Cornerback Bashaud Breeland had the confidence in his abilities to leave Clemson a year early and pursue his NFL dream. He was elated, but not surprised when he got drafted this past weekend. But despite the hundreds of well-wishes he has received since last Saturday, when the Washington Redskins selected him in the fourth round, Breeland says reality still hasn’t set in.
Breeland and his fellow draft picks reported to Redskins Park on Thursday afternoon for the beginning of the team’s rookie minicamp. The cornerback predicted he would finally feel the authenticity of his situation on Friday, when practices begin.
Over the next three days, Breeland and the Redskins’ seven other draft picks — outside linebacker Trent Murphy (second round), tackle Morgan Moses (third), guard Spencer Long (third), wide receiver Ryan Grant (fifth), running back Lache Seastrunk (sixth), tight end Ted Bolser (seventh) and place kicker Zach Hocker (seventh) — will receive a crash course in Washington’s offensive, defensive and special teams systems.
Joining them will be Washington’s 10 college free agent signings and a collection of undrafted rookies and other first-year players who received tryout invitations. No veterans are permitted to take part.
The football education will feature classroom periods as well as on-field action. Saturday’s schedule features two on-field sessions.
“I’m ready to come in and give the secondary whatever I can,” the 6-foot, 198-pound Breeland said. “I’m ready to come play, whether it’s on special teams, getting out there and playing in relief or being a starter. It really doesn’t matter to me, just as long as I can contribute to this team at a high level.”
Breeland represents a continuation of Washington’s rebuilding efforts in the secondary. In the past two years, the Redskins have taken four defensive backs — cornerback David Amerson and safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo in 2013, and Breeland this year.
Amerson, after a decent rookie season, will take over as the starter opposite veteran DeAngelo Hall. Meanwhile, Thomas looks to rebound from a Liscfranc injury that robbed him of his rookie year. Rambo struggled mightily early in his rookie campaign and spent the bulk of the remaining games on the bench.
Redskins coaches still hold out hope that the safeties can develop into key contributors in the future. Breeland, if he pans out, would give them another piece to the puzzle. Washington’s coaches envision 2014 as a developmental year for Breeland. He will likely see most of his action on special teams while learning the pro game, its more complex offenses and how to play with better body control. Coaches predict that by next year, Breeland could compete for a key role on defense.
The Redskins believe that Breeland, who last season had 56 tackles and four interceptions, for Clemson, has a high ceiling.
“This is a projection, but we felt like he was — I think the coaches we talked with today felt like he’d be late first, second-round pick,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. I heard today . . . I think [NFL Network analyst] Mike Mayock said he was a projected first rounder if he stayed another year. We are very excited about that pick up, not only for special teams but we feel like he’s a technician at corner. We knocked him down to our rounds because he probably didn’t run the greatest 40 time at combine, but he’s a heck of a football player and I like guys that are physical tackling machines, and that’s what he is.”
Breeland acknowledges that he could have gone higher in the draft had he remained at Clemson for his final season. But he doesn’t regret his decision.
One of his greatest reasons for leaving early involved his need to provide for his 11-month-old daughter, Jaelle Nicole. But the cornerback also saw himself as NFL ready, and didn’t feel the need to wait.
“I never say ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda,’ because you never know what the next man coming out, who could become the next big thing as well,” Breeland explained. “I already looked at myself as one of the top defensive backs that came in this draft. I have a daughter that I need to support, so that kind of pushed me as well. But as far as looking at next year, that’s not something I do.”
Versatility rated high on the list of attributes that impressed Washington’s coaches as they evaluated Breeland. He can cover receivers both on the outside, and in the slot. He also has lined up at safety. Breeland said in high school, he didn’t have a set position in the secondary as his coaches changed his role based on assignments each week.
“[Versatility is] something else that came up,” Gruden said. “The coaches at Clemson said that he’s a possible safety. . . .You know we talk about position flexibility all the time, and that’s another thing that drew us to him. Not only corner, [but] safety and special teams. You will find use for him because he’s such a good football player and he’s physical.”
Breeland said he has no preference as to how his new coaches use him. He just wants to contribute. So he aims to use this weekend to make a good impression while trying to learn as much as possible.
“I want to improve my tackling technique and coverage, and I want to be a real coachable guy for my coaches,” Breeland said. “In any situation, I would want them to want to call my number or call my name.”