Now emerging in his most productive state yet as a Buffalo Bill, Arthur Moats has shirked three years of flip-flopping responsibilities.
In Mike Pettine's defense, he's taken on the role of a run defender at inside linebacker this season. Under the previous coaching staff his responsibilities ran the entire linebacker gamut under coaching staffs of Buffalo's past.
"It was definitely frustrating," Moats told Buffalobills.com. "Through my time and my experience of flip-flopping positions and stuff I started to understand the schemes and the coverage."
Moats said that experience was great for his career now, as he understands the whole defense.
"I looked at it as a learning experience," Moats said. "I took it as an advantage for me, because in the long run, as in now, I'm able to understand 'Well in the SAM (strong side linebacker) this is what he's thinking about, the RUSH (linebacker) this is what he thinks about, the MIKE (middle linebacker) this is what he thinks about.' This helps me out so I know my responsibilities and where I can get help."
Drafted to the Bills in 2010, his world was only that of a pass rushing defensive end at James Madison University. He never would have predicted settling into the role he has now.
"When I was coming out, out of the 32 teams, probably 28 of them said you're probably an outside guy, probably a SAM (linebacker) because you do have that athletic ability," Moats said. "But when I came here, this was one of the teams that said we want you inside. I remember my first year, I was like 'Man I don't have a clue what I'm doing.'"
Now that he's finally settled into a routine role, his fourth season in Buffalo shows nothing but success. He's already eclipsed his tackle count for each year prior at 20 solo tackles and 39 combined tackles after finishing Week 8.
Pro Football Focus rated him third on the team for run defense — behind only Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus — citing his total tackle count and his 13 run stops. He even has a quarterback hit on the season.
"He's very motivational," said Manny Lawson. "He's a young guy, but a lot of guys look up to him. And when it comes down to our run game, we know we can depend on Arthur coming downhill even if he's not going to make the tackle."
Teammates agreed the defense is tailored to the talent at hand.
"(Pettine) custom fit it for everybody out here. In training camp, I personally wouldn't feel comfortable with certain things," Moats said. "Every week he's adjusted it so we're all comfortable with the assignments we're asked to do."
Looking ahead, Pettine's defense will be modifying to shore up some holes in their run defense, like long runs or preventing running backs from gaining an extra one or two yards.
"The biggest thing is focusing on technique and the fundamentals of things," Moats said. "A lot of times, we'll have good initial contact on a runner. We just have to make him go down right then, and not give him that those extra yards, because that adds up."
Lawson said the defense is right there, it just has to reach its full potential.
"You have to have everybody, all 11 guys, doing their jobs and job responsibilities," he said. "Not one guy being beat. When we all win our responsibility, the run game is shut down."
Looking at reaching his own potential, Moats said mental toughness is key, but the defense will win out by their ability to predict what will happen because they've seen it on film.
"The biggest thing for me is the mental aspect of it," Moats said. "Once you get to the league, everybody is going to be strong or fast, but the thing that helps me out, and helps my defense out as well, is the fact that all of us put that time in studying."
Now having just one role to master makes that job a whole lot easier.