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After a tumultuous week, Redskins get a desperately needed victory

After a tumultuous week, Redskins get a desperately needed victory

FEDEX FIELD -- They needed that.

After a tumultuous week where headphones and Hollywood dominated the conversation, the Redskins needed that win over the Carolina Panthers. 

It wasn't always pretty, and late in the game it seemed to be slipping away, but Jay Gruden's team showed determination in a spot where plenty expected them to fold. 

"I don't think anybody can enjoy success all the time. You're going to face adversity and we have to meet it," Gruden said following the 23-17 win. "It was great to see our guys bounce back."

The last time Redskins fans saw the burgundy and gold, the team had just been dominated by the Saints. The secondary played bad as Drew Brees went for more than 360 yards, and gave up multiple big chunk plays for touchdowns. The Monday night meltdown in New Orleans made for an uneasy week in Ashburn, and that was before a series of media reports challenged the team and cornerback Josh Norman. 

He was a big part of the errors in New Orleans and then got into a Twitter beef with Saints WR Michael Thomas. After that, former Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall suggested Norman was too focused on his post-NFL television career to play his best football.

Whether or not the "Hollywood" criticism bugged Norman, he responded in a major way with an interception and a forced fumble against Carolina. 

"This week was a little bit different, I'm not going to lie. People came from everywhere," he said. 

After the Saints game, Norman explained that he called a team meeting to clear the air with the secondary. Blown coverages could not continue if the Redskins were to get back to winning games, and Norman wanted to change things. Maybe the meeting helped. 

"Everything we do, we do as a unit, as a group. Regardless of what the outside noise, outside of us, we got to come together," Norman said. "And we got to come together now."

That formula worked well for Norman, and for much of the game, it worked for the Redskins.

The offense played well in the first half, though again struggled to score TDs in the second half. Through five games, the Redskins have just one second-half touchdown, and that came in the blowout Saints loss. 

Newton drove the Panthers down the field for the possible game-winning TD. The former MVP had four chances to win the game, but the defense held. Newton lost for the first time in his career against Washington, bringing his all-time record to 4-1. 

But all games aren't created equal. 

Sure, the Redskins snapped a five-game losing streak to Carolina. Washington hadn't beaten the Panthers since 2006. 

Bigger than that, however, Gruden's team showed the ability to fight back from a demoralizing loss. Too many Redskins teams of the past folded under the pressure of bad losses and outward noise. 

This Redskins team didn't.

"We've been tested, and you have to respond," Redskins WR Paul Richardson said after the game.

The high-priced free agent addition from this past offseason, Richardson played well against Carolina, hauling in a first-half touchdown. He also understands the enormity of the victory.

"I think even in losing a game like we did last week, we were tested as men to bounce back, to lock in, to focus and make this game important. And we did that."

There is plenty to critique and question from the Redskins win. The second-half offensive struggles are significant, and QB Alex Smith again did not make enough plays down the field. 

The Redskins got the win though, and sometimes getting the win is enough.

Remember, they needed that.

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A Madden ratings performance adjustor explains what goes into the job that everyone's jealous of

A Madden ratings performance adjustor explains what goes into the job that everyone's jealous of

Even on a field filled with NFL players, experienced coaches and a few celebrities, Clint Oldenburg stood out. 

It wasn’t because of his stature or that he used to play pro football, either.

It was due to his jacket.

A jacket, which led to a photo, which led to a tweet, which led to unexpected Internet fame, all thanks to the four words written on Oldenburg’s back: “Madden Ratings Performance Adjustor.”

Oldenburg was spending Week 9 at FedEx Field, sent by EA Sports to get more information on Adrian Peterson at that afternoon’s Redskins-Falcons game. The future Hall of Famer is in the middle of a comeback season, so Oldenburg was charged with checking in on him.

4.5 million Twitter impressions later, Oldenburg now knows that countless people are supremely jealous of his weekend vocation.

"I wasn’t really engaging on my cell phone during the game, and then when I was catching my cab to the airport after the game I looked at it and said, ‘Holy crap,’” he said in a recent phone interview.

"I was in shock as to what was happening.”

A fifth-round pick of the Patriots in 2007, Oldenburg also had brief stints with the Jets and a few others, including the Redskins. These days, he spends Monday-Friday working to make Madden’s gameplay better.

But he’s also a part of the Ratings Adjustor team, a small group of evaluators who travel to stadiums, observe players and submit their notes to a fellow employee. That primary analyst takes their notes into account and then has the final say on every player’s precious overall rating, which can fluctuate with each Madden update. 

Now, you may find the idea of sending someone to the site of a matchup to do this gig a bit preposterous. But according to Oldenburg, being there in-person does make a major difference.

"The benefits of the sideline really are for pregame,” he explained. “Just seeing how guys are working in pregame, getting a close-up view of their actual athletic skills, their footwork.”

Oldenburg also likes the “better perspective” he gets once the action kicks off. For example, while focusing on Peterson during the Burgundy and Gold’s loss to Atlanta, he felt like No. 26 missed some cutback lanes, something Oldenburg always finds himself paying attention to thanks to his days battling along the line.

Much like the thousands of social media users who shared various reactions about his job, players take an interest in him as well.

While in Landover, kicker Dustin Hopkins found Oldenburg on the sideline and passed along a request: That day, the team was planning on kicking off short as opposed to through the end zone, so Hopkins wanted to make sure his kick power wouldn't be decreased. 

"They wanna come talk about what we’re doing,” Oldenburg said about the athletes he’s tasked with grading. "Information like that is always valuable."

After his playing career wrapped up, Oldenburg jumped into an internship working on the video game that he loved growing up. “Everything took off” after that 10-week program, and he’s been enjoying it ever since.

"I always had to scratch and claw for everything I got,” he said near the end of the call. "I wanted to find a career that I knew I’d be happy doing.”

In the end, he landed in a career that makes him happy. And as one viral tweet showed, plenty of others would be happy in his role too. 

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Don't look now but Redskins drafts are starting to produce among the NFL's best

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Don't look now but Redskins drafts are starting to produce among the NFL's best

For years, maybe decades, the Redskins did not treat the NFL Draft with the seriousness of the best teams in the league. 

The organization often traded away important picks for veterans, and when Washington did make picks, they missed. 

T.J. Duckett for a third-round selection? Sure.

Malcolm Kelly, Fred Davis and Devin Thomas in the second round? Sure.

A second-round pick for Donovan McNabb? Sure. 

The trade to acquire Robert Griffin III doesn't even need to be mentioned. That trade, while giving up a boatload of first-round picks, at least produced an NFC East title, even if it ended spectacularly. 

Anyway, enough about how things used to be run. Things are run differently now, and the results are obvious. 

The 2018 Redskins defense contains plenty of draft picks. The team found first-round success with Daron Payne and Johnathan Allen, but also late round picks like Greg Stroman and Matt Ioannidis.

Offensively, many of the biggest names came through the draft, even if some are injured now. Jordan Reed, Chris Thompson, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Josh Doctson. All draft picks, some early, some late, some mid-rounders. 

Add it all up and it shows the Redskins have overhauled their personnel philosophy. The NFL draft has become the centerpiece of team building, not free agency. 

This procedural change was a long time coming, and it's working. 

Keep in mind the above stat means draft picks still playing in the NFL but doesn't necessarily mean still playing on the team that drafted them. For the Burgundy and Gold, that means players like Kendall Fuller of the Chiefs, Ryan Grant of the Colts, Spencer Long of the Jets and Brian Orakpo of the Titans. 

Bigger picture, however, it means the Redskins are drafting and drafting well. Nearly half of the current 53-man roster came from Redskins draft picks, and that doesn't include undrafted success stories like Quinton Dunbar, Maurice Harris and Danny Johnson. 

The Redskins have become a team focused on acquiring more picks in each draft, even letting their own home grown players walk to pile up compensatory picks. 

It's a formula many successful teams like the Packers and Patriots have used for a long time.

In Washington, it's a relatively new way to design the roster, but it seems much more effective than the old way. 

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