Despite the 1-2 start for the Buccaneers, and despite blowing an 18 point lead against that team from East Rutherford, we have still seen a few things stand out so far this season. Quarterback Jameis Winston has been playing some very smart football, Ronald Jones II is averaging over five yards per carry, and Mike Evans appears to be whatever stomach ailment he was dealing with. However, the thing that probably stands out the most through the first three games, is the production and play of linebacker Shaquil Barrett.
Shaquil Barrett could have still been a member of the Denver Broncos had it not been for Elway being too cheap to shell out the extra one million dollars that it would have cost to keep him based on the offer he received from the Buccaneers. In the first three games, the entire Broncos defense has recorded ZERO sacks, while Shaquil Barrett has recorded eight sacks by himself through the first three games of the season. Somehow I’m betting John Elway is probably a bit upset that they let Barrett walk only to have him put up such big numbers this early in the season.
Barrett has already set the Buccaneers’ team record for most sacks through three games as he surpassed the record of 5.5 sacks set by Warren Sapp and ties the league record set by Mark Gastineau way back in 1984. If Barrett is able to pick up at least another 1.5 sacks against the Rams, he will set a new NFL record for most sacks through the first four games of a season, which is currently held by Mark Gastineau with 9. If you think he’s done setting records, you’d be wrong, as Barrett is the first Buccaneer since Simeon Rice (2003) to record 4 sacks in a single game.
If Barrett continues on his current pace, he would put up somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 sacks, which is absolutely unheard of, given that the current record held by Michael Strahan is sitting at 22.5 sacks in a season. While the odds aren’t necessarily in his favor when it comes to putting up 40 sacks in a season, the odds also weren’t in his favor when he made it to the NFL or when he recorded 8 sacks in his first three games with the Buccaneers.
The upcoming game against the Rams will show us if this is a pace that Barrett can keep up throughout the season, or if he simply managed to find the right teams to play against to start out the season. While the Giants were one of the worst offensive lines last season, the 49ers and Panthers both had the 10th and 11th ranked offensive lines, and we saw what Barrett did to them. Week one opponents, the 49ers currently have the 1st ranked offensive line in the league and Barrett was still able to get into the backfield and pick up his first sack as a Buccaneer. The Rams have the 3rd ranked offensive line, having given up 3 sacks already this season, so it’s quite possible that we’ll see Barrett pick up at least another two sacks, and continue the monstrous pace he has set this season.
If Barrett is able to pick up another two sacks against the Rams, he’ll not only set a new NFL record through 4 games, but he’ll tie Chidi Ahanotu for the 10th most sacks by a Buccaneer in one season and be well on his way to breaking Sapp’s team record of 16.5. Barrett will also pick up another $250 thousand bonus for hitting the second tier of the sack incentives built into his contract, which might prove to be a nice incentive heading into Los Angeles this Sunday.
There is still a lot at stake for Barrett beyond just his bonus money, however, as he’s also playing for a new contract, a contract which could pay very well if he’s able to keep up the pace he’s shown thus far. A lot of the questions surrounding Barrett will be answered this Sunday, but if I’m Andre Whitworth and the Rams, I’d be paying extra attention to Barrett, because chances are good that Goff is going to be picking himself up off the Bermuda grass a few times before the game is over.