An in-Depth Look at the Redskins' Most Intriguing Selection, Bashaud Breeland

Marcel DavisCorrespondent IMay 12, 2014

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 19: Bashaud Breeland #17 of the Clemson Tigers walks off the field after being disqualified for targeting during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Memorial Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images)
Tyler Smith/Getty Images

With a defense that's been cast as the weak link for the past two seasons, the Washington Redskins' most intriguing selection from the 2014 NFL draft has to be defensive back Bashaud Breeland.

One of two defensive players taken in Washington's eight-player draft class, the other being second-round pick Trent Murphy, Breeland has the benefit of playing a position the team is relatively thin at.

After providing league-average defense against teams' starting wideouts in 2013, according to Football Outsiders, Washington had the 25th-ranked pass defense against teams' "other receivers"—not including tight ends and running backs.

With the swapping of Josh Wilson for Tracy Porter serving as the lone major change, ideally the Skins would like for Breeland to bypass holdovers Richard Crawford, E.J. Biggers and Chase Minnifield on the cornerback depth chart.

A poor tackler and inconsistent cover man who's on his fourth team in four years, Porter's job as the nickel corner could be up for grabs by season's end if Breeland can complement his physical tools with a refined technique.

What physical tools, you ask?

At 5'11" and 197 pounds, Breeland has the size and length that teams covet from the cornerback position, especially in the wake of the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl run last season.

Long-armed and proficient in press coverage, Breeland can disrupt the timing between the quarterback and the receiver, allowing more time for the pass rush to get to the quarterback.

On a defense featuring pass-rushers like Brian Orakpo, Jason Hatcher and Ryan Kerrigan, Breeland's impact could pay huge dividends.

Paired with a cornerback like David Amerson, who has the size and hands to also excel in press coverage, and DeAngelo Hall, significant improvement could make its way to Washington's back end in the near future.

Even with that said, as John Keim of notes, Breeland does have his warts.

"Though experienced in press, there were a couple times he got off-balance off the line by biting on the receiver’s stem to the outside, allowing the receiver to cross him. Saw him beaten on some double moves," Keim said.

Then there's the issue of speed. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Breeland ran the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds.

While Breeland's length can somewhat offset what he lacks in speed, he first has to learn how to utilize it more often.

With his size, the interception Breeland makes versus Virginia here should be more of a routine play:

But as Dane Brugler of CBS Sports alludes to in his scouting report, on throws downfield, Breeland consistently didn't turn his head to make plays on the ball, making his advantage in length a moot point.

Additionally, penalties were an issue for him. There's a fine line between physical coverage and pass interference, and too often, Breeland was caught manhandling receivers past the five-yard barrier.

Solid in run support, a switch to safety could also be in the cards for Breeland. 

Playing safety would mask Breeland's lack of speed.

At the same token, Breeland could embrace his physical nature and utilize his coverage skills to combat the growing number of pass-catching tight ends within the league. In a division with Jason Witten, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, there's certainly a need for a safety to do as such in Washington.

On average in 2013, tight ends tallied over six receptions and 50 yards per game versus Washington's defense, leaving the Redskins the 21st-ranked defense in this category, according to Football Outsiders.

The key for Breeland in making the transition to safety, though, will be adjusting to playing more off-man and zone coverage.

As he demonstrates below, via SB Nation's Kyle Posey, mental gaffes become an issue for Breeland when he's not physically engaging the man he's covering:

While veteran Ryan Clark could aid Breeland in a transition to safety, it's likely that his exposure to this position will be limited to sub-packages as a rookie.

A surprise entrant in the NFL draft to begin with, the fact Breeland was selected in the fourth round speaks to the potential he has.

In all likelihood, as a rookie, Breeland will be limited to special teams, with his role on defense capped at the No. 4 cornerback position.

With both Clark and Brandon Meriweather not being under contract after next season, and Porter being no shoo-in to hold down the nickel role, Breeland should fill an integral role in Washington's secondary in some capacity in 2015.