Olson loves Carr’s competitiveness, leadership

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he discussed the prospect of removing quarterback Derek Carr from the Broncos game once it got out of hand.
By the time Olson got around to talking with Carr, it became clear that Carr wasn’t going anywhere but back on the field for the next possession.
“There was no point in that game where he wanted to be taken out,” Olson said. “When you have a young quarterback like that, that has struggled a little bit, that’s a very good sign. He said, ‘I want to get this and I want to score a touchdown with here with this group, coach. I don’t want to be the guy that is taken out. I don’t want guys to feel like I am letting them down or I am not going to be out there with them.’ That was encouraging.”
That endeared Carr to Olson and probably his teammates, as well.
“You’re always looking for a competitive guy,” Olson said. That’s one of the major traits that you look for in a quarterback. They have to be competitive. They have to hate to lose. And they’ve got to hate the thought of being taken out of a game.”
On Wednesday, Carr said he felt it important that he be on the field for the final drive, to show how much he cares, to end on a positive note and just because that’s where he feels he belongs at all times.
“I should be out there no matter what, good, bad or ugly,” Carr said. “For a long time, it was ugly. For me, it was really important to continue to finish. I’m all about finishing, so it was really important to me to go out there and finish.”
Olson and the Raiders worked out Carr before the draft and attended his workout at Fresno State. Still, there’s only so much you can learn about a player in a short period of time, especially in such a controlled environment.
Now that Olson is around Carr on an every-day basis, he has a much better feel for what Carr can do.
“He’s much better in the pocket,” Olson said. “It’s a different game than in college. In college, it was a lot of the quick screens and some of those things that he’ll still rely on at this level.
“But, when the pocket collapses, it’s so much faster in the NFL. It’s more of a true standing in the pocket, as opposed to in college, you don’t have the edge rushers that you have in the NFL. There is really not a pocket for some of those guys. Just his feel in the pocket has been impressive.”

– Here’s the practice report, as delivered by coach Tony Sparano:
“From an injury standpoint, David Ausberry did not practice with a foot. Khalif Barnes was limited today with a quad. TJ Carrie did not practice today with an ankle. Chimdi Chekwa was full today in practice. Jonathan Dowling with a back did not practice. DJ Hayden was limited today with a groin. Gabe Jackson did not practice today with a knee. Jamize Olawale was limited today with a hamstring. Carlos Rogers did not practice, knee. Justin Tuck did not practice, neck. Menelik Watson was back today and he was limited.”

– Hayden returned to practice after having missed Wednesday. Still, he isn’t at full strength, which is pause for concern as the Chargers game nears.
“DJ was able to do a fair amount,” Sparano said. “We had a limit on what we wanted him to do today. Today was a third-down day, with a couple of additional periods in there. We really just let him play third downs today.”
Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said that Hayden had his moments against the Broncos last Sunday. In particular, Hayden made a nice grab of an errant pass by Peyton Manning for an interception. Just the same, Hayden showed that he is a player who isn’t experienced.
As a result, Hayden’s play lends itself to inconsistency. Tarver is confident that Hayden will get past that as long as he’s able to remain healthy and play on a regular basis.
“It’s a product of experience and it’s a product of continuing to listen based on sets, formations and calls to start the down correctly,” Tarver said. “There’s a lot of times where he started the down correctly and made great plays, and there’s a few downs where he kind of went, ‘I’m not quite sure about this split.’ Well, make sure about that split. The best way to get better at playing football is playing football. He’s continuing to get better.”

– Sparano learned what Austin Howard is capable of doing when they were members of the New York Jets. So, when Howard hit free agency this past offseason, Sparano endorsed the prospect of bringing him aboard in Oakland.
Before that happened, Sparano wanted to make sure that Howard wanted to play for the Raiders and that he didn’t have an issue with converting from offensive tackle to guard.
Nine games in to the new team and new position, Sparano said:
“It’s gone pretty well. Austin still has areas that he can improve on. He’s just a young player. He’s only played in the game now for four years here. He’s got areas he can improve on. They all do. I’ve seen good progress out of him. All of a sudden, his sets are a lot better. He’s using his hands better.”
Things happen much quicker on the interior of the offensive line. Therefore, it’s not an easy transition to go from tackle to guard, Sparano said.
Last Sunday, Howard showed that he is more than capable of playing both positions and that he’s still making progress.
“I felt like in the ball game, he played probably one of his better games fundamentally, from a technique standpoint,” Sparano said. “That was a pretty good game for Austin.”

– James Jones caught eight passes for only 20 yards against the Broncos. He wasn’t the only one who struggled to get open downfield or make yards after the catch.
There isn’t any one issue, Olson said. It’s a matter of taking more chances, the receivers doing a better job of getting open and Carr being all-in with the play call.
“Some of it is trying to design ways to get guys open down the field,” Olson said. “We’ll (approach) it that way. Schematically, how do we help our receivers create separation, get separation down the field? And also, how do we convince Derek, at times, again the trust factor of knowing that” the receiver will be in the proper spot.

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Breaking Down The Chargers

* The skinny: The Chargers lost their past three games and last won a game when they played the Raiders on Oct. 12. They got outscored 95-41 in those three losses. Few remember that the Chargers won five straight games after a one-point loss to the 8-1 Arizona Cardinals in their opener. This is the kind of game that the Chargers have to win if they are to emerge from a crowded field of playoff hopefuls. The Chargers feature a pass-heavy attack because of their inability to run the ball well. The expected return of lead back Ryan Mathews figures to give the run game a much-needed jolt and take pressure off quarterback Philip Rivers in the passing game.

* Players to fear/Offense
Rivers. He has 20 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. He also has completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,351 yards.
WR Malcom Floyd. He is third on the Chargers with 28 receptions. However, he has averaged 18.9 yards per reception and scored three touchdowns as the big-play threat.
TE Antonio Gates. Nine of his 35 receptions went for touchdowns the first nine games. He always tends to give the Raiders fits.

* Players to fear/Defense
S Eric Weddle. He leads the Chargers with 61 tackles. He also has a penchant for making game-changing plays, especially against the Raiders.
DE Corey Liuget. His 2 ½ sacks are more than anyone else on the team. However, his real value lies in his ability to be a disruptive force in the passing game on a consistent basis.
CB Brandon Flowers. He has two of San Diego’s four interceptions this season. He also tends to match up against the opposing team’s top receiver.

* Key numbers
3.1 – Average yards per carry through nine games, which represents the worst in the league. They also are 30th in average rushing yards per game at 81.8, better than only the Cardinals and Raiders.
14 – Number of field goals made this season by Nick Novak without a miss.
102.6 – Rivers’ passer rating, which is sixth-highest among regular starting quarterbacks
18 – Victories over Raiders in past 22 meetings, dating to second matchup between the team in 2003.

* Injury report: S Jahleel Addae (concussion), WR Seyi Ajirotutu (non-injury related), LB Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring), LB Dwight Freeney (non-injury related), NT Sean Lissemore (quadriceps), RB Ryan Mathews (knee), C/G Rich Ohrnberger (back), LB Manti Te’o (foot) and CB Jason Verrett (shoulder)

* Vegas says: Chargers by 10

* What others are saying: Twelve of the 13 so-called ESPN experts that predict the outcome of games each week have the Chargers beating the Raiders.

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