Red­skins cor­ner­back Bree­land en­ters piv­otal con­tract year.

Play­ing out rookie deal in new de­fense

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Red­skins cor­ner­back Bashaud Bree­land has not yet re­ceived a new con­tract af­ter be­ing el­i­gi­ble for an ex­ten­sion for the first time this off­sea­son.

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