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Need to Know: Cousins coaching DB's, Gruden’s hot seat, Redskins on the clock

Need to Know: Cousins coaching DB's, Gruden’s hot seat, Redskins on the clock

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 4, 33 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  


Days until:

NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 25
—NFL Draft (4/27) 82
First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 218

The Redskins week that was

Crazy finish at the Pro Bowl for Kirk Cousins—By now you’ve seen Kirk Cousins chase down Aquib Talib to knock the ball out after he threw an interception late in the game. Was it great hustle to be cheered or a dangerous and unnecessary play that a pending free agent who has a hundred million bucks or so on the line just should not make? I think it’s both but I do know one thing—we haven’t seen a Redskins defender chase down a ball carrier and successfully execute a classic chop like that in years. Maybe if Cousins comes back he can spend a little time showing the defense how it’s done.

RELATED: Tandler's all-time Redskins Super Bowl team--Offense

Is Gruden really on the hot seat in 2017?—We keep hearing about this but there is nothing coming out of Redskins Park that this is a “win or else” season for Jay Gruden. If the Redskins collapse and go, say, 5-11 things could get uncomfortable, assuming there is no big, apparent issue like Kirk Cousins not being behind center. But one thing to consider is the fact that Dan Snyder has not let go of a coach following a season of less than double-digit losses since he fired Marty Schottenheimer in 2001 after going 8-8. Snyder is not anxious to get back on the coaching carousel.

Assessing five Redskins mock draft selections—When I did this, I dismissed the idea that Ohio State safety Malik Hooker would be available when the Redskins are on the clock with pick No. 17. But then a couple of days later news that Hooker has undergone two surgeries, one to repair a torn labrum and another to fix a hernia. Will that push his draft stock down to where the Redskins would have a shot at him? And, if he is there, will they want him or be concerned that he is damaged goods? In any case, it just goes to show you that there is no point is getting too locked in on the draft at this point. A lot will happen between now and April 27.

More Redskins: New #RedskinsTalk Podcast - Barstool Nate wants Kirk Cousins back

With John Lynch now GM, does 49ers interest in Kirk Cousins change?—I don’t think that Cousins is going anywhere but if he does go to the 49ers the No. 2 overall pick will not be part of the package. Sure, the Vikings gave up a No. 1 pick for Sam Bradford. But Minnesota thought the pick would be in the twenties after they made the playoffs and it turned out to be No. 15. But even that pick is not close to the No. 2 pick in terms of value. Per the draft pick trade chart, it would take two No. 15 overall picks plus an early second-round pick to equal the point value of pick No. 2. It’s hard to see that happening even if the Redskins do agree to deal Cousins away.

The numbers are in: The 2016 Redskins faced a very tough schedule—Were the Redskins substantially better last year than then were in 2015 despite finishing a half game worse and missing the playoffs? It’s possible to say that they were considering that they played a fairly soft schedule two seasons ago and one of the toughest slates in the league in ’16, especially in terms of opposing defenses. I get that you are what your record says you are. But you can’t ignore strength of schedule when it comes to evaluating a team’s season.

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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


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.