After spending the entirety of the 2017 season on the sideline due a torn pectoral muscle, Jets safety Doug Middleton is ready to contribute.
"Even though I've been on the practice squad and I got hurt, I've still been in the same defense for three years," Middleton said. "We haven't had the same defensive backs coach, but it's pretty much the same thing as far as a defensive standpoint. I don't have to study as hard anymore because I know the ins and outs of the defense. It's really coming a lot faster for me and I'm able to make a lot more plays. I just want to be a piece to help this team win."
The second-year player said he feels calmer on the field and the game has slowed down "100 times" compared to the last time he took the field in August when he tore his pec and landed on injured reserve. Middleton said he can see route concepts more easily and he has a better understanding of how the offense is trying to attack the defense.
"It was a tough situation not being able to play. I wanted to be on the field with my brothers and stuff," he said. "But at the same time, I was able to capitalize on the opportunity and use it to get a couple things right off the field as far as school, finishing up my masters in public administration, and my foundation.
"I also feel like I got to see the game from a different angle. When you're injured, it kind of slows the game down a lot. You prepare the same way as if you're playing, so you see a lot of different things. But at the same time, you're not on the field. A lot of things you missed because you're on the field, you get to see those. It was definitely a good opportunity that I was able to capitalize on."
Best Shots of the Safeties at Media Day and on the Field
The Appalachian State product took first-team reps in minicamp, filling in for the injured Marcus Maye (ankle), alongside Jamal Adams. Middleton said the opportunity to run with the ones was "huge" and he strives to continue to take advantage of opportunities that come his way from defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson.
"I feel like we got better every day and that's the same way I feel about myself," he said. "I feel like we all came to work every day. Everything might not have went our way every single day, but we learned from our mistakes and as a coach, that's all he asks of us — not to be a repeat mistake offender. Just learn from it every day and keep stacking days. I feel like each day we came out here and got better and we can tie it all together by the time the season starts."
The 6'0", 210-pounder will go home to Winston-Salem, NC and train in Miami during his time off before he reports to One Jets Drive for the start of training camp. This year, Middleton enters camp with a simple message from Wilson.
"Stay healthy. That's what he's been telling me," Middleton said. "Stay on the field and stay healthy. If I can do that, I can definitely step on the field and help this team. I feel like that's my main goal. I want to do whatever I can to take care of my body. The last two years I've had an injury in camp both times, so I just want to be able to put my best foot forward the whole camp and actually see what happens. That's what I'm focused on right now and I know the rest would take care of itself.