Shaq’s Time To Heed The Call

December 11th, 2020

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Big-time players, especially those craving long-term contracts, show up in big-time games.

As the Bucs approach their most significant matchup in four years, Shaq Barrett needs to heed the call. He’ll need a little help from his friends in shutting down Minnesota’s key weapon, Dalvin Cook, but a signature game from Barrett would go a long way in helping Tampa Bay emerge from its tailspin.

Bucs OLB Shaq Barrett

Barrett hasn’t been terrible, but he hasn’t been great, either. Given Barrett’s nearly $16 million paycheck, Buc fans expect great. As we approach the final four games, there’s a lot of money at stake for the NFL’s free-agent find of 2019.

If he expects to cash in during the offseason, Barrett must close with a flourish.

It all starts Sunday against Kirk Cousins, who is no stranger to finding himself face down in the turf. In his past 59 games, Cousins has been sacked 134 times. In terms of mobility, he’s closer to Tom Brady than he is to Pat Mahomes.

That’s encouraging news for Barrett, the league’s sack king last season.

No one expected another year with 19.5 takedowns, but when I asked Barrett this summer if he’d consider 12 sacks a good season, he laughed and joked that I must be talking about a reduced slate of games.

Well here we are the three-quarter pole and Barrett is on pace to finish with 8 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 15 QB hits and 3 forced fumbles. Those numbers won’t land you the kind of long-term deal Barrett pines for.

In essence, Barrett set an unrealistic standard in 2019 with all those sacks, 19 tackles for loss, 37 hits and 6 forced fumbles. He roared out of the gate with one of the most dominant first months we’ve ever seen from a defensive player. That drew the attention of offensive coordinators and changed pass protection schemes.

“There’s been a lot more chipping, a lot more tight ends to his side,” Bruce Arians said Friday. “Shaq’s a known commodity now.”

Barrett needs to make himself known to Cousins repeatedly on Sunday afternoon. He has registered three sacks and two forced fumbles during this 4-game slide, including a sack-strip against Mahomes before the bye.

Adjust & Lead

Vikings OC Gary Kubiak says Minnesota is facing “a championship defense” at Raymond James Stadium.

If that’s true, Barrett needs to lead the way. He needs to befuddle pedestrian right tackle Brian O’Neill with his assortment of moves — forcing Cousins into mistakes.

If Cousins has time, the Bucs are in trouble. He has his detractors, but Cousins has thrown at least 25 TD passes in each of the past six seasons. He has solid targets in Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson while Tampa Bay’s secondary has been far from stellar.

If Ndamukong Suh and a blitzing Devin White can create pressure up the middle, Barrett looms as a difference maker. Of course, containing Mr. Cook remains Job 1.

It’s time, writes The Sage of Tampa Bay Sports

“We’ve got to stop the run and then turn Shaq, JPP and the rest of the guys loose,” Arians said.

Coming off a bye week, Barrett should be rested and hungry. His startling 2019 earned him a huge salary boost and the full attention of Tampa Bay opponents.

He’s not catching anyone by surprise anymore and if Barrett is frustrated by the extra resources teams send his way, the solution is simple:

Get over it.

It comes with the territory.

Consider it a tribute to your pass-rushing prowess, then make the necessary adjustments. The Bucs were smart to slap a franchise tag on Barrett. They wanted to see if he could turn in another dominant year before committing themselves long term.

There’s still plenty of season left for Barrett to recapture his 2019 form.

Sunday would be a good place to start.

9 Responses to “Shaq’s Time To Heed The Call”

  1. DavidBigBucFan99 Says:

    Championship caliber defense??? Who’s he been watching? He must be trying to compliment us so we’ll believe the hype and look past them. Not even playoff bound caliber sometimes collegesque at times.

  2. orlbucfan Says:

    Barrett needs to just do his job. The rest of the defense will do theirs. Vikings are the same team The Jags (1 win) nearly beat and pushed the game to overtime. Surely Tampa Bay can and better win.

  3. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    Teams have adapted to Shaq, and he has yet to adapt to their adaptations. Plus, w/o Vea to eat up 2 men, it is a lot easier to game plan for him.
    We have some hard decisions to make next year, and unless he unleashes the beast these next few games, I dont see us giving him the money he is gonna want.

  4. DBS Says:

    They shouldn’t have fixed what was not broken. The players wanted to change and coach let them. It didn’t work out the way he planned as far as sacks.

  5. Darin Says:

    Most significant matchup since last week. And before the next one. Needs to step up every week like everyone else. Jpp and crew got full of themselves after a few wins. Stop talking and start winning.

  6. Craig Says:

    Shaq has been one step or one QB turn away from at least half a dozen more sacks this season. Still think he will break ten this season.

    It won’t be this week, though. He and JPP will be playing contain on Dalvin, both for outside runs and screens.

    I think Shaq has been having a fine season because there is more to football than sacks and he has done a lot.

  7. Miller5252 Says:

    Shaq and JPP need to start swapping sides and throwing off how the other teams play him. I think the loss of Vita has been huge for the edge rushers. Without Vita and Suh destroying the middle the QB’s can just step up and throw the ball with no pressure in their face or worry of getting hammered from the side. Our Vita replacement has done anything which has put Suh in all the double teams and taking away his rush.

  8. Barbosa Says:

    Shaq misses Vea in the middle,simple as that.

  9. stpetebucsfan Says:

    The story is clearly true but IRA could have inserted any Buc’s name in that story.

    The old saying about how guys perform when the lights come up on the big stage.
    This is the time of the year for EVERYBODY.