Opening Statement:First I'd like to address that Denarius Moore is doing to things that we asked him to do in the offseason. I know a question was asked to me last week regarding Denarius and what he needs to do. We said basically, we've got a young football team, and all of our players need to understand what it takes to win, what it takes to prepare and what you need to do to be successful in the National Football League. We've had those conversations with Denarius, as we've had with a lot of our young players. We have very few players with experience right now on this side of the ball. Khalif Barnes obviously has the most experience that you're looking for, but that wide receiver group is a young group. All those players need to understand the urgency to play in the National Football League, but I have been pleased with Denarius Moore and the way he's approached our training camp. He'll continue to get better.
Q: Coach, [Menelik] Watson is starting at left tackle. He's never played that position. What did you guys see in him to have the confidence to allow him to start right away?
Coach Olson: Well certainly, with the injury to Jared Veldheer, his athleticism gives us what we feel is the best opportunity right now. We thought we'd take a look at him. Although he has not played the position, he's shown some things in the spring OTAs. We thought at that time we were going to experiment a little bit with maybe allowing him to be the swing tackle in case something did happen with Jared, so there was a plan in place. We did like what we saw in spring, so now he's going to get an opportunity to maybe try and step into that role.
Q: What did you see from Menelik [Watson] in practice this week?
Coach Olson: I saw just a very athletic tackle, and powerful. You know it's only been a few days, so he's fresher than a lot of the players that have been here in training camp. We did see the agility and athleticism that we saw in OTAs and were hoping to see when we drafted him.
Q: There was a competition between [Richard] Gordon and [Jeron] Mastrud in the game last week, and I imagine it will continue this week. What have you seen between the two of them?
Coach Olson: Well I still think there's a competition there between those players. They'll both play in this last preseason game, and we'll get a better feel for how the competition comes out at the end of this game. They'll be in competition throughout this game against Seattle.
Q: How did Menelik [Watson] handle the period of inactivity, of not being able to practice?
Coach Olson: He's a very intelligent player, and again, that's one of the things that jumped out at us in our pre-draft meetings. He's very intelligent, so he stayed in it. He was involved in all the meetings with [offensive line coach] Tony Sparano and the offensive line. He was out on the practice field. He's a guy that will ask a lot of questions, so that hasn't been an issue. I know that the weight room staff and the training staff had him constantly in rehabilitation, so he took care of that and did what he was supposed to do in those areas. Again, he's a very intelligent player. Mentally, he still has some things he's going to have to see. In order to see it you have to play, so he's going to play a little bit. Baptism by fire, but he is a very intelligent player.
Q: You talked about playing up your players' strengths and building an offense to suit that. Now with Terrelle [Pryor] out there, it seemed like you were concentrating on having a package of plays that would suit him well. Now he could wind up being a starter. Do you have to expand that package?
Coach Olson: Yeah, and really we've been adding to that package since we got here. His role all the time has been that he's been in competition. We signed Matt [Flynn] with the thought being that he's going to come in and be the starter, and we would have that package for Terrelle. But Terrelle has done some things in these preseason games that we've been excited about; stuff that a lot of people are excited about. With his success on the field, we'll continue to add to that package. It was the thought process going in to it. There wasn't a big package for him a year ago, so we had to absorb that first part. As we continue to grow offensively, we'll continue to add plays for Terrelle.
Q: When you watch the film from Friday's game, what did you think about Terrelle [Pryor's] play, and also Matt [Flynn's] play in that game?
Coach Olson: Just the speed of Terrelle when you look at him on the field and you're looking for playmakers, I think, and I haven't seen a lot of it so far, but I have seen in practices, the speed of a Darren McFadden, and you know who the fast players on your team are. When you see Terrelle in a game, he just looks faster than the other players on the field. That's what jumped out at me, and probably jumped out at most people when they watch him play. He can run. He is a tremendous athlete, and he's got the ability to make plays. Right now we're looking for playmakers.
Q: How does Darren [McFadden] fit in when a guy like Terrelle [Pryor] is under center? How does that change what he's being asked to do, and do you think he's a good fit with both of them back there?
Coach Olson: I don't think Darren's role will change other than maybe some of the exchange work between a running back and a read-option quarterback. Other than getting more work there, his role really won't change.
Q: How has Terrelle [Pryor] looked in more of your standard base offense? Is that still in play when you use him?
Coach Olson: Yeah, I still think he's developing. He's still developing as a quarterback. We'll continue to work to develop him as that player, but we don't want to take away from his strengths. Again, he's got kind of a dual role. He's going to be that athletic quarterback that we are going to ask to carry the football, but we need him to develop as a passer as well.
Q: Understandably, you're not using [Darren] McFadden a lot in the preseason. Most teams don't want to use their starting running back a lot in the preseason. When you see him in practice, do you still see the guy that you saw on film here two years ago?
Coach Olson: I see the speed from Darren McFadden. Now we haven't gone into any real live performance where he's going to carry it 20 times a game, but I don't see wear and tear on this running back. I don't see decline in speed. We'll get a chance to see more when the regular season gets going, but we believe that we have a real fine running back.
Q: The NFL seems to be moving in a direction of mobile, running quarterbacks. At one time everybody was against that because guys got hurt. Then you have [Robert Griffin III], you have [Colin] Kaepernick and now you have Terrelle [Pryor]. Is that the way the league is going?
Coach Olson: I don't know. I do believe that certainly there's been some success at the collegiate level, but it does not obviously transfer completely here to the National Football League. I still believe that a lot of people still have mixed opinions on whether or not it will be a lasting fad, just based on the health of the quarterbacks. We saw what happened to RG III. He had a significant knee injury a year ago, so I always feel in the NFL with a 16-game schedule, or a 20-game schedule including the preseason, that there are a lot of games. We always talk about how to lessen the free hitters on our quarterbacks. I think every team in the league wants to lessen the number of free hits that a quarterback takes or unnecessary hits on a quarterback. Certainly he's going to take his fair share of tackles just from people getting beat, but when you're asking to put the ball in his hands and carry the football, time will tell whether or not it will be able to last.
Q: Is it too dangerous for a quarterback to carry often because eventually he'll get beat up?
Coach Olson: A lot of people say that, but I'll tell you what, a lot of these collegiate quarterbacks coming out, they're ready to shoulder that load. There's a different mindset somewhat. I still believe, and you heard it from RGIII this year, that he's going to be a little bit more careful about when to slide, when to get out of bounds and how to pick and choose when he's going to take those hits.
Q: Are your guards operating at the level you want them to be at this close to the start of the season?
Coach Olson: As we move forward, we're seeing progress from our football team. We'll find out here in the first week, but we're continuing with a plan. We like the plan that we have in place, and we'll continue with it.
Q: Coach what kind of test is playing in Seattle, and how much is that going to prepare you for the regular season?
Coach Olson: It's one of the loudest stadiums in the league. I think most people who have played in that stadium would agree. It'll give us a chance to be on the road in a hostile environment. It'll give us our second opportunity. We've played in a dome stadium that was very loud. Now we'll get a chance to play in an outdoor stadium that's considered one of the loudest. I think any time you have that type of preparation before the regular season, it's going to help you.
Q: Usually a lot of teams like to wind down in the fourth preseason game. A lot of the starters are out early. In this game with your quarterback and left tackle position, is there more going on in this game?
Coach Olson: Yeah, I believe that when your roster isn't completely set, when you don't have a team full of returning starters or you have injuries that maybe force you to evaluate some players, then that does change going into the fourth preseason game. It is what it is. Those guys that are going to be asked to play will play. They'll get some experience, and I think it will be very good experience for our football team.
Q: Why do you think Matt [Flynn] struggled in the game last Friday?
Coach Olson: There are a number of different reasons. Some of it is bad luck. If he has a protection error, that's not on Matt Flynn at all. Where a free hitter comes, that's not Matt Flynn there. We have an illegal formation, that's not Matt Flynn's error. That takes away a pass there. When you get started in a game like that, confidence has something to do with it. Maybe his confidence got rattled a little bit early on. A number of other factors could have come up. He has played better. He will play better. We expect him to play better, and he expects it out of himself.