One of the biggest surprises of the 2019 NFL season so far is the emergence of Shaquil Barrett as a force on the defensive side of the ball. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ pass rusher is on pace to make some historic marks this season.
But where did Barrett come from? And what makes him so effective? Let’s take a closer look at the career and 2019 season of one of the league’s brightest defensive stars.
Shaquil Barrett’s path to the NFL
Barrett’s college football career began about as far away from the bright lights of the NFL as one can get: Division II program Nebraska-Omaha. The school later dropped its football program and Barrett transferred to Colorado State. In 2013, he was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
Barrett’s prospect rating of 5.24 came along with some harsh words for him as a potential candidate to play in the NFL:
“Does not pass the eyeball test — slow-footed with stiff hips and segmented, mechanical movement skills. Lacks ideal first-step quickness to trim the corner. Near-liability in man coverage. Has wide shoulders and gets stuck on blocks too long…A better football player than athlete.”
Barrett was not drafted, but the Denver Broncos signed him, and he spent the first five years of his career (2014-2018) there. Much like superstar quarterback Tom Brady, Barrett has overcome an embarrassing draft position (or in his case, no draft position at all) to become an NFL star.
Shaquil Barrett’s career and 2019 season overview so far
In 67 career games played, Barrett has 174 combined tackles, 128 solo tackles, 23 sacks, nine passes defended, and one interception.
Through six games played in 2019 thus far, Barrett has the following numbers:
- Nine sacks – tops in the league at this point
- Two passes defended
- One interception
- Three forced fumbles
- 17 total tackles, six assisted
Less than halfway through the season, Barrett nearly has 10 sacks. Before 2019, the most sacks he had recorded in a season was 5.5 in 2015. At this pace, Barrett could make history – though if opposing offensive line coaches had any sense, they’d double down on double-teaming him to ensure he doesn’t.
What makes Shaquil Barrett so effective?
What’s most impressive about Barrett is that he hasn’t recorded a sack since week four. That means he had nine sacks in his first four games. According to SB Nation, that’s only been accomplished by three other players in league history: Mark Gastineau, Kevin Greene, and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. That puts Barrett in some truly rarefied air:
“At the time he retired, Gastineau was the all-time career leader in sacks with 107.5. Greene is a Hall of Famer now who finished with 160 career sacks of own. The “other guy” is the lesser-known Biamila, who ‘only’ had 74.5 sacks in his career.”
To get an idea of how dominant Barrett is this season, take one game: his week three performance against the New York Giants. While its true the Buccaneers lost the game, it was no fault of Barrett’s. NFL Research revealed the following data in a tweet that is an excellent example of just how good Barrett is:
“Per @NextGenStats, Shaq Barrett had 14 pass rushes, four sacks and caused two turnovers from pressure on his 36 pass rushes. Barrett’s 14 pressures are the second-most in a game by any defender since 2016 (Jerry Hughes had 15 pressures on 38 pass rushes vs. MIN in Week 3, 2018).”
NFL Research followed that up by stating Barrett had more pressures in that game than both his former team, the Denver Broncos, had up until that point in the season.
To put it into context, Shaq Barrett’s performance harassing quarterbacks this season hasn’t been good for a player. It’s been good for an entire team.