Perhaps Green Bay Packers fans just needed a little patience to understand the answers to one of the puzzling questions about the team’s roster in 2018.
When the Packers signed Bashaud Breeland to a free agent contract on September 26th, it was assumed that he would be a great veteran addition to a cornerback group teeming with youth and athleticism but light on experience. Sure, Tramon Williams came in to lead the group of youngsters, but with three top options having a combined nine games of NFL experience entering the year, a steady hand would be a big help.
Besides — Kevin King was banged up again, leaving opportunities for Breeland on the perimeter.
Breeland did not suit up for the Packers’ 22-0 win over the Buffalo Bills four days after his signing, but that was no surprise; he was picking up a new defensive scheme after being in Washington for the first four years of his career, and he had been on the free agent market for six months. But his absences over the next three games were much more surprising, even as a hamstring injury limited his ability to practice.
But perhaps there is another reason for Breeland sitting out on gamedays, even as Alexander missed some time in that stretch. It’s a possibility that APC’s Matub mentioned in the writer’s chat on Tuesday morning, prior to the flurry of trade activity at the deadline: perhaps the Packers have moved Breeland to safety with the expectation that he would take over when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix got moved at the trade deadline.
A look at Breeland’s athletic profile finds him as a player whose movement skills are probably better suited to that position than to playing corner. His testing results from the 2014 NFL Combine show a player who is not particularly fast (4.62 40) and is in the bottom quarter of cornerbacks in his agility drills (7.04-second 3-cone and 4.33-second short shuttle). Those numbers still aren’t exceptional for a safety, but they’re better at that position than at corner, where elite short-area quickness is more critical.
In addition, Breeland’s size (5-foot-11-3/8 and 195 pounds) would fit in just fine at safety — that puts him about a quarter-inch taller and the same weight as Jermaine Whitehead.
Furthermore, this idea is something that is beginning to get traction with the Packers’ beat writers as well. ESPN’s Rob Demovsky mentioned this move as a possibility in a piece published on Wednesday morning, while Tom Silverstein of Packersnews.com quoted an NFC scout as saying that it would actually be the team’s best option moving forward:
According to one NFC scout, their best choice might be to move veteran Bashaud Breeland to safety and have him work his way in with Jermaine Whitehead. Breeland is 6-foot, 194 pounds and not afraid of contact. He also has enough experience to understand Pettine’s system right away.
Perhaps this is an ace in the hole that Mike Pettine and Mike McCarthy have been holding for a few weeks, biding their time until Brian Gutekunst was able to deal Clinton-Dix away and free up the spot in the lineup for Breeland. It could very well be a different wrinkle to put on the field when the Packers suit up against the New England Patriots on Sunday, one that Bill Belichick and company might not expect.
Or maybe this line of thinking is entirely off-base, and the hamstring injury plus the return of all of the team’s corners after the bye week really were the reasons for Breeland being inactive these past four games. Maybe the team thinks that Whitehead, Tramon Williams, Josh Jones, or some combination thereof will end up being their best option at free safety. Packers fans should find out by Sunday night at the latest which of these possibilities is the real answer.