Memories can be reassigned positions after the passage of time. For instance, in a few years, Washington Redskins rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland may look back at last Sunday and realize the learning value ultimately outweighed the short-term irritation.
In particular, the Arizona Cardinals’ third possession of the day may be viewed with altered reflection. Looking back at that series now only carries disdain.
The Cardinals targeted Breeland twice in big moments on that drive. They converted a third-and-13 to the receiver he was covering. A 20-yard touchdown came against him two plays later. The Cardinals saw a rookie and charged at him. The logo on his helmet may as well have been a scarlet letter.
“He’s so talented and so raw,” Redskins defensive backs coach Raheem Morris said. “When you’re that young playing against grown men, it’s always a wake-up call.”
Breeland is only 22 years old. He came out for the NFL draft after his junior season at Clemson. His job at the beginning of the season was to crush opponents on special teams. The Redskins had a handful of defensive packages for him, including a three-corner set they call their “penny” package, and he played about six defensive snaps per game.
How he was deployed quickly changed. DeAngelo Hall’s torn Achilles’ tendon and Tracy Porter’s grumpy hamstring have made Breeland a starting cornerback when he could still be in college.
“Coming out of college, I wanted to come in and be a starter in the NFL,” Breeland said. “I didn’t want it to go by injuries; I wanted to come in and earn my spot. But things happen, so I had to pack up and just go with the flow.”
Two months ago, the 5-foot-11, 197-pound fourth-round pick, was expressing remorse following a marijuana citation during training camp. The season has taken over since.
What has emerged, according to Morris, is a physical player. One who watches film so much it can have a paralyzing effect. A rookie who looks across the field and sees a fellow 22-year-old corner, David Amerson, who is only in his second year.
Against the Cardinals, Breeland had to deal with wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Fitzgerald entered the league in 2004, when Breeland was 12 years old. Since, he has 88 touchdown receptions — which is tied for 12th all-time — and 11,629 receiving yards.
Floyd is competent complement. He finished last season with 1,041 receiving yards and is averaging 19.1 yards per catch this year.
Twice against that duo, Breeland was was out of position after retreating. On the aforementioned third-and-13, he was playing far off Floyd and began to backpedal at the snap. Floyd sprinted up the field, turned out, and by the time Breeland closed, had the ball for a first down.
“My eyes wasn’t in the right place at the time,” Breeland said. “I was looking for another route concept instead of that route concept. I really didn’t play aggressive on that play.”
The same situation occurred later in the game. Again playing well off, this time against Fitzgerald, Breeland was looking inside, backpedaled and Fitzgerald just zipped out to the sideline. On second-and-15, Fitzgerald picked up 14 with minimal effort.
“We probably overcoached him a little bit to be honest with you, because he was worried about scissors routes and different switch routes and all that, and they beat him on a comebacker,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “So that’s something that maybe as coaches, we’ve got to take a look at and say maybe we’re telling him too much or trying to get some information to him too much.
“The things that he’s not clean on are the things he’s thinking too much. I think once he just lets it go and plays, he’s going to be a heck of a player.”
Morris, excited about most things, is also excited about Breeland’s effort to improve. The 20-yard touchdown against Breeland by Floyd was a play that Breeland lost. The upshot was his positioning. He tracked Floyd properly. He was in a decent spot to knock the pass down. Floyd reached up and snagged it before he could.
“That is always the difference between rookies,” Morris said. “As a coach, you hope to get a player in position to make a play. As a rookie, you go through the trials and errors of having to make that play. So, you’re going to have to fail a few times before you make that play.”
Hall will not return this year. Porter has played part of one game and has two tackles. He cannot be counted on.
Which leaves the outside coverage to two youngsters in a pass-first league.
“We didn’t have to start David last year,” Haslett said. “That’s the difference. We’re kind of force-feeding Bashaud as much as we can, as fast as we can, because he is starting.”
Breeland is ambitious and fierce. He’s also young and learning via a flood of information instead of in increments. It’s a rapid way to make memories.