Sophomore surge turned Bashaud Breeland into Redskins cornerstone piece

Any list of building blocks for the Washington Redskins must include the second-year cornerback who battles the top receivers in the NFL.

There are many good stories for the Redskins in 2015 and regardless of how the season ends up, there’s one thing for sure. They have some significant building blocks for the short-term future. 

Jordan Reed is a stud when healthy and when not being flagged for holding or offensive pass interference. He’s under contract for 2016. 

Kirk Cousins is obviously a building block and part of the foundation, but he’s not under contract for next year. 

Chris Baker has been a stud all year long and is secured for next year, as is Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan. 

Perhaps nobody on the roster is more secure than Bashaud Breeland. In a pass-happy league, he is by far the Redskins best cover cornerback and best individual weapon when it comes to matchups in the division and for that matter, against just about every opponent. 

Breeland, the 2nd year corner from new-age football factory Clemson, continues to get better week in and week out. 

He was a high fourth round pick in 2014 on a defense led by Jim Haslett. For those that blamed “Haz” for everything and said he didn’t develop players – Breeland, Baker, Kerrigan and Will Compton are prime examples of why that notion was complete nonsense. 

However, as much respect as I have for Haslett, Breeland’s success is a direct result of the work he has put in. In every way.  That’s the truth and Haslett has always acknowledged that and I would assume that Joe Barry and Perry Fewell (Redskins Defensive Backs coach) would do the same. 

Breeland was motivated by the fourth-round slight. He and many others felt he had first round talent and the thought was he would go no later than mid-2nd-round.  He didn’t run well at the combine and that hurt his stock. 

“It motivates me a lot because I felt like I was one of the best in that class coming out,” Breeland explained to me recently at Redskins Park. “Washington gave me a chance to showcase my talent. Every day, I’m trying to get better to show the world what I see.” 

There were nights during Breeland's rookie year that I would see him come back to the facility at 8:30 or 9 at night. In an effort to study more and absorb more. David Amerson wasn't do that. 

Perhaps some teams were scared off by some growing up he had to do and while I find him to be quite mature for somebody his age, he still has made mistakes. 

His biggest mistake? It wasn’t on the field. He was cited for a misdemeanor marijuana possession in Richmond on the last night of training camp, during his rookie year. 

Clearly a terrible choice and I remember several high-ranking sources in the organization were concerned about his maturity and where this incident would take him. Was this a one-time mistake and just a “dumb-kid” decision? Or was it a bigger problem? 

So far and hopefully for the rest of his career, that’s it. Everyone’s entitled to making a mistake, it is what you do to learn from it. 

Breeland described himself as being a “rowdy guy” when he was at Clemson. He told me in a Washington Times profile that his young daughter changed his perspective.

‘She kind of showed me that I gotta look at every situation, not only through my perspective but through her perspective as well,” he wisely mentioned. “My decisions dictate her life as well.” 

On the field, Breeland doesn’t have total control of his destiny but he damn sure tries his best. 

In his rookie year, he made an impact but was learning on the job. There were penalties and the Arizona experience which was probably his worst game of the year against a very good offense. 

Three weeks after that, he introduced himself to the world at-large with a monster performance against Dez Bryant on “Monday Night Football” in Dallas. It was the only Redskins road win of the year and until Sunday, the only road win of the Jay Gruden era. 

On Sunday in Chicago, Breeland was very good in some key spots. Overall, according to (PFF) and one of their chief analysts, Trey Cunningham, he was the Redskins highest graded player at a (+4.2). 

In coverage, Breeland was targeted four times all against the Bears top wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and allowed ONE catch for two yards. That’s it. Period. Hard to do better than that. 

Breeland also had a run stop early in the game that was blown apart by Terrance Knighton on the front side. 

The play that I loved and jumped on as it happened was something I was imploring from the end of the first half and really the last couple of weeks without Chris Culliver. 

After Will Blackmon and Quinton Dunbar were beaten on a 50-yard pass in zone coverage by Jeffery on the right side of the defense, Joe Barry finally switched Breeland over to the right side and had him play man-press coverage on the first play out of the two-minute warning. 

Breeland was hip to hip with Jeffery from the Washington-31 and jumped up perfectly on a less than perfect pass from Jay Cutler to knock it away. Maybe one of those other guys would have made the play, but there’s no way the Redskins weren’t better off having Breeland get switched from his normal left cornerback spot in Cover-3.

The Redskins went on to win after an incomplete and a long missed field goal. 

Overall on the year, according to PFF and analyst Trey Cunningham, Breeland has been targeted 74 times by opposing offenses and given up 42 catches for 514 yards, for an average of 12.2 yards per completion. 

He hasn’t great in some games. Against the Giants in week three, he allowed two long touchdowns but he was right there in coverage and just missed a big play or two. 

Against the Jets, he had a monster first half with two forced fumbles and a great interception but also allowed two touchdowns with one because he was bumped off by Dashon Goldson. He also allowed an easy slant touchdown against the Saints. 

As a corner going against Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery, Odell Beckham Jr and other top flight receivers – you are going to have some tough games. It’s the recovery and consistency that makes Breeland pretty damn special. 

Overall on the year, among corners that have played in at least half of their teams’ snaps – Breeland is the 7th best in coverage rating, a formula used by PFF.  

Another thing you like about Breeland is his physicality. Chris Culliver is tougher and a harder hitter when healthy but Breeland is pretty good in this area too.  

According to PFF, he is the 3rd best run stop % for a corner in the NFL for those that have played more than 50% of their reps. Breeland has 58 tackles overall per the website and six missed tackles on the year. 

There’s one play that signifies what Breeland is all about. Late in the Tampa comeback win, Doug Martin broke free and was headed for a long touchdown that probably would have iced the game for the Bucs and would have been a disastrous loss for the Skins.  

Breeland never gave up and chased down Martin to push him out-of-bounds, preventing a touchdown and injuring his hamstring all at the same time. The Redskins would hold on a first-and-goal situation and complete the comeback.  

Breeland could have easily given up. He didn’t. He was considered slow at the combine but he was plenty fast enough in that spot. He could have missed the New England game two weeks later, but he didn’t, knowing full well his team needed him.  

Breeland isn’t perfect by any means but he signifies everything that is right with the new Redskins. He’s resilient, tough, doesn’t stop fighting and he’s a huge part of the foundation.

Chris Russell is a senior writer for Breaking Burgundy, longtime reporter on the Redskins beat and radio host for 1067 The Fan. Follow Chris on Twitter @russellmania621

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