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Redskins offseason Q&A: How will the carries get divvied up?


Redskins offseason Q&A: How will the carries get divvied up?

With a new general manager in charge, new faces throughout the lineup as well as new assistant coaches bringing new ideas to the table, the Redskins are a team in transition. Between now and the start of training camp, reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the top questions facing Jay Gruden and Co. as they prepare for the season.

How will the workload at running back be shared?

Although Washington DC is famous for trying to solve problems by assembling a committee, the Redskins have not use that approach at their running back position. For the past three seasons Alfred Morris has been the Redskins’ workhorse running back. Since he came into the league in 2012 Morris has owned 86 percent of the team’s tailback carries. But both Morris’ total yards and yards per carry have declined in each of the last two seasons. And Scot McCloughan drafted running back Matt Jones out of Florida in the third round. Will the workload shift with Jones playing a bigger role than predecessors at tailback did?

Tandler: Ever since Jones was drafted with a top 100 pick (95th overall), Jay Gruden has gone out of his way to made sure that everyone knows that Morris is still his No. 1 running back and that Jones would have to earn playing time. That is the right thing for the head coach to say. But don’t listen to what he says, watch what he does.

And what Gruden did was give Jones a lot of work with the first team during OTAs and minicamp, subbing him in for Morris early and often. That doesn’t mean that we’ll see Jones getting a lot of first-quarter carries once the games start to count; it’s always dangerous to make any assumptions based on personnel rotations when they’re wearing shorts in June. But Gruden and company clearly are intrigued by what Jones, who at 6-3, 231 resembles a linebacker carrying the football, can bring to the offense.

I think that Jones will spell Morris more frequently than Roy Helu (40 carries) did last year. But it’s entirely possible that Jones could get a substantial workload without cutting into Morris’ carries. Last year the Redskins ran the ball 401 times; 20 teams had more rushing attempts. If we are to believe all of the talk around Redskins Park (and, again, be wary of what they say) the team will run the ball more often this year. It’s possible that Morris will maintain a workload right around the 265 carries he had last year and that the additional carries will go to Jones. Put Morris down for 275 carries for 1,275 yards and Jones for 110 for 495.

El-Bashir: There are a handful of Redskins starters who will be looking over their shoulder when the team gets to Richmond. And I suspect Morris will be one of them.

As Tandler mentioned, it was indeed interesting that Jones seemed to get more reps with the first team than other backups, particularly in minicamp last month. Gruden cautioned reporters not to read too much into personnel rotations. So I’m trying not to. I really am. But I just can’t help myself. Coaches get limited on-the-field time with their players in the offseason, therefore everything is done for a reason. And Jones getting those reps was, in my opinion, done for a reason.

Morris has been a very productive running back the past three seasons. And, according to Gruden, he has enjoyed “as good [an offseason] as anybody in this building.” And that may be true. But his production has declined. He’s a rugged runner who’s carried the ball almost 900 times the past three years. He’s also entering the last year of his contract and there’s a new coach—ground game guru Bill Callahan—bringing new ideas to the Redskins’ running attack.

We’ll get a much better feel for the workload split in a few weeks. But as I’ve said before, I think Jones is going to play a much bigger role this season than many are anticipating. How big a role? My prediction: Morris gets 225-240 carries (down from 265 last season) and Jones gets 75 carries, while Robert Griffin III and Chris Thompson chip in often, as well.

Previously on Redskins preseason Q&A:

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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.