NAPA, Calif. -- Trevor Scott is impressed with how easily Oakland rookie linebacker Rolando McClain has adapted to the NFL, and he marvels at his smooth adjustment to pro ball.
Scott's own transformation -- from a pass-rushing rookie defensive end to the Raiders' best linebacker last season -- also has gone well.
The move, which began as an experiment midway through the 2009 season, resulted in Scott tying for the team lead in sacks for a second straight season. It also firmly established him as Oakland's third-best defensive player behind perennial Pro Bowlers Richard Seymour and Nnamdi Asomugha.
Now as the senior member of the linebacking corps, alongside McClain and newcomer Kamerion Wimbley, Scott's next step is to get the Raiders back into the postseason after a seven-year absence.
"I can't even describe how much more comfortable I am as far as alignment, assignment and just knowing my responsibilities," Scott said. "Last year was just kind of like run and go and just go find the ball. I understand things so much better now."
Oakland's linebacking corps has undergone a complete makeover since the start of the 2009 season. Leading tackler and middle linebacker Kirk Morrison was traded to Jacksonville during the NFL draft in April. Thomas Howard, a starter on the weak side for the past four seasons, now is buried on the depth chart. Ricky Brown, the starter on the strong side, is behind McClain in the middle.
Scott, who replaced Howard in the starting lineup, provided an instant spark when he changed positions last year after tying for the team lead in sacks as a rookie in 2008.
In his first game at linebacker, Scott had a season-high six tackles and two sacks. He picked up a sack in each of the following two games and finished with seven overall, matching Greg Ellis for the team lead.
"It was definitely tougher than it looked," Scott said. "I had so much help with guys getting me lined up and stuff like that. Now I just feel like it's going to be a good move as far as me being comfortable and confident. We have a lot of different things we're doing right now. I want to put confidence in them to be able to do all the different types of things they want me to do."
"The OTAs were really good for him" Cable said. "That's where you saw him settle in and really get more comfortable. He's picked up here in camp where he left off then."
The Raiders need all the help they can get to fix a defense that ranked 26th overall and 29th against the run in 2009.
Morrison recorded at least 115 tackles in each of his five seasons in Oakland but too many of them were being made downfield. That's why Oakland used the eighth overall pick in April's draft on McClain, the consensus top linebacker coming out of college, then traded Morrison to Jacksonville.
McClain was immediately thrown into the starting lineup and has impressed his teammates and coaches ever since.
"He's definitely a put-up-or-shut-up type of guy," Scott said. "He came into a new environment, going from a 3-4 to a 4-3, and being the leader of the defense as a rookie and having all these vets trying to get the calls from him ... he's taken it in stride. For him to come in and be the leader of the defense is pretty tremendous."
NOTES: QB Bruce Gradkowski (groin) didn't attend practice, lowering his chances of playing in the preseason opener Thursday at Dallas. QB Charlie Frye (wrist) also didn't practice but might rejoin practice Tuesday. ... DT John Henderson injured his left knee during a team scrimmage but was able to finish practice. ... CB Asomugha cut his practice short because of a sore leg.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press