- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 1, 2015

RICHMOND — Chris Culliver saw a certain something in Bashaud Breeland during the offseason, when the two were frequently paired in practice as the Washington Redskins‘ top cornerbacks.

Culliver appreciated the drive, the spunk, the intensity demonstrated by Breeland, and he recognized that Breeland’s understanding of the game could make an impact on defense. He even figured that a year of experience in the NFL would only help to make Breeland into a measurably better player.

“[He’s] playing pretty good the whole offseason, and then something like this happens, it’s kind of hard,” Culliver said. “At the end of the day, you know, someone had to step up.”

That something was the revelation on Friday that Breeland will not be ready for the start of the regular season when the Redskins host the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 13.

Breeland was suspended one game for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, and hours later, he sprained the MCL in his right knee in practice — an injury that will keep him out of action for at least a month.

Culliver and veteran DeAngelo Hall figure to open the season as the starting cornerbacks, but Breeland, who played in every game last season, was projected to play a role as the team’s nickel cornerback.

Now, the Redskins will have to adjust, with Culliver likely to spend much of training camp working alongside a number of players as Breeland sits out and Hall recovers from his own offseason surgery.

“I think we have some smart veterans that can help the young guys reach a level of football maturity,” defensive backs coach Perry Fewell said. “I think that we have good chemistry back there. We talk, we fuss, we go through situations, but at the end of the day, we’re all on the same page.”

Hall took the day off on Saturday, resting his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon after participating in the first two days of training camp. That left Culliver to line up opposite David Amerson, a starter last year, with journeyman Justin Rogers handling nickel responsibilities.

Coach Jay Gruden said rookies Tevin Mitchell and Kyshoen Jarrett, a free safety from Virginia Tech, would pick up additional snaps in the slot as the team finds a way to proceed through training camp and the preseason without Breeland.

“I think we’ve got a lot of depth and we’ve got a lot of guys who can actually make plays,” Hall said. “Any time you have corners who have been in the fire and understand what it’s like, you know, it makes you better, and these guys are definitely going to make us a lot better.”

None of the three, though, are likely to fill the shoes left by Breeland, who played in every game last season, stepped in as a starter once Hall went down in Week 3 and finished with 66 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Not an option in that role is Amerson, who played roughly two-thirds of all defensive snaps as a rookie in 2013 and had 61 tackles last season.

Gruden said the coaches see the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Amerson as more of an outside corner, which leaves him, as was the case on Saturday, as Hall’s occasional injury replacement.

“I definitely think I can play the slot, but the coaches — I don’t think they know that,” Amerson said. “I haven’t got a chance to show that here. I mean, I don’t think they really know I can play it. I don’t know if they even want to see me play it. I think they just like me outside or whatever the case may be, but it’s definitely something I can definitely see myself playing. I can play any role on defense, or in the defensive backfield.”

Unless Breeland is placed on injured reserve, which is unlikely as it would end his season, he could double-up on the suspension, meaning he could sit out Week 1 even if he’s not healthy.

He has not been permitted to speak to reporters since reports of the suspension first emerged Friday morning, but in a statement posted on his Twitter profile on Saturday, he said that he had learned from the mistake that led to the suspension — likely his citation nearly a year ago for possession of marijuana.

Until he returns, and until Hall is able to practice each day, Culliver, and the rest of the Redskins‘ defensive backfield, will be tested.

“At the end of the day, you know, someone has to step up,” Culliver said. “We’re definitely behind my man [Breeland] and he going to get well pretty soon and get back out here on this field.”

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