NFCE rookie react: Bashaud Breeland's strong debut

Bashaud Breeland wasn’t going to garner much mention for rookie of the year in the NFC East, even if he did become a pleasant surprise. Maybe if the Washington Redskins had won more games, Breeland would have received some of the votes. But they did not, so he did not.

It also didn’t help that Breeland committed a team-high 14 penalties, including four for pass interference, three for illegal use of hands, and two for illegal contact. It was a mixture of being aggressive and still needing to improve.

But what I liked about Breeland is what I first started to see in the summer: The kid learns from his mistakes on the field and he will study. During a workout with the Patriots, Breeland intercepted a pass. OK, he’s not the first to do so. But what stood out to me was why: With rookies, you often get players who just react without knowing exactly why because they think they know what’s coming. It often leads to mistakes the other way later on. But in this case, Breeland knew why he reacted the way he did. The receiver tried to sell a fade route and Breeland wasn’t buying. But that told Breeland a comeback route would follow. So he played for that and made the pick.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised when, a few days after winning in Dallas, Breeland could describe in detail why he played Dez Bryant a certain way in the end zone. He knew Bryant ran a back shoulder or a slant inside the 5-yard line. And he knew how Bryant planted when running the back shoulder. When Breeland saw it, he immediately was physical with Bryant, preventing him from creating the necessary separation to make the play work.

Later, Breeland positioned himself to take away the fade. And based on how Bryant came off the line, he knew it would be a slant, so Breeland broke on the ball and forced an incompletion. Just a mature series for a young player -- and it stemmed from preparation. In organized team activities and minicamp, Breeland had a tendency to grab way too much. But he improved in that area as well. He's not a perfect player, but I love his competitiveness and physical style.

Breeland did not win rookie of the year, nor did he deserve to win. But he was an impressive rookie for Washington.