John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsWhile it's been a frustrating year and a half for Raiders coach Dennis Allen

John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsWhile it's been a frustrating year and a half for Raiders coach Dennis Allen

Despite record, Raiders are showing signs of growth

The Raiders still have a chance to turn their season around, but only if they've learned from their defeats.

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor needs to rebound from his panicky showing against the Kansas City Chiefs before the Raiders' bye week. Pryor was under tremendous pressure as the Raiders' offensive line collapsed against the Chiefs' pass rush, but he also made it worse by trying to do too much, reverting to the erratic play that kept him on the bench earlier.

Pryor is much better than that. He showed in earlier games that he can play under control and be an effective quarterback. He needs to go back to that, starting Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers at O.co Coliseum.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson needs to get fullback Marcel Reece involved. Reece has been a great weapon in the recent past because, with his speed, he can be either an effective runner or a great target for deep passes coming out of the backfield, but he's hardly been a factor this year.

The offensive line is still a work in progress but everything went wrong in the Kansas City loss, with two linemen lost to injury. So much of offensive line play is teamwork, and that suffers greatly with injuries. A healthy O-line working together should be a big improvement.

The best part of the Raiders this season has been the young defense, playing hard all the way, a welcome change from overpaid, underproducing veterans like Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly. The pass rush has been strong all season.

Everybody knows that Al Davis left behind a mess when he died. The salary structure was totally out of whack, and the Raiders had serious salary cap problems. General manager Reggie McKenzie had to dump players, some of them good, most not, just to get the salary structure under control and to meet the demands of the salary cap.

That seems obvious, but the media criticism of McKenzie and second-year coach Dennis Allen has been unrelenting.

Perhaps I'd be the same but I remember that Bill Walsh was 2-14 in his first season and just 6-10 in his second season because he inherited a terrible team. In his third season, the 49ers won a Super Bowl, and Walsh won two more and built the team that won a fourth Super Bowl. Jimmy Johnson was 1-15 in his first year as Dallas Cowboys coach, but followed with three Super Bowl champions in four years.

I'm not expecting McKenzie and Allen to win a string of Super Bowls, but I think they'll put out good teams. Give them a chance.

Overall, I like what McKenzie has done, and I think Allen has been learning on the job, too. McKenzie's one misstep was signing quarterback Matt Flynn, but he cut his losses and dropped Flynn early this season. I wish Davis had pulled the plug on JaMarcus Russell that quickly.

The Raiders have a favorable upcoming schedule, with five straight games against teams with losing records. They won't be in the playoffs, but they're on the way back. Next year should be the breakout year and, hopefully, the end of the media negativity.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at glenndickey36@gmail.com.

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