Little more than a week ago and about two hours away, Bashaud Breeland was stuck in different circumstances.
The Redskins rookie cornerback had just been cited for marijuana possession, busted next to a run-down gas station in Richmond, where the Redskins held training camp.
Monday night, he was whacking opponents on national television during the Redskins' 24-23 preseason win against the Cleveland Browns.
Breeland was drafted because of his ability to thump receivers. Twice on Monday night, he made emphatic tackles. He finished tied for the team lead with five total tackles.
"The one thing about Breeland is that you see him in practice run around and cover and you are very impressed with him," coach Jay Gruden said. "The one thing you don't see is him tackling. He is a great tackler and is striking people."
As far as the citation in Richmond?
"Obviously, the mistake is well behind us and behind him," Gruden said.
Often lost in the never-ending focus on quarterback Robert Griffin III is the defensive debacle the Redskins went through last season. In a pass-first league, the Redskins were 20th in opponent passing yards. They were tied for 30th in points allowed, staying out of the bottom spot by one tenth of a point.
After drafting David Amerson in the second round last year, the Redskins used a fourth-round pick on Breeland this year. The latter appears to be moving up the depth chart and in good position to stick on the 53-man roster because of two factors: his play and draft position.
"I always thought I was better than a fourth-round pick," Breeland said. "I always thought I was the best corner that came out in this draft, so I just want to go out and prove that every day. Every game, I want to show the world that."
Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris feels Breeland is "mature" in his ability to retain new information, maybe even more so than Amerson, who has been in the league a year longer.
Morris said Breeland typically only needs to be told once — twice at most — before he picks up on techniques and fundamentals.
"The first day, he was nervous," Morris said. "He asked me three million questions, and then he went out there and just played and he's gotten better and better as we go on."
The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Amerson is the largest corner the Redskins have. At 5-11, 197, Breeland is not far behind. The move across the league toward bigger cornerbacks is personified by the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. When Seattle had Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman on the field together last season, they were countering receivers with 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-3 cornerbacks, respectively. It's an idea the Redskins are interested in.
"It's exciting to have corners that can run and [are] big like [Breeland]," Gruden said. "He knocked the ball loose a couple of times and it is really impressing me."
Veteran DeAngelo Hall is the starter at left corner, with E.J. Biggers listed behind him. Biggers has also been working as the first-team nickelback. Breeland did receive a look at nickel early in training camp because Morris was comfortable moving Breeland despite his lack of experience.
"Usually you like to get those guys, leave them outside, see if they can be an outside corner, let them pick things up, get some confidence," Morris said. "But, he really came with a lot of confidence in the spring. I felt good about moving him around because he had it. He picked it up."
On Monday's depth chart, Breeland was listed third at left corner. Tracy Porter injured his hamstring Monday night, which should provide Breeland with more opportunity to play.
The team has been pushing the notion Breeland's training camp gaffe is behind him. An Aug. 26 hearing in Richmond should complete that process. Then, if he picks up life lessons as quickly as coverage technique, he should be left to his first year of professional football.
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.