Bashaud Breeland has proclaimed this to be his year, and the Redskins cornerback got off to a strong start in the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. He recorded a pass defended in 65 total snaps, and Breeland allowed a lone reception during 41 snaps as the primary player in coverage, which ranked second among cornerbacks in Week 1, according to Pro Football Focus.
There’s a drastic difference in Breeland’s demeanor heading into Week 2 compared with last year, and it all has to do with his performance on the field. Breeland said it helped that he faced an opponent that he’s familiar with, a division rival, in this year’s season opener. Last year, Breeland allowed two touchdowns to the Steelers’ Antonio Brown, an elite wide receiver he had never faced, on Monday night to start the season.
“I was anxious to play him and show the world what I can do against him,” Breeland said. “And I kind of got overwhelmed. I got out of myself. I wasn’t myself.”
Last week’s performance gives Breeland, playing in the final year of his rookie contract, something to build on as Washington travels to Los Angeles to face the Rams on Sunday.
“I feel like it’s my year; 2017, it’s Breeland’s year,” he said. “That’s how I came into camp. It was a process. I’m trying to figure out different things that I can do and just build it from there.”
The process during training camp had some rough spells, including an emotional moment during a walk-through Aug. 7 when Breeland was sent to the sideline by Coach Jay Gruden. He got physical with wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. during a session that doesn’t ask for it, which led to a brief argument between Breeland and Pryor.
Breeland said it was a difficult time for him in Richmond as he dealt with two deaths in his family during training camp. His aunt died of a heart attack near the start of camp, and Breeland said his little cousin was killed in a drive-by shooting three weeks later. Breeland struggled to cope with the death of his cousin, and it spilled out on the field during that walk-through.
“It was an emotional time for me,” he said. “It wasn’t nothing against Pryor, or Coach Gruden, or the articles out of [training camp about his play]. It was just a time for me. It was just a moment, heat of the battle. We got into some chippy words, but it wasn’t no anger towards each other. It was more like, ‘Welcome to the team.’ Tough ’em up a little bit.”
Breeland is one to carry his emotions on his sleeve, and he has a great deal of loyalty and compassion for his family. He moved his mother to the D.C. area from his home town, Allendale, S.C. But when he lost his cousin, all he could do was send his condolences and be there for his family. Breeland said he tried to find peace of mind on the football field, which has been a sanctuary much of his life.
“It’s very difficult when a lot of people don’t understand you. A lot of people won’t get where you come from or take some things out of context when you have good intentions,” Breeland said. “It’s a challenge. It’s different people you can show emotion to, and people you can’t.”
A month later, Breeland is mentally in a better place, and he’s even returning kicks. (He still has an open wound on his right arm he received from Sunday’s opening kickoff.) Breeland’s ability as a returner is a work in progress, averaging just under 20 yards per return, but he believes he’ll give the offense better field position as he gets more comfortable in the role.
“I’m just ready to help this team win any way I can,” Breeland said. “Just play ball. Screw everything else, and just ball.”