Bucs outside linebacker Shaq Barrett bet on himself this offseason when he signed a one-year, $4 million deal with Tampa Bay. The thought was that if he had a good year, he would get a bigger contract the following season.
And after two games, betting on himself has worked in Barrett’s favor.
In his first true chance to be a starter in the NFL, Barrett has been undisputedly the best pass rusher that the Bucs have had so far in this short season.
He learned from pass rushing greats like Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware while playing behind them during his time on the Denver Broncos, and it has quickly translated into becoming a major factor on the Bucs defense.
“It feels good to just be able to put all my hard work into the show and y’all see the results from it,” Barrett said. “Years and years of hard work is finally coming to fruition. I’m just going to keep work it and try to keep it going.”
On a national stage last Thursday night, Barrett had a highlight reel game in dominating fashion against the Carolina Panthers. He looked unbeatable at times, recording three sacks in the Bucs 20-14 victory.
“I got in the zone,” Barrett said. “After the first one I just started doing moves and all my moves started working and kept working throughout the game. It was an amazing feeling, I’m going to try to replicate it but I’m not going to make it a goal to do that, I just got to play the game and just let it come to me.”
It was the type of game that players only dream of having. Those three sacks by Barrett gave him four for the entire season, which put him as the NFL’s league leader in sacks at the time before the Browns’ Myles Garrett recorded sacks three, four, and five on Monday night football.
The strong start by Barrett may have come as a surprise to some, and it even came as a bit of a surprise to him as well. When asked if this was how he envisioned his season to go after signing with the Bucs, Barrett smiled and gave a humbled response.
“This is more than I imagined, honestly,” Barrett said. “I never imagined a three-sack game, maybe two-sacks, two and a half, but a three-sack game was most definitely a tremendous feat for me. I feel as like after that, the sky is the limit, so I’m just ready to keep working on the practice field, film room to keep improving and just trying to help the team win.”
His first goal was just to be given a shot, and for the first time in his career, he finally has that security of being a starter.
“It feels good to know that as long as I’m producing that my spot should be secure,” Barrett said. “That’s all I wanted, the opportunity to earn a spot and keep a spot. As long as I keep doing what I’m doing down here right now I think I’m in a good position to keep my spot.”
Next up for Barrett and the Bucs is a home game against the New York Giants, who will have rookie quarterback Daniel Jones making his first career NFL start. No matter who is lining up under center, the game plan doesn’t change for the defense as they look to build upon what has been an impressive beginning to the year.
“There’s no changes,” Barrett said about facing the rookie Jones. “We just started preparing so we’ve been preparing for Daniel Jones the whole time since we just started. We all still plan on… no matter who the guy is back there, we all got to get to him, we all still got to do our job and our assignments. It’s not going to make a difference for us at all.”