Shaq Barrett made quite the impression on the Denver Broncos coaches before the the 2015 regular season even began . The former undrafted free agent out of Colorado State finished the preseason with the most sacks in the NFL.
Granted, first-team units don't see the field much during preseason action, but Barrett's performance was so dominant that Gary Kubiak and company decided to keep him on the 53-man roster. And not only that—play him in front of first round pick Shane Ray.
Barrett got out to a hot start once the games began to count, tallying 3.5 sacks in the Broncos first six games. That production came mainly in relief of Von Miller.
However, Barrett would only notch two more sacks in the final 10 games. He finished his first year with the Broncos with 50 combined tackles, eight tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, and five forced fumbles.
For a relief player, Barrett certainly filled up the stat sheet. Even though his sack totals dropped off down the stretch, he continued to work on his technique.
“I think I did have some success and then you think it’s just still going to come easy to you and you probably get into a little bit of a slump," Barrett said Wednesday. "I still was working hard and everything, but [sacks] weren’t coming as easy as I wanted them to come. I just had to keep going back to technique stuff and work in my steps and my get off. I was able to get a couple more sacks at the end of the year.”
Heading into his second year, Barrett will pursue perfection in his technique—pad level, get off, footwork, hand placement and a few pass rushing moves.
“I’m still trying to get better technique-wise, get my footsteps right on my pass rush, staying low and body language," he said. "It’s all the same stuff from last year. I got better at it, but I still need to progress on it this year and become as perfect as I can be.”
One area Barrett looks to improve upon are his leadership traits. Most specifically, being willing to take the time to help the younger guys behind him—something he didn't feel like he did well enough last year.
“That’s what I think I need to get better at," Barrett said. "I see guys doing stuff sometimes and I might be lazy and I don’t feel like trying to help them out. I’ve got to get rid of that trait and just always be willing. Put myself behind and worry about the team and help them out so everybody could be strong links to the chain.”
Although the Broncos didn't draft any rush linebackers this year, they did add a few via the college free agent ranks. One guy in particular, Eddie Yarbrough, has a good shot a making the final roster and is a very similar player to Barrett coming out of college.
However, guys like Barrett and Ray will see an increase in snaps. DeMarcus Ware accepted a contract restructure to return to Denver, but the plan is to keep him on a pitch count and mainly deploy him on third down and obvious passing situations as a rush specialist.
Barrett will have the opportunity to develop a bigger role on Wade Phillips' defense. But as for earning a starting position, Barrett defers to what his coaches think best, knowing he'll bring the competition no matter what.
“If that’s what the coaches want—we’re going to go out there and compete," he said. "I know we’ve got me and Shane, we’re going to compete. Whatever happens, happens. I think I’m ready if they need me to.”
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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