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Shaquil Barrett back to work with Broncos, former Rams star primed for a big season

Andre Simone Avatar
May 11, 2016


Watch out, it’s a Shaq attack!

Today two of the Denver Broncos most promising, young pass rushers were made available to the media at the UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, CO. The two being former first round pick and All-American Shane Ray and the former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Shaquil Barrett.

And despite their being picked up by the Broncos from opposite ends of the draft spectrum — Barrett went undrafted — the Next Level Ram exploded in his second year, 2015.

The former Colorado State standout Barrett enjoyed a breakout season last year in the Mile High City, even starting five games in relief of future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware, recording 5.5 sacks, 12 QB hits, 28 tackles and 4 forced fumbles. It was Barrett and not Ray who emerged as the additional pass rushing ace for the Broncos when they needed it most, showing discipline against the run on top of the playmaking ability as an edge rusher that Rams Nation is already quite familiar with.

While his first season on the field as a professional (Barrett spend his rookie season on the Broncos practice squad) was a complete success, 2016 sets up to be a career-defining year. With veteran outside backer Ware moving to a part-time pass rusher role, there’s essentially an opening for the starting OLB opposite Von Miller. Barrett and Ray are amongst the two best options a team could have and both will undoubtedly be contributors, but winning the starting job could catapult either of them into NFL stardom.

Barrett, however, isn’t too concerned with the pressure, breathing a lot easier than when he was an unknown, undrafted kid just trying to make it on the team.

“If that’s what the coaches want [for me to start]—we’re going to go out there and compete,: Barrett said Wednesday afternoon. “I know we’ve got me and [OLB] Shane [Ray], we’re going to compete. Whatever happens, happens. I think I’m ready if they need me to.”

The former CSU star was feeling good coming off vacation (a cruise around the Virgin Islands) and was getting back on track with his diet that paid huge dividends for him last season.

“I actually had a decent diet,” Barrett said of his eating on vacation. “It wasn’t as good as it was last year because I was vacationing. I came back and tried to get back on the right diet and get my body back to where it needs to be.”

In his first days back to work as a Super Bowl champion, Shaq is keeping things simple and staying focused on his goals, which are, “Just to get better, play better than I played last year, contribute more on defense, contribute more on special teams and continue to step up into more of a leadership role vocally.”

2015 started out with special teams first for Barrett, and he shined multiple times with huge hits and even saved what looked like a would-be punt return touchdown. After opening eyes on that unit, he stepped into a backup pass rushing role and then saw his playing time continue to grow.

Still, Barrett doesn’t feel anywhere close to a finished product and is still working on several aspects of his game.

“I’m still trying to get better technique-wise, get my footsteps right on my pass rush, staying low and body language,” he explained. “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.”

He went on to talk about a slight slump after his initial success in 2015, “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. 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.”

With the success he’s already experienced — both individual with a breakout season and with his team winning Super Bowl 50 — this has all come as a surprise to Barrett thus far.

“No, I didn’t imagine that at all,” the humble, 23-year old said. “I thought I was going to be a majority special-teams guy. The Super Bowl, I was knew [with] the winning culture here we always wanted to get to the Super bowl and expected to get there every year. I didn’t think that far ahead. I’m happy to be a part of the organization and the winning tradition, and hopefully, we keep working and try to get there again this year.”

Barrett sounds grounded and ready to get back to work. Of course, his unpretentious nature partly stems from the fact he was playing football at Nebraska-Omaha when the school decided to quit football completely. That’s how Barrett ended up at Colorado State, where he grew into MW Defensive Player of the Year, turning enough heads to find a home with the Broncos. Now, he’s ready to show the talent that Rams fans have known about for a while.

As the national and local media at large will focus on Ray and his potential 2016 breakout season, Shaq’s already had his and we can’t wait to see what else he’ll do.


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