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Shaquil Barrett expects bigger, better things of himself

Posted Sep 7, 2017

As he prepares for extensive work with Shane Ray sidelined, Barrett can lean on his success in 2015 when he filled in for DeMarcus Ware.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Shaquil Barett knows how to relieve the pressure on Von Miller. He knows the drill because he did so successfully in 2015.

That season, Barrett notched 4.5 sacks during the eight games he filled in for DeMarcus Ware. That half-season of work included six starts and two other games where he stepped in for the now-retired Ware because of injuries. He added another sack off the bench against Detroit in Week 3 that year to reach his career-high tally of 5.5.

From that experience, Barrett knows how to work as a complement to Miller, who will face double-teams, tight ends and running backs chipping him time after time. Barrett knows teams will scheme to stop Miller, and that a key to the Broncos' pass rush is what the edge rusher on the opposite side can to do capitalize.

"I'm real excited," Barrett said. "I'm going to try to take advantage. I'm going to do everything I can do to put pressure on the quarterback and make plays."

If Barrett can rack up sacks and pressures, teams will have to balance their blocking schemes, which creates more opportunity for Miller.

"So I’m just going to go out there and try to make some plays," Barrett said.

As he uttered those words, Shane Ray walked by. Ray was the projected starter opposite Miller, but will miss the first six regular-season games because of torn wrist ligaments. Nevertheless, he remains a vocal presence in the locker room, and he had plenty to say.

"You'd better make some plays!" Ray called out, a smile on his face.

Barrett laughed. But he knows the expectation as he steps back into the starting lineup after missing OTAs and training camp because of a hip injury that forced him to spend nearly a month on the non-football injury list.

For starters, that means exceeding his sack total of last year: 1.5, achieved in rotational work with no starts behind Miller, Ware and Ray.

"It should be easy to beat that goal," Barrett said.

The first key to that was being ready for this week. That required passing two tests -- the first of which involved having his hip hold up during the on-field work that began Aug. 21, when he returned to the practice field.

“My first week back, I had to rush around the edge and get some pressure from the tackle going around the edge with all my weight on my leg, and it [withstood] all that pressure in full," Barrett said. "After that, I was confident in it. I’m confident in it now. I feel 100 percent confident.”

The second test was about endurance.

"I've had full strength since maybe about mid-August, but I didn't have the wind to go out there and actually play at full strength," Barrett said. "Now I'm getting my wind back and ready to go. I'm at full strength now."

Barrett is ready for a season in which he should be a key contributor, just three months after he stared down the possibility of having his campaign become an injury-wrecked nightmare.

"The doctor told me the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario. I was always wishful for the best-case scenario," Barrett said.

"It ended up not being the best-case [scenario] -- it was a month or two later -- but it still worked out really good."