When Bashaud Breeland decided to enter the NFL Draft last year after his junior season, some pundits thought the corner was making the leap to the pros too soon. The Washington Redskins, however, sure are glad the Clemson product chose to leave when he did.
After taking Breeland with the 102nd pick in the draft’s fourth round, the Redskins watched as #26 became one of the few bright spots on an otherwise dreadful defense in 2014. And so far in 2015, Breeland has avoided the far-too-common sophomore slump, instead opting to take the sophomore jump.
The lanky defender has already developed a reputation for making huge plays, and in Sunday’s 31-30 win over the Buccaneers, he made arguably the biggest of his young career: A touchdown-saving tackle of Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin late in the fourth quarter that kept the Redskins within one score of their opponents. Without his hustle, it’s safe to say Monday in the DMV would be a lot less joyous, and the football franchise’s season outlook would look a whole lot different.
“I just wanted to go get him,” Breeland said afterward in Washington’s locker room. “I just tried to do my best to go get him.”
As for Breeland’s head coach, he was impressed by the tenacity the 23-year-old displayed during the sequence.
“That shows what kind of guy he is,” Jay Gruden said. “If he takes that one play off…they go up by 10.”
Since making his season debut in Week 2 (he was suspended for Week 1), Breeland has been a fixture in a unit that badly needs one. The Burgundy and Gold as a whole have been affected by injuries, but cornerback has been particularly crazy: DeAngelo Hall hasn’t played since the Giants game, and Chris Culliver has been absent for four of his team’s seven contests.
But the second-year pro has kept the patchwork group together almost singlehandedly, picking off two passes, scooping up two fumbles, and making the clutch takedown of Martin so far this year. People in the nation’s capital understand just how much Breeland has meant to the Redskins, and you’d have to think it’s only a matter of time before the national media begins taking notice of Joe Barry’s No. 1 option in the secondary as well.
With the ‘Skins heading into a bye week, the extra time off should allow the other wounded corners to get healthy again, including Breeland himself, who nicked up his hamstring against the Bucs. He may want to get an ice pack on his back too, though, because there have been stretches this season where he’s carried the entire defense on his own. For someone who experts thought left college prematurely, it looks like he’s adjusting to the NFL just fine.