There's room for dramatic improvement all over the Bills defense. That's why the team shelled out big money for Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.
But there's also competition from within. And at strong side linebacker, third year veteran Arthur Moats is competing for a starting job. Moats has been getting a regular turn of training camp reps, with the Bills first team defense.
"I definitely think it's a huge opportunity for me," Moats says. "One thing it shows is that the coaches have confidence in me, and it shows that my hard work is paying off. But the main thing is, don't stop here, continue to get better, and show the coaches that I belong with the 'ones.'"
Moats spent his college career at James Madison as an undersized defensive end. And since arriving in Buffalo as a sixth round draft pick, he's worked the last few years at inside linebacker, middle linebacker, and outside linebacker in the Bills 4-3 and 3-4 alignments.
"That's helped me to understand just defense in general," he says. "Coming from college, and just having to play defensive end, I never had to understand coverages and just how everything worked. Having to bounce around from position to position, it helped me understand how this worked and that works, and it helps the puzzle fit together."
The Bills believe that plugging Moats into their strong outside linebacker spot, and keeping him there, has accelerated his progress.
"We finally settled him into one role as an outside backer for us," Head Coach Chan Gailey says. "I think Arthur's handled that very well. He's gotten a lot better, in the OTAs and the minicamp-it made so much difference for him to have that. It's unbelievable."
This summer, it's been one role- one position for Moats, and plenty of reps at that position.
"Mostly, it's at strong side linebacker," he says. "That's the main thing I'm studying right now, just in case of injuries—anything can happen. The main focus right now is the 'Sam'"
Arthur Moats started four games in his rookie season—none last year. He's in position to become a starter this year, possibly moving ahead of eight year vet Kirk Morrison, who arrived last year late in preseason, and never got a chance to find a starting role in the Bills defense.
"It was tough," Morrison says. "I got here late, got the opportunity to come here late in training camp and show them what I could do. But it was an accelerated pace and I was kinda playing catch up for the first part of the year."
When the Bills switched to a 4-3 defense during the offseason, Morrison got penciled in as the starter at strong side linebacker. Penciled in, not etched in stone. Now, Arthur Moats thinks he has a shot to challenge for the job, with a strong performance in this preseason.
"I definitely feel like I am, but it's not going to be easy," says Moats. "Kirk, he's been starting in this league for a while. The best thing about him being here, is I get to see him and learn from it, and take from what he does and get better as myself."
"He has earned some reps from his play in the OTAs and in minicamp. Now here he just picked up right where left off in OTAs and minicamp. He has done a good job. He has been very impressive so far."
It's a classic training camp battle, the veteran, Kirk Morrison, fighting off a challenge for playing time from a young upstart, Arthur Moats. Morrison is up for the fight.
"I wanna make sure that I'm holding up my end of the bargain. We brought in a lot of guys to step it up on defense, Mario Williams, Mark Anderson. You got guys who've already been here--Kyle Williams, Kelsay, Nick Barnett. I just wanna hold up my end of the bargain, and I'm just working hard every day, trying to make sure we're all on the same page, and getting ready for week one."