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Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland has made an impression during OTAs, although not always a positive one.
One sure way of improving a pass defense that allowed 3,896 yards last season, per numbers from NFL.com, is to get more aggressive on the outside. Thankfully, Washington appears to boast a trio of young cornerbacks ready, willing and able to do just that.
David Amerson, Chase Minnifield and rookie Bashaud Breeland all made an impression during OTAs as cornerbacks who will rough up receivers. In particular, Breeland managed to impress fans and coaches, but irk some teammates.
ESPN.com reporter John Keim highlighted how Breeland isn't shy about sticking to his receiver by any means he can:
Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland still needs to be less grabby. Saw him tugging Santana Moss' jersey downfield before the veteran caught the ball. Saw Breeland tugging other jerseys as they broke on a route (after the allotted five yards of contact). Not sure all the receivers quite appreciated his hands.
Although he might not have endeared himself to teammates, Breeland's physical tendencies are certain to annoy wideouts once the real action begins. Despite the untidy edges to his game, The Post's Jones has stated there's still plenty to like about the 2014 fourth-round pick's potential:
Rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland had a good practice on Wednesday and appeared to avoid getting into trouble by using his hands too much as he seemed to do at times at the rookie camp and last week. On one play today, wide receiver Aldrick Robinson tried to shake Breeland with a move, but the rookie stayed right with him. Robinson still wound up making the catch as the ball narrowly missed Breeland’s fingertips and fell into Robinson’s hands, but secondary coach Raheem Morris applauded Breeland’s technique on the play. Later, Breeland got the best of the speedy Robinson, running with him stride for stride downfield on a deep route and swatting away what would’ve been a touchdown. Interestingly, Breeland fell in the draft because of a poor 40-yard-dash time (4.62 seconds). But he appears much faster than that. There’s an obvious difference between clock fast and football fast, because Breeland hasn’t gotten dusted when it comes to flat-out running. He had told coaches that he didn’t feel like he had learned the proper technique required to run an impressive 40-yard-dash. But coaches are very happy with what they’ve seen so far, and they believe that this time next year, he could be a difference-maker.
If Breeland can match his tenacious attitude and physical approach with quality technique, he'll be a key figure in the rotation sooner than the Redskins currently believe.
One of the positives about drafting Breeland is his size. The 5'11", 197-pounder adds another big cornerback to a position that needs to be more physically imposing in 2014.
Last year's second-rounder David Amerson will play a key role in that transition. The 6'1", 205-pounder is already looking more adept as a press-based cover man, according to Keim:
Corner David Amerson looks more comfortable in press coverage and is using his long arms to his advantage when jamming receivers. Saw him do this a couple times, showing good technique and not getting beat in this look. It’s something he needed to work on as a rookie and I’m sure the learning curve will continue. But with his length and speed it’s a necessary tactic for him to learn.
This pass defense needs Amerson to become the type of cornerback who can envelop receivers at the line and prevent clean releases. He certainly has the frame to do it.
With veteran DeAngelo Hall not afraid to use his hands on the other side, Amerson's progress will give Washington two physical cover men on the edge. Their ability to jam receivers can slow down the decision-making process for quarterbacks, giving pressure more time to crush the pocket.
Relying on that type of coverage will give defensive coordinator Jim Haslett greater license to get more creative with his fronts and blitz concepts.
Minnifield is another corner looking to be a feature of that plan. He certainly has the right demeanour for it, if his antics during OTAs are anything to go by. Per Keim:
Corner Chase Minnifield will get into a lot of tussles this camp – a safe prediction. He nearly got into one with tight end Niles Paul Thursday. Minnifield is physical and feisty and that will never please those running routes in practice. This time, Minnifield was grabbing Paul on the entire route and at the end Paul shoved him. Minnifield bounced up and shoved him back. It didn’t escalate.
The 6'0", 185-pounder is another player with decent size to play press. But he also showed the sort of versatility that will have impressed secondary coach Raheem Morris, per Keim: "Minnifield did pick off a Kirk Cousins pass in zone coverage. Minnifield sank deep on the route and grabbed a pass that was intended for Williams."
The former rookie free agent will need that sort of range to eventually crack a roster spot. If he can stay healthy, Minnifield's mix of solid technique and competitive edge will be very useful in sub-packages.
It is also a combination Breeland and Amerson must cultivate more consistently. Haslett's secondary looked good at times last season when allowed to play aggressively.
But such techniques can only work when matched with basic fundamentals, which must be continually refined throughout this offseason. The last thing the Redskins want is to frequently surrender significant chunks of yardage via penalties.
Haslett's starting defensive backfield is likely to have a distinctly veteran appearance. Hall and safeties Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather will be leading figures.
However, the real key to success will be the support and depth provided by the younger members.