ASHBURN, Va. (AP) It’s standard NFL shtick now. Young guy has breakout performance on a big stage, so everyone just has to know how many text messages he had when he turned on his phone after the game – and what kind of reaction he got from friends and family.
Rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who was otherworldly in the Washington Redskins’ win over the Dallas Cowboys said, ”I had 62, and that’s not normal for me” and ”Everybody back home is Cowboys fans, so it was a big deal for me.”
The next step is where paths start to diverge. One-time, flash-in-the-plan shining moment? Or the first of many?
The Redskins would like to think that Breeland will take the latter route, if only because of the way his Cowboys performance came about. Already a meticulous student of the game – he says he stays hours late on practice days watching video by himself – he spent last week examining how teammate DeAngelo Hall shut down Dez Bryant in previous years.
”`De’ was very patient with him,” Breeland said, ”knew the routes that he was running.”
That’s the sort of approach that could keep someone in the league for a long time. Certainly, the results Monday night were worth it: He broke up back-to-back passes to Bryant at the goal line in the third quarter, forcing the Cowboys to kick a field goal, and he knocked away the final throw of the game – a fourth-down heave to Bryant in overtime.
”I wasn’t really jawing him. I was just showing him that I’m here, too,” Breeland said. ”I’m a player in the NFL just like he is. He’s a good receiver, I know that. I had to do what I could do to stop him.”
Washington coach Jay Gruden couldn’t have asked for more from the fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson who became a starter when Hall was lost for the season in Week 3 with a ruptured left Achilles.
”Really, you look at Breeland, you see all the plays that he had were good – the pass breakups, the tackles – but I thought the most impressive play he had was coming all the way over from the other side of the field and tackling DeMarco Murray at the 5-yard line on his long run,” Gruden said. ”A lot of players might have taken that one off, and if he wasn’t hustling and flying from the other side of the field, he scores there. Instead of him scoring, we held them to three points on that possession.”
Breeland was credited with breaking up four passes. He had only one in his first seven games. He said a particularly rough day against the Arizona Cardinals three weeks ago was a turning point.
”It really showed the coaches that they had to teach things to me in a different way,” he said. ”I really wasn’t picking up the small things.”
Off the field, Breeland said the toughest adjustment to the NFL has been the media glare – particularly social media – something he learned to his dismay when he was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana on the night before the team broke training camp in August.
”Everybody makes mistakes,” he said. ”I’m young. I’m going to make mistakes. I just wanted to learn from it.”
The reaction at the time was swift and harsh. This week, he’s nothing but a hero.
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