- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2017

ASHBURN — Bashaud Breeland has always been more brash than bashful.

The Redskins cornerback makes his feelings known on the field and on social media. None of that is changing anytime soon, so expect Breeland to continue expressing himself freely as he makes his way through a pivotal contract year.

“I’m always going to be an aggressive person,” Breeland said June 7 after finishing up an organized team activity practice session. “That’s just me. I’m not going to change who I am just because I’m going into a contract year.”

Entering his fourth year in the NFL, Breeland was eligible for a contract extension for the first time this offseason. So far, he has not received one.

Breeland fired his representatives from mega-agency CAA and hired agent Joe Flanagan of BTI Sports Advisors in April. Breeland wanted representation that felt more personal, and BTI Sports represents a number of NFL players who played at Clemson, like Breeland.

At this point, it seems almost certain that Breeland will play out his rookie contract in 2017. The stakes are high since the 25-year-old struggled in 2016 after making a strong impression in his first two seasons.

Last year, Breeland’s season began with the difficult task of covering Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown. It went poorly, and the masses clamored for Josh Norman to shadow top receivers. Breeland finished the season with three interceptions, two forced fumbles and 11 passes defensed.

Breeland feels that his season as a whole was fine, but that he struggled in key situations and gave up big plays that drew lots of attention. Now, Breeland must work on his game to eliminate those errors while learning the Redskins’ new defense.

Coach Jay Gruden said that Breeland is doing excellent work picking up the new techniques and plays from coordinator Greg Manusky and secondary coach Torrian Gray and is “ready for a big year.” Gruden and Breeland had a number of private talks last season and in this offseason.

“I think everybody has to face adversity at some point, but I think as an individual standpoint, I think there are certain things that he might take more out of than anybody else,” Gruden said. “But we had those private talks and I think he’s learned from them.”

Through three weeks of optional practices, the Redskins have used Breeland as their No. 2 cornerback opposite Norman, still playing him on the outside though Pro Football Focus rated Breeland as the top corner by opponent passer rating when covering slot receivers in 2016. By PFF’s own estimation, Breeland has only played about 16 percent of his snaps over his three-year NFL career in the slot, where Washington usually puts Kendall Fuller.

It’s a small sample size, but it’s enough to wonder whether Breeland could take on more snaps in the slot once a player like third-round draft pick Fabian Moreau is healthy and comfortable in the defense. So far, though, Breeland has still been playing on the outside.

Players understandably fret over how they’re used and how they’re perceived when their future earnings are in question. One thing about Breeland is that, via social media or in what he says in interviews, he tends to take the guesswork out of figuring out how he’s feeling.

“I’m guessing y’all want me in the slot now huh?” Breeland tweeted after Pro Football Focus tweeted a chart showing him as a top performer there.

“There is no such thing as a fair trial when it comes to me smh,” he also tweeted in June.

“I feel like that’s what I do,” Breeland said, referring to his social media presence. “I show people who I am. I mean, people are going to have their opinions regardless. They look at me, I’m a dirty rock but at the end of the day I’m a hard rock. You know what I’m saying? I do my job.”

Breeland’s job in 2017 is to convince the NFL that he can be a key player in a defense going forward. Whether that happens will determine the size of his all-important second contract. Either way, you’ll probably hear about it.

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