Cornerback Bashaud Breeland has gone from a Super Bowl starter to a major disappointment.
When the Vikings signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract in June, they had high hopes for Breeland, who was starter in each of the past two Super Bowls for Kansas City. Breeland then beat out Cameron Dantzler, who started 10 of the 11 games he played for the Vikings last season as a rookie.
In Minnesota’s first four games, though, it hasn’t gone well.
“It’s a rough start,” Breeland acknowledged Friday. “New team, new scheme, trying to get fundamental with the team and the play-calling. It’s been a rough start, but I mean we’ve got a lot of football left to play.”
How bad has it been for Breeland? Pro Football Focus ranks him dead last out of 103 NFL cornerbacks
“It doesn’t bother me,” Breeland said of the rating. “It just keeps me going. I’m just getting ready to play the next game. I’m a DB. One-track mind, baby.”
The next game is Sunday against Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium, and indications are Breeland will be in the Vikings’ starting lineup for the fifth straight time. There has been speculation in recent weeks that Dantzler could replace him, but he’s on the COVID-19 reserve list and did not practice all week.
After Dantzler was placed on the list Monday, he tweeted that he was fully vaccinated and would return soon, though Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wouldn’t confirm that on Wednesday.
The Vikings could be down two cornerbacks against the Lions since Harrison Hand also is on the COVID-19 list. Co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer said Thursday the Vikings could elevate Parry Nickerson or Tye Smith off the practice squad for cornerback depth. Nickerson has had his allowed two elevations for the season but could be a COVID-19 replacement.
The Vikings are expected to get cornerback Kris Boyd back after he sat out last Sunday’s 14-7 loss to Cleveland with a hamstring injury. But there’s been no indication he could replace Breeland, 29, who has received support from Zimmer.
“I don’t think he’s lost a step,” Zimmer said Friday. “I think he’s had some technique flaws in the red zone, but he seemed to correct them pretty well this week (in practice). I like him. He’s got good acceleration. He’s tough. So, we’ll see how it goes.”
Against the Browns, Breeland left the game after six snaps and was replaced by Dantzler, who played the final 72 defensive plays and looked good. The Vikings announced during the game that Breeland’s departure was due to an illness.
Breeland said Friday he had an upset stomach but that he could have returned to the game if needed.
“I was good enough to go if they needed me to go,” he said. “We just felt like Dantzler could get the job done, so we just kept on rolling.”
Breeland’s last play against Cleveland was a 21-yard catch by Rashard Higgins after there looked to be confusion in the secondary. Breeland shrugged off a question about whether that gain on third-and-10 played a role in his departure from the game.
Breeland is in his eighth NFL season, and has had his share of good moments. Entering this year, he started 88 of the 94 games he played with Washington, Green Bay and Kansas City. He had seven tackles, including two for loss, and an interception in the Chiefs’ 31-20 victory over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV in February 2020 and he had four tackles in their 31-9 loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl LV last February.
The Chiefs elected to not re-sign Breeland when he became a free agent in March. And when Minnesota played at Kansas City in the preseason finale, Breeland was beaten by Tyreek Hill for a 35-yard touchdown pass.
The regular season hasn’t been any better. In the Sept. 12 opener at Cincinnati, Breeland was called for a 26-yard pass interference penalty that led to a touchdown, and he was beaten on a 50-yard touchdown catch by Ja’Marr Chase. He has been the lowest-ranked NFL cornerback by Pro Football Focus since that game.