Newly signed Minnesota Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland has been one of the NFL’s most undervalued players at his position.
Breeland has allowed the second-lowest completion percentage (50.7%) among all defensive backs in the league since 2017, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He’s also allowed the second-lowest average target separation (2.2 yards) in coverage. The guy is like glue in coverage.
The only player that’s allowed a lower completion percentage since 2017 is Washington’s William Jackson, ranked the ninth-best cornerback in the league entering the 2021 season by Pro Football Focus.
However, a statistical disparity in Breeland’s game spells trouble for the Vikings if the team cannot put Breeland in a position to succeed.
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Breeland Elite in Deep Coverage, Pedestrian Elsewhere
In 2020, Breeland played in 14 games, including the postseason run to the Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs. Breeland allowed 33 completions on 66 targets from Week 5 through Super Bowl LV for 452 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions, and allowed a quarterback rating of 67.2, per Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar.
Farrar pointed out a Grand Canyon-wide split in Breeland’s performance in coverage on deep and shorter, complex routes.
Here’s what Farrar found:
What’s absolutely fascinating about Breeland’s 2020 season is how great he was in one particular kind of coverage, and how vulnerable he was in just about every other kind.
Again per [Sports Info Solutions], on passes of 20 or more air yards, Breeland may well have been the NFL’s most effective defensive player. Against such throws, Breeland allowed two completions on 14 targets for 60 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, and an opponent QBR of 5.4.
However… on shorter stuff, especially when he’s tasked to follow and match receivers on more complex routes, Breeland really struggled last season. On anything up to 19 air yards, Breeland allowed 31 completions on 51 targets for 392 yards, all four of his touchdowns allowed, no interceptions, and an opponent QBR of 100.8. That’s about as drastic a split as you can get.
Breeland has shown a tendency to commit penalties on more complex routes. However, under coach Mike Zimmer, the 29-year-old could refine his abilities for the later stages of his career.
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Vikings Are Ideal Fit for Breeland
Breeland joins a Vikings cornerbacks room that went from desolate in 2020 to one of the league’s deepest in 2021.
After the announcement of his signing with the team, Breeland placed working with Zimmer and recent veteran free-agent signing Patrick Peterson as top reasons for joining, Josina Anderson reported.
“I’m going back there to the NFC North, just on another side after being in Green Bay. I feel it’s a great opportunity being with a defensive-minded head coach, Patrick Peterson and getting to mentor the younger guys as a vet myself,” Breeland said, via Anderson.
Zimmer has worked magic with veteran cornerbacks who have lost a step athletically with age. Breeland is entering the moonlight of his career and following Peterson, who is looking to reinvent his career as a veteran cornerback with Zimmer offers Breeland an ideal role model to follow.