Coach Olson: We’ve lost a number of starters and a number of good players. I think the center is the one guy upfront — he’s much like the quarterback on defense. The linebacker makes the calls on defense — your quarterback on offense. We would certainly miss Wisniewski. Fortunately now we’ve got a veteran in [Andre] Gurode that has played the position and done it in the games before. That helps having a veteran backup there at that position right now. We’ve been working [Lamar] Mady up there as well, but ‘Wiz’ has been out there. If he can go, certainly he will go. He’s shown that he’s played in the past. He’s a tough guy. Like the other injuries we’ve had it would hurt, but you keep moving forward. We’ll be ready to go on Sunday.
Q: Will it affect your play calling in any way in terms of what you know you can do?
Coach Olson: No, the bigger concern is just that we felt like we had hats on hats. In other words there haven’t been a lot of free hitters on the quarterback which is how we kind of grade a lot of what we’re doing. How many times is there a free rusher because of a miscommunication that’s hitting the quarterback? There have been very few of those this year, and a lot of that is because of ‘Wiz’ [Stefen Wisniewski].
Q: How has [Andre] Holmes come along? Can he help you this week?
Coach Olson: We’re still in that evaluation phase. We had a chance yesterday. I thought he looked good yesterday. He looked better today. He came back. He’s in shape. That was the biggest concern is what kind of shape he would be in, but we ran him a lot yesterday. We checked this morning before he came out to practice, and asked, ‘What type of soreness do you have in your legs?’ He said, ‘I feel good again today,’ so credit to him that he stayed in shape while he was away.
Q: Back to the offensive line. How much of a help has Tony Sparano been especially now that you’ve had to move pieces around?
Coach Olson: Unbelievable. Really when you look at what we’ve had to deal with up front — and Tony and I spoke about it last night — since training camp I don’t know if we’ve gone a full week where we haven’t switched somebody up front and had the same five guys playing together. We’re certainly fortunate to have Tony here. I think he’s been unbelievable as far as that goes to be able to mix in the people we’ve mixed in and to bring new players that were not here during OTAs or training camp and get them up to speed with our system. He’s done a tremendous job, so we’re fortunate to have him there. I was telling him last night, ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a situation where I’ve seen so much change over week to week with not the same five guys playing together.’
Q: Terrelle [Pryor] mentioned yesterday that you had texted him about how much of a change you see in him from the last time he played the Chargers in the last game of last season to how he’s played this season. Has it been impressive to see such a drastic change in this short amount of time?
Coach Olson: Well when I first took the job, I kind of went through and evaluated everybody on offense. It had been awhile since I watched that game, so when it came up this week I got a chance to see. It refreshed my memory, and I thought, ‘Oh, this guy has shown a lot of improvement in the course of when he last played the Chargers in that last game.’ That was encouraging to me after watching that. I just feel like he’s a lot calmer in the pocket. His footwork is much better; better instincts. He just looked like a rookie player in there last year, so he looks much better.
Q: You were with [Rashad] Jennings in Jacksonville last year. What does he bring to an offense? A physicality?
Coach Olson: Yeah, you know, he’s a big back. I was impressed with Rashad [Jennings]. I’m happy for him. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how that was going to work, him coming here. After being with him in Jacksonville, I think he’s a better player here. For whatever reason, he’s a better player than he was last year in Jacksonville. Sometimes a player just needs a change of scenery or a change in system, a change in his staff. Whatever the case might be, he seems to be a more focused player, a tougher player, a tougher runner. I see a tougher runner than I saw a year ago, so hopefully he’ll continue because I thought he ran the ball hard last week. He made people miss, and he also ran some people over. That was real encouraging for me, the way that he played last week.
Q: He made one play where he caught the ball about four balls behind the stake, broke about three tackles and got the first down.
Coach Olson: Yes, he made the first guy miss and knocked a couple of other guys over. Again, not that he was a poor player [in Jacksonville] by any means, but I just didn’t see the physicality that he has shown since he’s been here in Oakland. That to me was what I didn’t notice as much last year in Jacksonville.
Q: If he’s starting, do you cut back on his special teams load? How does that work?
Coach Olson: I think D.A. [Head Coach Dennis Allen] will have to make that decision there. Certainly special teams are an important part of what we’re doing, of what we’re trying to accomplish as a team and what we’re trying to deem as important. But anytime you’ve got a guy that’s going to take over the load at the running back position, you’ve got to be careful about how thin you’re spreading him.
Q: In terms of your receiving corps, are they getting open enough for your satisfaction?
Coach Olson: I mean you’re always looking for guys to beat guys on every single play. Everyone wants a Calvin Johnson. Everyone wants that kind of a guy. We’re doing some things to hopefully allow them to get open in terms of formations, motions and things like that. How do we aid those guys and help them get open? Then how do we get the ball to them? Completion percentage-wise we’re up in completion percentage where we want to be. We need to be aware of pushing the ball down the field, those guys getting open down the field and for the quarterback to see them down the field. When I go back and look at the tape there are a number of plays — and I think the players would agree too — that we missed. We left some yardage out on plays where we had some guys open deep down the field. We’ve just got to be more aware of that, and making sure that seen by for our quarterbacks.
Q: What qualities have enabled
Coach Olson: I’ve always felt accuracy has been number one. I’ve always said that you could be the smartest player or the dumbest player, but if you’re accurate, we’re going to have a chance for you to try and get the ball to somebody. To me, from the day he came in he’s been an accurate passer. He’s intelligent which is very important for that position, and he’s competitive. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say he may be the most competitive guy in that room. Some of the guys may argue in that room, but I see a very competitive player — someone that plays with a chip on his shoulder. His accuracy and intelligence are two qualities that have jumped out at me since he’s been here.
Q: Have you seen the continued improvement that you’d like to see from [Mychal] Rivera in that spot, especially as a pass catcher?
Coach Olson: Yeah, and you would expect to see that to me through four games for a rookie player. When you usually start to worry about the rookies, you see the improvement, but about Week 10 or 11 when all of the sudden they’ve been here through training camp, four preseason games, and 11 regular season games, that’s usually when you see the rookies kind of hit a wall and start to go the other direction. We’ve seen continued improvement, and hopefully that will continue.
Q: What kind of factor is the dirt? Do you take it into consideration when you play at home?
Coach Olson: At times when we’re in field goal range just to make it possibly a little bit easier if we are in a situation where we’ll maybe be kicking a field goal I’ve been made aware of that. Really we try and tell our players, ‘Don’t worry' — much like if it were snowing or raining — 'don’t worry about the conditions. Just go out and play.’ It’s the same for both teams. Other than if it’s getting down in that fringe where the grass and the infield start to merge together, we just want to make sure that if we have a chance, that ‘Seabass’ [
Q: The Chargers have had a lot of injuries to their edge rushers, especially with [Dwight] Freeney going down. [Melvin] Ingram went down early. Do you see that maybe as a weakness on that defense given that they have a lot of youth and not a lot of experience?
Coach Olson: We wouldn’t see it as a weakness. In my opinion, certainly [Dwight] Freeney is a great player and has been a great player over time. I think it’s a big loss for them. When you look at the big scheme and when they signed and what they’re expecting from him, I’m certain that they feel that’s a big loss for them. Again, as we evaluate and we scheme against that defense, I’m happy he’s not playing. I’d say that. I’m happy he’s not going to be part of that mix.
Q: Obviously your focus is on your roster and what you have at your disposal, but you had Josh Freeman a couple of years ago in Tampa. He was released today. What are your thoughts on him as a player?
Coach Olson: I’ve always been a fan of Josh [Freeman]’s as a person and a player. It was unfortunate, for me, to watch what happened in Tampa really over the last couple of years. I’ve always had the utmost respect for him. I think he’s a great player. I feel bad for him and the entire situation and how it’s played out. I just found out myself coming off the field that he was released. I don’t think there are any winners for anybody in that situation.