In year two with the Washington Redskins, everything has slowed down for defensive end Stephen Bowen.
The practices, the playbook, the formations, the schedule, and even living in northern Virginia all makes sense to the seventh-year lineman. That wasn't the case at this point last year.
"I was learning on the run last year," he admitted. "I didn't expect the type of blocks I got, and now everything is slowed down for me. I know what blocks to expect in certain formations.
"I feel more comfortable in the defense this year and it allows me to be more aggressive in the way I play."
That aggression has already made an impression on his coaches.
"Stephen's playing about as good as I've ever seen that position played," said defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. "I think he's impressive. He's had some good games and hopefully he'll continue that the rest of the year in that spot."
After dealing with the personal loss of his newborn child and mother-in-law last season, combined with a mid-season knee injury, Bowen said he has peace of mind this season and a clean bill of health.
"I had my knee scoped in the offseason and it was sore coming into camp," he said. "I had some confidence issues, but the more I started running on it, it didn't bother me at all.
"I had to believe I could do this stuff again. When camp first started I felt like I was thinking about my leg more than the play. After like two or three days that went away."
Bowen already saw the most snaps on the defensive line, but when Adam Carriker was lost for the season, he noticed that his job became more difficult.
"Last game I got a lot double teams," he said. "I guess people think highly of me if they're going to double team me. But I just have to keep working.
"When we get a one-on-one matchup, we just have to do our jobs and hope someone makes a mistake."
Second-year defensive end Jarvis Jenkins stepped into Carriker's spot on the defensive line in Week 2 and has played remarkably well in what amounts to his rookie season.
Through three-and-a-half games, Jenkins has seven tackles and has helped plug one of the biggest holes on defense.
"Jarvis has a tremendous amount of talent and I just try to help him slow down the game," Bowen said. "The scheme that you're getting into out there and what people are trying to do to you. It becomes a lot easier if you know what you think you're going to get before it happens."
Bowen finished last season with a defensive line-leading six sacks on 22 quarterback pressures, combined with 58 tackles and a fumble recovery.
While he would like to see his performance improve in 2012, Bowen refused to limit himself with numbers.
"I'm just trying to dominate the person in front of me and do my job and help my team win. That's all I care about," he said. "Honestly, I've never been a big stat guy. I could finish with no sacks this year but if we win a championship I don't care.
"Whatever I can do to help us win."
Bowen also understands that being a defensive lineman is the ultimate team player. Not only is his job to keep the linebackers clean to make plays, but he also finds glory in the triumphs of his fellow linemen.
"We kind of work on a string up front," he explained. "In the run game, if one of us is out of our gap, we can get creased over the safety. We need to jell together on pass rush; work well together, and work to each other's strengths."
Last season against the Vikings, the Redskins defense got creased for 241 rushing yards, including a 100-yard performance to backup running back Toby Gerhart.
The Redskins lost that game 33-26 at FedExField on Christmas Eve.
"They creased us a couple of times in the running game," Bowen recalled. "I want to definitely eliminate that and I think so far this season we've done a good job up front at stopping the run. Hopefully we keep it going."
Last week against the Falcons, the Redskins allowed a season-low 83 rushing yards, including a 67 to starting running back Michael Turner.
By making the Falcons one-dimensional late in the game, they gave themselves a chance to win twice in the final two minutes of the game.
"First is just stopping the run, making them one dimensional," Bowen explained. "Then when we get an opportunity to get to the quarterback, we've got to do a good job harassing him.
"Teams want to stay balanced, even in today's pass-happy league. They want to keep you on your toes because if they're creasing you on the run and then they do a play action play; it's a touchdown because you have to put more people in the box.
"If we can stop them up front with fewer people in the box, you're going to give your back end more opportunity to make plays."