Linebacker Shaq Barrett knew what he was getting into when he signed with the Bucs. There was more than one reason that attracted him to come to Tampa Bay, but the biggest reason above all else was simple, opportunity.
Barrett spent his first five years in the league with the Denver Broncos where he played behind perennial All-Pro players Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware for most of his career. He started only nine games out of a possible 61, but now he feels that he has his shot at an increased role on the Bucs.
“The opportunity that presented itself here was a chance to compete for a starting job,” Barrett said while speaking to he media on Monday. “It’s something I always wanted to do, I always wanted to be a starter. Then my role is wherever they need me, wherever they want to use me, I feel comfortable in coverage, rushing the passer, running game, so I can do it all. I’m just ready to show them that I can do it and get my role.”
If you were to pinpoint the strength of Barrett’s game, most would turn to his pass rushing abilities. He notched 14.5 sacks in a limited amount of playing time in Denver, including a career high 5.5 in 2015. Due to his limited opportunities, Barrett feels that the best is yet to come.
“I’ve been working on a lot of my game this past year,” Barrett said. “I didn’t get to show it off, I wasn’t playing as much as I usually play, so I’ve been working on power moves. Like you said, I’m slippery, I’ll be fluid out there. Now I’m just ready to put everything together out there and just show y’all my full arsenal of pass rush moves and just show that high level.”
The Bucs signed Barrett to a one-year contract this offseason to fill an important need at linebacker. He took the “prove it deal” to bet on himself, and he’s fully confident that he will parlay it into a long term deal down the road.
“Just from last year, I didn’t play as much so I knew I wasn’t going to be getting nothing crazy,” Barrett said. “So just to prove my worth is all I wanted to do. I’m going to bet on myself 100 percent of the time. Everybody is going to see why I came here and hopefully that turns into a multi-year contract.”
With Todd Bowles becoming the defensive coordinator, the plan is for the Bucs to switch to a 3-4 defense. That is music to Barrett’s ears.
“I love the 3-4, ” Barrett said. “I’ve been playing 3-4 pretty much my whole career except for like one year in college. I’ve been comfortable with it for a long time. I just love the scheme a lot, and coach Bowles, I talked to him a couple of times and he showed me what he’s been drawing up when I went on a couple of visits. It’s going to be a lot of fun this year.”
Part of the challenge for playing in Tampa Bay is dealing with the running backs in the NFC South division. Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey are two of the top running backs in the NFL, but Barrett doesn’t fear playing against these talented players like others do.
“Don’t make them out to be superman,” Barrett said. “Just trust your scheme and technique. You know what guys are doing in certain alignments and certain positions so you just got to trust yourself. Me personally, one-on-one I should be able to beat anyone one-on-one. I know they might be really fast and everything, so that’s when I have to trust my technique.”