ware, likely to miss the Broncos Week 6 throwdown in Cleveland, Barrett has been tapped to start in his place (Ware has officially been ruled out).
“Shaq played well in preseason, showed us he could play and that's why we gave him some snaps during the season to let him play and see if he could carry that over," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said Thursday. "He did. We're glad we have him now if DeMarcus isn't playing.”
Barrett was a force in the preseason and literally flashed off the screen. Von Miller took notice early that Barrett had seemed to have made a quantum leap from his rookie season.
“I saw something from Shaq last year, but he was still young," Miller said. "Initially during the preseason, you could just see it early in training camp that he wasn't going to be nothing. He was going to be on this team. He was going to be in the rotation on the 53. You could just tell by his performance and the way that he came in to training camp. With that said, I feel confident in Shaq and all of those guys.”
Barrett will start and rookie first rounder Shane Ray will get a lot of snaps, too.
"It feels pretty good," Barrett said Thursday. "I'm still preparing the same way I've been preparing. We're always working hard—the ones, twos—we always go out there and prepare the same way. Every play, we take it 100 percent. We never know if we're ever going to get the nod, but if we do, we want to be prepared."
There's no doubt that something changed for Barrett over the 2015 offseason. The switch to Phillips' 3-4 scheme was timely—no doubt. The two-point stance suits Barrett's skill-set. With two sacks, two forced fumbles and seven total QB pressures (in just 99 snaps), he has been a force when on the field.
So what changed?
"I changed my diet up a lot. I used to just eat whatever I wanted to eat," Barrett said. "My agent had emailed my wife a meal plan and she started prepping food for me, and then I just worked out a lot in the offseason. Usually in the offseason, I work out for like a week or two, maybe a month, and then I just stop working out, like when I was in college. I just stayed with it because I knew this was my dream and I wanted to do everything in my power to help my dream come true."
Barrett is well on his way. The former college free agent is getting the starting nod over shiny new first round pick Shane Ray. That says something. But it's also worth noting that Ray has played well this year, too. He has a couple of sacks already.
But Barrett has been a force. It's always good to see the underdogs succeed.
Update: DeMarcus Ware has officially been ruled out for Week 6. Shaq Barrett will start in his place, with Shane Ray rotating in.
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