2020 NFL Draft | Prospect film session with Oregon tight end Jacob Breeland

03/24/2020
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I sat down for an interview with one of the most underrated tight ends in the 2020 NFL Draft in Jacob Breeland from Oregon. He was having a great senior season with 405 yards receiving and six touchdowns in six games before suffering a season-ending ACL injury.

To start today’s film session, I wanted to ask Breeland about how tough it was to suffer that season ending injury during his breakout season and how his teammates responded to the news:

“It was for sure tough. When it happened, I didn’t want to believe it. It was tough but like at the same time, I was at peace. I’m a religious guy, God just helped me tremendously as he helped me and such. It would hit me sometimes how much I missed it and how I wanted to be out there with the guys and watching it on T.V was the worst because you couldn’t do anything. At the same time though, I had that peace and thought to myself that it’s okay and I’m gonna bounce back and get stronger from this experience. My teammates were with me the whole time and sent me a lot of encouragement so it was tough but at the same time, I was doing okay.”

I read prior to the interview that Breeland was a wide receiver in high school before transitioning to tight end for Oregon. This shocked me as he is a very solid blocker in the film that I have seen. I asked him how difficult it was for him to transition from a receiver in high school to a solid blocking tight end in college:

“I’m not going to even lie, it was tough. My redshirt Freshman year, that was a tough year just learning the three point stance and coming off the ball and blocking 300 pound guys. It was for sure a big difference and that first year was rough. Each year I kept progressing and I took a lot of pride in that. I could obviously run and catch well but I wanted to get better at this and the coaches helped me and especially Coach Cristobal coming in helped me a lot with my fundamentals and my technique.”

Clip 1

To start this film session, I picked this play for a few reasons. Reason one was because Oregon ran this play to success multiple times in film I watched and Breeland scored a few times as a result. I asked him about the play call and if he would get excited in the huddle just hearing it called:

“Yeah I don’t know if I could say the play call… we changed our offense now with our new offensive coordinator though. We would call this.. man its been a minute. I’m blanking a bit here but basically it was trio split out right and I’m on the hash. The play we would run a lot is a screen play where I would go out and block the first man over the second receiver. We always had this play ready to go though. Once they’d call this play I’d know that it was go time as this play always breaks open and even if a guy is on me, I’ll make a play. I run out, pump my feet, act like I’m blocking, then wheel off up the boundary.”

The chemistry with star QB Justin Herbert showed on this play as Breeland is able to catch the back shoulder throw in traffic. I asked him what his chemistry and relationship was like with Herbert over the past couple of seasons:

“It was really good. We obviously connected since day one and he just trusted me with putting these passes on me. He’s an insane quarterback. He puts that ball in places that has me asking how he even did that. He saw here that the corner is on me so he put that back shoulder perfectly where it needed to be and I jumped up and got it. Once I proved that he could trust me, he would just put that ball up there where I can make a play.”

Tight ends are typically called the safety blanket of the offense. I asked Breeland how important it is for tight ends to be reliable in contested catch situations like this one:

“It’s huge. Nowadays, tight ends are so athletic and are able to do stuff like this so I know all the tight ends on my team could do this to. Everyone knows we can be play makers so we all know when a play is drawn up for us, we can step up and make the plays that need to be made.”

Clip 2

As a former wide receiver, Breeland has the ability to stretch the field and win vertically as well. I asked him how comfortable he feels working up the field and opening up the offense for his team:

“I’m super comfortable with it. This was a huge play for us that we would call ‘Panda’ and the other tight end running the through route is the first read to be honest. If the safeties take with him then he’s hitting me up the hash. I love running this play, I’m fast, and I feel like my athleticism is good enough where I can stretch the field and make crazy plays.”

In the second clip in this video, Breeland is able to beat the linebacker up the hash for a big catch. I asked him how confident he feels on routes where there is a linebacker on him opposed to a safety or corner:

“That’s when I… I love it. I create mismatches against linebackers or even safeties to be honest. When I see that two high middle open and I know I have a linebacker on me, that’s money for me. I’ll outrun them and Justin will put it perfectly in that pocket and boom it’s a big gain.”

Clip 3

Getting to the blocking part of this film session, Breeland can do a lot in this area. I wanted to focus first on his combo blocks. To start, I asked him when he knows to jump to that second level after helping with the first block:

“It’s how the second level plays. Watching this right now, I would have liked to have got off sooner and kept my right hand free because I want to stay square to the second level rather than putting both my hands in there. The key though is to keep my hand in there as long as I can and then once I see 17 run down, I’m exploding off of him to get that block. I would have liked to get more square here and ahead of him to finish that block because he did bounce off me which is not great but we did a lot of work with combo blocks at Oregon.”

Breeland played with one of the best offensive lines in football last year as they featured three lineman who will be drafted this year (Shane Lemieux, Jake Hanson and Calvin Throckmorton) and another who will be a top pick in 2021 (Penei Sewell). I asked him how it felt being around those guys and playing with them the past few years.

“It was awesome. We didn’t have meetings with them but we would do walkthroughs with them, meet up in practice with them, and work with them on everything so it was awesome working with them. All great players and great human beings off the field as well, I’m great friends with all of them. They are so smart too. They would make calls obviously and whenever I would try to figure something out, they would tell me right away that they got it. They would tell me my assignment right away and we would just get after so yeah it was great playing with such a great group.”

My last question on combo blocks is about the trust and chemistry needed with the tackle to do these blocks. How much trust do you have to have there for this play to be successful:

“You do need a lot of trust because if they don’t know what they are doing, it can suck honestly. Sometimes I would go in with young guys in practice and they are still learning so they’d be making the wrong calls or something and it’s hard. It’s all about that trust and pre-snap communication on plays like this.”

Clip 4

Another important part of playing tight end is iso blocks. Breeland is pretty good in this area again for a guy who was a receiver in high school. I asked him how he got to the point where he could win these blocks at the point of attack and be reliable in iso blocks:

“I took a lot of pride in it and I worked at it a lot to get better and stay low and working my technique. It makes you feel good and even play better when they trust you to do that. For me, when they ask me to make blocks like this where the running back is following me and my one on one block, it makes me feel good and makes me want to work as hard as I can on that play.”

I asked him what the key was to making blocks like this. How does he attack a player who is much bigger and stronger than him:

“The key is hands inside. If I get my hands inside, I’m winning. With my strength and upper body, if I get my hands inside I’m golden. After that obviously it’s running my feet through contact and I need to keep working on that. I did kind of stop it right there when I hit him on contact which I would like to work on running my feet through there to make that hole even bigger.”

Clip 5

Breeland just talked about this but this clip is a perfect example of keeping those legs driving and finishing his block. I asked him how important it is to finish plays with defenders on the ground:

“It’s huge. You never know especially on the backside of blocks where you maybe could take a play off, finishing those blocks could sometimes save touchdowns. This play is a homer for us. The tight end and me were working up to the next level and (Evan) Weaver came out so I just stayed square and struck my hands inside and ran my feet through. We always emphasized finish your blocks so I finished my block and got a knockdown. It’s always nice because we count knockdowns after games so it’s fun.”

I had to know so I asked Breeland who led Oregon in knockdowns last year. I asked him if he could remember off the top of his head who led the team in blocking knockdowns:

“Oh yeah who do you think? (we both laughed at this). It was Penei (Sewell) man. I remember¬† he got like 10 pancakes in one game. It was absurd. He’s insane man.”

I ended the interview with my typical question. Breeland was having an outstanding Senior season that was unfortunately cut short due to an injury. When you turn on the film though, you see a solid duel threat tight end. I asked him what my NFL team would be getting both on and off the field if they draft him this year:

“You’d get the best from me. I’m gonna be respectful to everyone. I’m gonna work hard. I’m loyal, I’ve been through three head coaches and stayed at Oregon through it all. I just want to be in the NFL for the long run. I’m gonna give it my all. I just want to learn from the best players and coaches and keep getting better because I love this game.”

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