Time to give Terrelle Pryor a start?


Time to give Terrelle Pryor a start?

ALAMEDA -- Limping along at 3-10 while carrying around a six-game losing streak like some silver and black albatross, the line between trying to win games and playing youngsters for evaluation is a thin one indeed for Raiders first-year general manager Reggie McKenzie and rookie coach Dennis Allen.

But it's one they have to navigate with three games left in the season, including the home finale on Dec. 16 against Kansas City.

So yeah, the time is growing nearer -- if it has not already passed -- for the Raiders to throw third-string quarterback Terrelle Pryor into a game. Maybe even start him in a not-so-hostile atmosphere in Oakland against the Chiefs, to give him a better opportunity to succeed.

But not with the sense that starter Carson Palmer is being benched, or with the understanding that backup Matt Leinart has been surpassed on the depth chart. Rather, the Raiders need to see what Pryor can do in a game, against legit NFL defensive players, and not the third-stringers and washouts he faced in the exhibition season.

Pryor is the most intriguing player on the roster but the questions surrounding him as a potential NFL quarterback are outnumbered only by his athletic skill. Meaning, the Raiders have to see if he is indeed cut out to be a QB for them.

"I think the biggest thing is to start getting him in a game, a little bit of game action," Allen said Friday. "I'm not ready to say that he would be a starter. I think that Carson, obviously, he's made a couple of mistakes the last couple of weeks but yet, Carson's been one of the reasons why, specifically, earlier in the year, why we had a chance in certain games.

"So I'm not down on Carson at all. Obviously, we want to see some of these younger guys play."

The first name Allen drops is that of offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, the first player drafted by the McKenzie-Allen regime. But a grunt does not move the needle like Pryor. Then again, no one on the Raiders roster moves the needle like Pryor…even if, as the joke goes, he could not thread one with a pass.

"What we have to understand as players and coaches, we've got look to the future also," Allen said. "We're trying to go out there and win and it's our job to go out there and win on a ay-to-day basis.

"This process is not an overnight process; it's going to take a little bit of time. So the only way we can continue to move forward is to continue to look at some of these young guys."

In 2005, the Raiders faced a similar situation with Norv Turner as the coach and Kerry Collins under center. Collins was having a decent season stats-wise but even with LaMont Jordan and Randy Moss, the offense was stuck in the mud. And having lost four of five, the Raiders turned to Marques Tuiasosopo.

For a game. Against the New York Jets. In the Meadowlands. In December. Just to see what they had in the popular "Tui."

It didn't work out so well as Tuiasosopo was pummeled for six sacks with 19 yards rushing on two attempts and harassed into a 14-of-26 passing day, for 124 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions in the Raiders' 26-10 defeat.

The next week, Collins was back under center and he finished the season with 3,759 yards passing, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 15 games. The Raiders went 4-12.

The next year, though, Collins was gone. As was Turner.

Palmer, meanwhile, is on pace to pass for 4,683 yards, a mere six yards behind Rich Gannon's 2002 franchise single-season franchise record, with 27 TDs and 17 INTs. That 2002 Raiders team went to the Super Bowl.

"I've got a big-picture view of what I want this football team to look like and Reggie and I have talked about it," Allen said. "And we knew what we were dealing with when we came here, and we knew that we had some depth issues on the roster and we couldn't sustain a lot of injuries and we've sustained some injuries in a few spots.

"We all want to win and I understand that and I want to win now. But I'm looking at the long-term future of this team and we've got to prepare for the future."

Then how close is Allen to having the roster he envisions?

"I wouldn't put any time frame on it," he said. "It's going to take time. It doesn't happen with one decision; it's a cumulation of decisions made over time that gets everything to be exactly how you want it."

LB Smith: High turnover rate is Raiders defense 'finding ways to compete'


LB Smith: High turnover rate is Raiders defense 'finding ways to compete'

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders defense gave up 344 yards Sunday while beating the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That sum’s a season low, still way to many for Malcolm Smith. The Raiders weakside linebacker has higher standards, even after one of two solid defensive efforts in seven games.

“That’s still a lot of yards,” Smith said. “We’re not where we want to be.”

Just because Sunday was better doesn’t mean it’s good enough. The Raiders defense ranks last in yards allowed and 22nd in scoring defense at 25.6 points per game.

There’s a main reason why the Raiders aren’t dead last in both categories. Takeaways.

The Raiders have plundered the opposition this season 13 times in seven games. Special teams got one Sunday on a muffed punt, but the defense has been incredibly active stealing possession.

Reggie Nelson has a nose for the ball, with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Sean Smith and David Amerson have two picks each and Bruce Irvin leads the league with four forced fumbles.

Turnovers make all those yards allowed easy to stomach, and has kept the Raiders in several close games. The force big mistakes and don’t make many, proven with a plus-eight turnover ratio ranked No. 3 overall.

“It’s given us a chance to win some games, where you could just look at other statistics and say we wouldn’t have a chance.” Smith said. “That’s what the game is about, and us finding ways to compete. Hopefully we stay after it that way.”

The Raiders have stayed after it in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 50 percent of opponent trips inside their 20-yard line.

While big plays have brought wins and positivity to the defense, the season’s first half has been difficult for Raiders expecting more.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Smith said. “You come into the year with all these aspirations and things you want to do. When it doesn’t go your way you have to stay after it, keep putting the work in and know it’s not going to be wasted. Hopefully we’re making strides and those improvements will show on Sundays.”

The Raiders believe the defense is close to being good, and has done a solid job masking issues with takeaways and timely production.

“Our team has done a great job of competing to win games,” Smith said. “If we keep doing that, everything will be fine.”

Del Rio pleased with Raiders' mature attitude towards 5-2 start

Del Rio pleased with Raiders' mature attitude towards 5-2 start

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders were certainly happy they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars into submission. They jumped out to a strong halftime lead, played smart complimentary football and, at 33-16, ended up with a large margin of victory.

All, however, was not right with the world.

Derek Carr lamented settling for too many field goals. Latavius Murray wanted more efficiency from his runs. Defensive players saw progress in several deficient areas, still seeking greater cohesion and consistency.

[BAIR: Top 5 takeaways from Raiders' 33-16 win over Jaguars]

Sunday’s big victory over lowly Jacksonville was not a sign they've arrived. It was proof these Raiders remain a work in progress.

Records normally suffer with much to correct. These Raiders are 5-2, and feel better football’s ahead.

“That’s what is great about this team is that we haven’t played our best yet,” Murray said. “That’s a good feeling moving forward, knowing there are things you can get better at and you’re still 5-2.”

Winning while fixing things; that’s a coach’s dream. It’s also easier when players know it, that egos don’t expand and confidence doesn’t become arrogance.

“I like that part. I like the fact that we recognize it,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I’m certainly going to point it out. There are things that we have to do better. I think it’s healthy.

“You should enjoy the wins. You should feel good about the success. Take pride in it. We worked hard for it, but to have a healthy respect for what’s coming and the need to play better and the need to continue to grow as a football team as we go throughout the year. That’s a mature way to look at it, and I’m very pleased about that with a younger team.”

The Raiders are a confident bunch and have survived several games on guts, guile and turnovers -- a recipe for success with inconsistent production.

The Raiders defense believes it made strides in the Jaguars win, though there’s significant work remaining to be a decent defense. With the offense rolling, that’s all the Raiders need to be a top team. Defenders aren’t striving for decent. They want more, and believe that realizing potential could put them in position for a playoff push.

“This team has so much talent, with good coaches and good players,” cornerback David Amerson said. “The sky’s the limit. Once we all start clicking, we can go out there and beat teams 30-0. Once we get to that point, that’s when we can look towards the playoffs and things like that. We have just as much talent as any team in the league.”