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Raiders improve but Allen knows more needed, likes progress made by rookie linebacker

Dennis Allen has seen improvement on just about every part of his team. With only one win in five games, the Oakland Raiders rookie coach realizes it's not enough.

Not even taking unbeaten Atlanta to the wire before losing on Matt Bryant's 55-yard field goal in the final seconds provided Allen with a sense that Oakland has turned the corner.

"We've got to learn how to finish and win those types of games," Allen said Monday. "That's what our job is. This is a production business. It's about winning and losing, and we weren't able to get it done yesterday."

The Raiders put up season highs in rushing yards (149) and total offense (474) while the defense held the Falcons to 286 yards and intercepted Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan three times after getting zero through their first four games.

Definite progress, though at 1-4 it's difficult to see.

"I definitely feel like we're improving," rookie linebacker Miles Burris said. "But I don't believe in moral victories and I don't feel good about losing. A loss is a loss and a win's a win."

Help could be on the way — at least for the defense.

Linebacker Aaron Curry is expected to come off the physically unable to perform list and join the Raiders in practice Wednesday. Curry started nine games last year for Oakland after being acquired in an October trade from Seattle but has not played since undergoing knee surgery in the offseason.

The Raiders will have a roster exemption for three weeks while deciding what to do with Curry, who must be added to the 53-man roster, be cut or placed on injured reserve when the exemption expires.

"We anticipate him practicing on Wednesday and we'll start from there," Allen said. "We're going to get him out there and let him run around, see where he's at and begin the evaluation process to figure out if and when he's going to be available on the roster."

The fourth overall pick in 2009, Curry lined up primarily as a weakside linebacker for Oakland last season but also spent time in the middle when Rolando McClain was hurt.

While citing concern over Curry's conditioning — he hasn't played in a game of any sort since Jan. 1 — Allen said the team is comfortable using Curry anywhere in the defense.

"We've got a plan in place for him to be able to potentially play in any of those three spots," Allen said. "Health-wise he's going to be OK. It's the fact of being able to get back into football shape and football condition, really in a short period of time."

Curry's addition comes as the Raiders are shaking things up in their nickel package on defense.

McClain, the eighth overall pick in 2010, played only 31 percent of the snaps in Sunday's loss to Atlanta after being replaced by Burris, who played in all 55 defensive snaps against the Falcons when the Raiders stayed almost exclusively in the nickel.

The move happened two weeks after McClain played in all but three snaps of Oakland's loss to Denver.

Allen plans on sticking with the new look, too.

"I would anticipate moving forward that we would kind of keep that same role for (Burris)," Allen said. "Every week we're going to evaluate and see where we're at, but I thought he did enough yesterday in the game to earn the right to be back out there again in nickel situations."

Ironically, Burris was initially put in the Raiders starting lineup because of Curry's health issues.

Now he's earned the spot outright.

"I feel pretty solid about it," said Burris, Oakland's fourth-round pick this year. "The win was the most important thing, and obviously everybody can play better if we didn't win. But I feel like I'm improving. I'm becoming more comfortable out there,"

Note: Right guard Mike Brisiel suffered a concussion in the second quarter of Sunday's game and will have to pass a series of tests before getting cleared to practice.

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