Bennie Fowler, Shaquil Barrett show what a difference a year makes

Wide receiver Bennie Fowler led the Broncos in both receptions and receiving yards this preseason. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Whenever a team changes its coaching staff, there is always at least some football trepidation from some of the players left behind, especially those who believed they were on a good developmental track with the former staff, that they were close.

There's some nervousness about what the new staff will think and whether the new coaches will have other people in mind for jobs. But two Denver Broncos who spent the 2014 season on the team’s practice squad appear poised to take the next jump with Gary Kubiak’s staff in place.

Wide receiver Bennie Fowler and outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett are poised to join the team’s 53-man roster when the Broncos trim the roster by Saturday, 4 p.m. ET. Both players were among those Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said caught his eye -- again -- during the team’s preseason finale Thursday night.

“No. 48 [Barrett] continues to stand out to me; he's had a great preseason," Kubiak said. "... Bennie Fowler stood up, made some tough plays in the game."

Barrett spent all but one week of the regular season on the Broncos’ practice squad in '14 -- he was a game-day inactive Oct. 19 against the San Francisco 49ers -- and was on the roster for the Broncos’ playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but did not play in the game. Fowler spent all of the 2014 season on the team’s practice squad.

This preseason, Fowler led the team in both receptions (10) and receiving yards (155) and had a touchdown as well. He showed an in-game connection with both Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian at quarterback.

“I’ve worked with [Fowler] a lot in practice and when I’ve been in during games," Siemian said. “If you put it where he can get it, he’ll get it."

The Broncos like Fowler’s size (6-foot-1, 212 pounds) and they see him as an option at both the outside position and in the slot in the offense.

Barrett initially caught the coaching staff’s attention with his conditioning when he showed up to the offseason program. Even then Kubiak and the defensive coaches said he looked primed to push his way on to the roster as Barrett said he had changed his diet and stepped up his offseason work.

In the four preseason games, Barrett has consistently made life difficult for opposing offensive linemen. Despite two offside penalties in Thursday night’s game, Barrett led the team in sacks in the preseason with four as the team finished with a league-leading 20 in the warm-up games, six more than the next team.

Barrett is likely the fourth outside linebacker as the cut-down deadline approaches, behind Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and rookie Shane Ray.

“I feel good about the situation, but I’ve still got the butterflies and still worried also because you never know what’s going to happen,’’ Barrett said. “They might go in a different direction. I just don’t know so I’m just staying by my phone in case I get a call, but hopefully I don’t have to get it."