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How Bashaud Breeland makes the Chiefs secondary much better

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Craig takes a deeper look into what the Chiefs acquired in their new cornerback, Bashaud Breeland.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

(Editor’s note: As you’ll notice from the date of Craig’s tweets, this is an article eight months in the making. Never delete your drafts.)

The Kansas City Chiefs filled a giant hole at cornerback this morning.

Earlier today, the Chiefs reportedly signed cornerback Bashaud Breeland in a move that should help shore up the Chiefs secondary. Breeland very publicly visited the Chiefs during training camp of 2018 before taking several visits and ultimately signing with the Green Bay Packers mid-season.

Last training camp — when it appeared to be very obvious that the Chiefs were signing him — I watched nine of Breeland’s 2017 games (@LAR, OAK, @KC, @PHI, MIN, @NO, @LAC, DEN, and NYG). This is the review that I wrote then, covering his positives and negatives, with it newly updated for how he can help the Chiefs in 2019.

Strap in. It’s a bit of a roller coaster.


The Washington Redskins selected Breeland in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He immediately made an impact as a starter after DeAngelo Hall went down with a season-ending injury and has since held the role, even keeping new Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller relegated to a slot defender last year. He’s accumulated eight interceptions, seven forced fumbles and a whopping 60 passes defensed in the first four years of his professional career, showing that he tends to be involved in the game often. Let’s look at some of the things he does well first.

Press Coverage

Breeland is at his best when he is asked to come up and engage with the wide receiver at the line of scrimmage. Breeland typically has good footwork to shuffle and keep his hips even with the wide receiver, mirroring his route. While he doesn’t have the most violent hands with his jam, he does a good job flipping his hips and extending the opposite arm to make solid contact with the receiver to disrupt timing.

Shown above, Breeland mirrors Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins’ stem, stab into the chest while turning his hips and prevent separation from a wide receiver that is much faster than he is. He routinely showed this ability throughout the 2017 season.

Shown above, Breeland does a fantastic job against Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen on this snap. Thielen, a great route runner, tries to cross Breeland up off the snap. Breeland resets his stance while shuffling, then jams and uses the sideline well to make sure the quarterback doesn’t have an open look to the receiver.

Breeland also does a great job recognizing underneath routes by receivers. In this snap, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas gets a free release on a slant route opposite Breeland. Breeland identifies the route early, turns his hips to run with the receiver and does a fantastic job timing the swat to break up the pass.

On this snap, Breeland once again identifies the underneath route by Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor, running a crosser. Breeland initially gets a two-handed punch off the snap, then keeps a hand on the shoulder throughout the route, allowing him to transition to the receivers inside hip for an easy pass breakup.

Navigating Rub Routes

One of the things that jumped out to me about Breeland was his ability to slip rub routes easily. It’s a trait that not every cornerback has in spades, but Breeland was able to consistently navigate the rub and still stay in tight coverage against his man without switching.

Above, he’s again matched up against Michael Thomas. Off the snap, the slot wide receiver tries to set a pick on Breeland. Breeland gets a jam on Thomas as the rub is occurring, making sure that the receiver doesn’t get free. He is then able to shift to the receiver’s inside hip and extend his inside hand to try to disrupt the throwing lane. The pass is complete, but for minimal gain, forcing a punt. Breeland’s technique kept a quick screen from developing into an easy first down.

This time, Breeland is matched up against Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Much like the first example, Breeland is either alerted or identifies the incoming rub, adjusts his positioning to the receiver’s inside hips, and this time affects Jeffery’s ability to see the incoming pass, resulting in an incomplete pass. Having a player that can routinely cover these routes without switching is a major boon for the secondary, as it takes miscommunications out of the picture while still covering the route well.

Click and Close

Breeland may not have elite speed for the position, but he plays downhill very well for a cornerback. Multiple times in my review, Breeland flew down toward the box to try to make a stop, slipping blocks along the way. While he tended to go for the bigger hit rather than the sure thing (see Los Angeles Rams’ running back Todd Gurley leapfrogging him), throwing underneath to his side of the field was far from a sure thing.

On the play shown above, Breeland is playing the first-down marker and sees the underneath out route from the slot receiver on third down. Quarterback Drew Brees makes a good throw to the receiver, but Breeland accelerates well to the spot and lays a hit, resulting in an incompletion and a punt from the opposition.

BAH GAWD, HE KILLED HIM!

The Saints try to run a screen play to running back Alvin Kamara, sending two offensive linemen out to block Breeland, who is the only Washington player that has a chance to stop the play. Not only does he make the tackle, he also lights up Kamara. Great acceleration to the spot, squares his shoulders and lays the wood. He’s not afraid to get in and lay a hit when the situation calls for it.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

So far, so good, right?

Well...let’s take a look at some of the negative aspects of his game I saw in 2017.

Double Moves

Washington played a lot of off-man coverages and zone coverages with their cornerbacks in 2017. This meant that Breeland had to play in space quite a bit. From what I watched, Breeland struggled in these coverages, especially against double moves.

In the above GIF, Breeland is in off-man coverage against Adam Thielen. He’s clearly playing the first-down marker, and he bites hard on the inside move the receiver makes, leaving him grasping straight air. Since Breeland does not have great speed, the mistake is compounded, leading to a very easy throw to a wide open receiver.

Once again, Breeland is in off-man coverage, this time opposite Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and once again, he’s biting hard on a route at the sticks on third down. Rather than opening his hips, then playing downhill on any throw to the boundary, Breeland sells out and ends up having to grab the receiver as he’s beaten, resulting in a flag and a first down.

Another matchup against the Raiders, and this time it’s wide receiver Amari Cooper with a stutter-step that sells the out route initially and gets Breeland to bite. He’s flagged again after being beaten for the grab on Cooper, something he routinely did in 2017.

Inconsistencies

While he possesses good press technique in his arsenal, Breeland can get very sloppy with his play. When I initially turned on the tape to watch him, I found repeated occurrences of poor press technique and an inability to recover. Quarterbacks routinely feasted on his lapses, and he was even benched against the Los Angeles Chargers for his poor play.

The above shows a prime example of lazy press coverage against Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Breeland does not get any kind of jam on the receiver, and while the trail coverage on the initial stem isn’t backbreaking, when Thomas runs the corner route, Breeland is slow to react, slow to come out of his break and several steps behind the receiver. It’s a simple route with poor coverage.

On this play, Breeland sees coverage against Thomas again. He’s lined up with outside shade, forcing Thomas inside with his initial stem. However, Breeland then overruns the receiver and isn’t able to disrupt the route enough, grabbing Thomas as he runs his out route. The play results in an incompletion due to a poor throw, but it’s far from the solid coverage shown in earlier examples.

After being dragged around by Thomas for most of the day, Breeland displayed some very poor press technique on the above play. He doesn’t have an active shuffle, he lunges for the receiver, and grabs and holds the jersey, resulting in a free first down for the Broncos on a defensive holding penalty.


The bottom line

The Chiefs needed a cornerback — heck, they still need a cornerback — but Breeland helps solidify the position a little bit more, particularly on the outside. He fits the Steve Spagnuolo criteria of length and ball skills, even if his long speed isn’t ideal for the Chiefs scheme.

There are still multiple question marks about the consistency that the Chiefs will get out of Breeland, and the propensity for biting on double moves is worthy of some concern. Upon hearing Breeland’s name linked to the Chiefs last year, I immediately went to watch his performance against the AFC West receivers he faced in 2017. Needless to say, those games (and the Minnesota Vikings game) were among his poorest performances of the year.

Even with the question marks, Breeland is a good corner at this level of the game, and one that could flash true No. 1 cornerback potential.

Breeland’s experience in a zone-heavy scheme in Washington — even if it wasn’t his strong suit — gives him a comfort level with a Spagnuolo scheme that will be diverse. His ability to play press man and match zones in Kansas City makes him a quality fit in the scheme, especially at this stage of free agency. Green Bay’s organization wanted to keep him, and that’s always a positive for a player coming off of a one year rental — a la Tyrann Mathieu.

As far as I’m concerned, the Chiefs just had him on a really long visit — one that finally culminated in Kansas City landing a boundary corner for 2019.