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Olson Putting Offensive Puzzle Together

Posted Jun 18, 2014

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson spoke to the media after the second practice of the Raiders mandatory three-day mini-camp.

Q: What have you thought about the passing game the last two days?

Coach Olson: “It’s not where we need to be yet. It’s typical to me at this time of year. Still getting some timing down between the new quarterback and new wide receivers. It’s about where I expected it to be.”

Q: Has there been anything about Matt Schaub that has surprised you?

Coach Olson: “He’s about what we thought he was. He’s a guy that’s obviously has experience and that shows in the way that he manages a game and manages the huddle. Obviously he’s an accurate player. He’s good in the pocket. He’s got a good pocket presence in there. He’s got good leadership skills, he’s very intelligent. He’s shown the accuracy right now that we’re looking for.”

Q: Is the arm strength there?

Coach Olson: “Yeah, I think the arm strength is there. What you’ve seen over the years with him, he’s definitely got a strong enough arm still to play at this level.”

Q: Did you initially expect that Derek Carr might be holding a clipboard and not playing much on the field?

Coach Olson: “I just think that every player develops differently. You don’t really have a feel until you get a player in the room and you get a chance to have him in a meeting room session. Then you get a chance to get a feel for his intelligence and for his confidence. He’s a guy that’s got a great amount of confidence. He’s an extremely intelligent player. He’s one of those guys that you don’t feel the game is too big for him. There’s not any anxiety or nervousness when he enters the huddle. He’s played in a lot of football games, that helped him, playing in a lot of football games at Fresno. I think being around the NFL with his brother [David] has helped him become a mature player. He’s a very mature player and because of that, we felt after being around him that we should accelerate that learning curve for this player. Let’s give him a chance to get in there with the one and two huddle and see how he does.”

Q: You’ve got two running backs that you’re trying to turn back the clock on for various reasons. After that, it’s pretty much a jumble in terms of the other players. What do you see at that position?

Coach Olson: “We’re looking for big things from Latavius Murray right now, coming off the foot injury. He’s shown, to me, the biggest upside right now in what we’ve seen thus far, if he can stay healthy. Kory Sheets has played a lot of football coming straight to us from Canada and he’s shown some flashes. I think there’s probably a role for him. He’s not your big back, he’s more of a back that you can move back in the slot and can help you in the passing game. George [Atkinson III], right now, is just a young player that’s learning at this point.”

Q: You’ve made a lot of changes in the offensive line. How’s that going?

Coach Olson: “We like it. In Austin Howard and Donald Penn have been two great additions for us. Gabe Jackson is coming along as a rookie, we’re happy with his progress. Certainly it’s a much bigger offensive line. We’ve got some guys in Austin and Donald that have played a lot of games in the NFL and have a pretty good feel right now for fronts and blitzes and those things that occur up front. We like the experience that they bring. We also like their size. Really, we think Austin Howard is still a young player and still will develop and grow. He’s a good player now but he’ll become a better player. The big fear with the running backs is you worry about the age factor. Having been with Donald in Tampa, I haven’t noticed that. Usually, as a coach, you can notice when a coach starts to lose his legs a little bit and he’s been pretty good thus far.”

Q: How much of your experience with Donald helped bring him in?

Coach Olson: “I think sometimes change of scenery works for a player. Certainly that’s our thought in bringing him here. I know that he’s comfortable with the system that we run here. I think that [assistant head coach/offensive line coach] Tony Sparano will get the most out of him. I think he’ll thrive under a coach like Tony. He needs someone that’s on him and that’s how Tony coaches. I think Tony will bring the best out of Donald.”

Q: Is anyone standing apart at tight end?

Coach Olson: “It’s still really [David] Ausberry and [Mychal] Rivera that are the two guys that have separated themselves, to me.”

Q: The team didn’t bring in big names at the tight end position. Is there anybody who has pleasantly surprised you?

Coach Olson: “Not at this point, because it’s difficult. Both of those players, Ausberry and Rivera, their true positions are more of an ‘F,’ because they’re serviceable blockers but they’re not dominant blockers. There aren’t a lot of those in the NFL at the tight end position. If you’re looking for a true ‘Y,’ we’re hoping the other two tight ends, [Nick] Kasa and Bemidji [Brian Leonhardt], might be able to fill. We won’t know that until we get to the fall when we get the pads on and are able to strike somebody and play in a live game situation. We’ll found out a little bit about the tight end situation in the fall.”

Q: How much does it help to have versatility within the offensive line?

Coach Olson: “I think it helps tremendously. With Austin Howard being able to play either, really. He’s a right tackle, but he probably could move out to the left. We don’t see that, we see him as a guy that can play right guard and could swing to the right tackle for us. We think Penn could play both positions for us. Menelik Watson, the same way with him, he can be a swing guy and he could probably move inside as a guard. The big thing for us this year is that we stay healthy. Right now there’s pretty good chemistry in that room. They’re a pretty young room in there. I think that continuity is extremely important. It’s important that they’re in the second year in the system. The second year of hearing things from Tony and myself, and I think that’s important, too. The players that were here last year, they know the expectations. They’re real familiar now. Having the same center helps, with ‘Wiz’ [Stefen Wisniewski]. We’re excited about all the new guys, including Kevin Boothe. We’re excited about the group we’ve put together up front.”

Q: Menelik Watson told us last year that he didn’t know how much it took to take care of his body, to learn the playbook, etc. He said he wanted to get a nutritionist, a trainer, etc. Have you seen that? Coach Olson: “We’ve seen a lot of growth. He’s got to stay healthy for us, above all. But, tremendous growth from him. We knew he was a very talented player. You don’t see men of his size with the kind of feet that he has. We had high expectations of him and he had high expectations for himself. There’s a steep learning curve for any rookie coming in at any position coming in. The physical presence of an offensive lineman and understanding what a man’s game it really is to play from college to the NFL, that’s the biggest thing for your linemen, on either side of the ball. It really becomes a man’s game in there. We’ve seen growth from him. We’ll know more when we get into live situations, but we’ve got high expectations and he has high expectations as well.”