Doug Middleton's mantra throughout his rookie season remained constant.
"Continue to show progress. Show the coaches I'm someone they can count on in the future," Middleton said. "I just try to get better every week. Play better on special teams, defense and try to make some plays and carry that into the offseason."
The Appalachian State product was a sponge in 2016, trying to learn all he can from his positional colleagues that features Marcus Gilchrist, one of the Jets' defensive quarterbacks and Calvin Pryor, who finished third on the team in total tackles with 79.
"I take a little bit from each one of them," he said. "As far as Gilly, I just look at how he prepares and things that he does. We used to watch film together on off days and I kind of carried that on as far as my routine throughout the week. On our off day, we would watch a couple games of the next team we were about to face to just get a head start before we went in and heard what the coaches would say about the team.
"From CP, I just take his aggressiveness and the way he goes about it. He's very serious about his job and he's always tuned in. I take those things from him and try to mix a little bit of both with my spin, too. I take a little bit from both of them and Tez, too. Tez is a great leader. Taking a little bit from those guys and has definitely helped me grow as a player."
In Middleton's brief stint on the active roster (Weeks 14-17), he registered five tackles, one QB hit and almost came away with an interception against the Dolphins in Week 15.
"I saw the play," he said. "It was three by one meaning we had trips on the left and Matt Moore was staring down Kenny Stills a little bit. I leaned over to that side and I just kind of mistimed the jump a little bit and it slipped through my hand."
The 6'2", 210-pound Middleton said he wants to be able to make that play in the future and pointed to another play in New England he would like to have back. He believes in his ability as a man-coverage defender especially lining up on opposing tight ends and plans to focus on his ball skills this offseason.
The game is starting to slow down for the 23-year-old and he's beginning to digest offenses at an easier rate in defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers' system.
"Man, it's way different mentally as far as when I see in myself now compared to the first rookie minicamp in May, as far as making all the calls and knowing the ins and outs of the defense," Middleton said. "Every day I feel like I'm understanding what other people are supposed to be doing compared to just knowing my job. When I got here I was just so worried about knowing what I have to do. Now I know when somebody else isn't in the right spot or where you're getting help. That helps you a lot when you're out there."