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News, notes and observations from 3 days at the NFL Scouting Combine

News, notes and observations from 3 days at the NFL Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS - After a few long days of watching prospects and speaking with NFL players, coaches, scouts and front office types, the information overload begins to set in.

Below are notes and thoughts from a bevy of conversations and observations about what the Redskins might, and might not, do in free agency and the NFL Draft. 


2018 NFL Combine News and Notes:

  • The organization hated trading away Kendall Fuller, but understood the necesity to acquire a QB. And the organization is very excited to have Alex Smith, at a price they think is reasonable. Bruce Allen went and got Smith, and Jay Gruden is happy with the move. 
  • With Fuller gone, some speculated Bashaud Breeland might be back with the Redskins. Breeland will hit free agency on March 14th, but don't expect the Washington front office to be aggressive in re-signing him. Expectation here is the same as it was in December: Breeland plays elsewhere in 2018. 
  • Teams are interested and excited about Trent Murphy and Junior Galette. Green Bay particularly wants to beef up their pass rush, and the Packers have been clear they want to be a player in free agency. 
  • Ever heard of Kirk Cousins? He was THE topic of conversation in Indy, from NFL people all the way to cab drivers. Where will Kirk Cousins land? The Jets, Broncos and Vikings seem to be the front-runners, but Arizona could make some cap space and take a run at Cousins too. This is shaping up to be an interesting decision for Cousins. The Jets will offer the most money, and I expect the Vikings to show a relative level of fiscal restraint. What will John Elway and the Broncos do? Remains to be seen. Denver and the Jets both have early draft picks and could fall in love with a QB at the Combine as well. The rest of the NFL is now grappling with the same question the Redskins dealt with for two offseasons: Kirk Cousins is good, but is he highest paid player in the NFL good?
  • Gruden and Doug Williams said the Redskins must get better running the ball. Does that mean a draft pick? It could. The team walked away very impressed with LSU RB Derrius Guice, a projected first-round pick. There are other RBs that will be available later in the draft the organization liked too, and RB help could happen in free agency too. 
  • The Redskins really like Iowa CB Josh Jackson. The kid made plays in college and could step in Day 1 and help Washington. He will be a first round pick.
  • Two different Redskins defensive coaches told me their excitement to watch Washington NT Vita Vea work out. A mountain of a man with surprising athleticism, Vea is very much on the 'Skins radar. 
  • Another defensive player the Redskins liked: Iowa LB Josey Jewell. He's a tackling machine that can help if the team doesn't bring back Zach Brown. Probably a Friday night pick, but if he lasts until Saturday, Washington might be in luck. 
  • Speaking of Brown, Doug Williams said the Redskins made an offer to the linebacker and are waiting to hear back. That doesn't sound great for the prospects of getting a deal done before free agency opens. I've long reported that the target money for Brown would look similar to the deal Bobby Wagner signed with Seattle or Alec Ogletree with the Rams. Don't get caught up in annual salaries; the number that matters is the guaranteed cash. Ogletree got $19 million guaranteed. Brown wants at least that much guaranteed, and likely more, to make a deal work. 
  • I was a little surprised that Jay Gruden intimated Ryan Grant will walk in free agency. Grant is a productive player for Washington and a favorite of the coaches. 
  • Redskins Director of College Scouting Kyle Smith is held in high esteem by a number of agents, coaches and other NFL front office folks. Some of that may come from respect for his dad, A.J. Smith, who ran the Chargers for 10 years and amassed a 95-65 record in that time. But it doesn't sound like that has much to do with it. Smith loves football the same way Sean McVay does. He doesn't have hobbies. He just goes to games and watches tape. The 'Skins have a number of young scouts with similar mindsets. 
  • The Redskins might want to draft a QB, and the team definitely likes Richmond Spider Kyle Lauletta. I think the price tag will be too much for Washington, however, especially without a third round pick. A late round QB, similar to the Nate Sudfeld selection a few years back, could make sense. 

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Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman caused quite a stir with his comments Sunday about the atmosphere at FedEx Field, and the Redskins cornerback made it clear he plans to do his part in making sure the stadium is packed for Sunday's game against the Texans. 

Norman told reporters Thursday he's going to be giving away "40 or 50" free tickets for the Houston game, online and perhaps even in person.

"Yes, I will be giving out free tickets," he said. "I'll be doing it on my socials as well, I think I'll probably post tonight or something about it."

"Who knows, you may see me coming out and being an early Santa somewhere in the mall or something, just handing out tickets."

And if you are one of the lucky fans who gets a ticket from "Santa Norman," he has specific instructions on how you should behave at Sunday's game:

"Whoever get(s) them, we want them loud and just obnoxious. Just really obnoxious."

Norman joins several Redskins players who have promised to give away tickets to the Texans game.

It may be November, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well at Redskins Park. 


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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.