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Five things we've learned about the Redskins in 2015

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Five things we've learned about the Redskins in 2015

PHILADELPHIA—Here are five things we have learned about the Redskins during the 2015 season so far.

They can break any kind of negative streak—As Ryan Kerrigan just pointed out in the locker room, supposed jinxes have been dropping like flies. They won on the road for the first time this year in Chicago. The next week they beat the Bills and put together a two-game winning streak, something they had not done since last year. And tonight the won in prime time for the first time this season. And, most significantly, the broke two-season playoff drought by claiming the NFC East.

Jay Gruden made the right choice at quarterback—The head coach stuck his neck out when he named Kirk Cousins the starter and it seemed like it might get chopped off as Cousins struggled during the early part of the season. But he got it together and in the last nine games he has thrown 20 touchdown passes and three interceptions. Gruden rests his case.

They can win without a strong running game—While Gruden won’t admit it, the Redskins have been getting along just fine without much of a running game. Against the Eagles they called 48 pass plays and 26 rushes. During the last several weeks, when the Redskins have been at their best the running game has been the least effective in the NFL.

They can operate while held together with duct tape and chewing gum—Quinton Dunbar and Will Blackmon were playing key snaps in the secondary and Mason Foster was all over the field from his inside linebacker spot. None of them were on the 53-man roster when the season started. The offensive line consists of four first-year starters. Key yardage during the Redskins’ drive that sealed the game was picked up by Pierre Thomas, who came on board just over two weeks ago. Scot McCloughan assembled a pretty good team during the offseason but his work after the season started has been equally critical.

Being underdogs doesn’t faze them in the least—Nobody expected them to be anywhere near where they are tonight. They weren’t supposed to win in Chicago, they were supposed to lose to the Bills at home, and they were underdogs tonight. Nobody on the team listened. They are likely to be home underdogs against their first-round playoff opponent. It’s unlikely that the Redskins will pay any attention.

MORE REDSKINS: The Redskins clinch NFC East title after beating Eagles 38-24

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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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