Who Is the Next Man Up in the Jets Secondary?

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Before the season, there may have been grave concern at the thought of the Jets lining up with Marcus Maye at safety. But with Maye already ruled out of Sunday's action against the Vikings due to a thumb injury, the Jets can rest assured they are in good hands with whomever lines up alongside Jamal Adams in Week 7.

"Getting that experience, just having those first few weeks, having the opportunity to step in and do what I can has definitely prepared me for these weeks coming up," said second-year pro Doug Middleton. "I'm hoping to get this opportunity over these next few weeks and hopefully this defense won't lose a beat."

The 6'0", 210-pound Middleton started the Green & White's first three games of the season as Maye worked his way back from a foot injury. He didn't get much action in Weeks 4-6 as Maye returned to his starting role and Terrence Brooks was called upon when Maye when down against the Colts. Middleton, who is the defense's fourth-leading tackler with 21 stops, could get the nod in the defensive backfield Sunday.

"Stay ready, so you don't have to get ready. I still come in with the same mindset as when he {Maye) was healthy," he said. "I just try to do the best that I can to fulfill whatever role the team has me in. I just have to make sure I step up when I'm called upon."

With his locker only a couple of yards away from Adams, Middleton has developed a close relationship with the emerging safety. Middleton ran with the first team throughout the offseason, starting in the spring with OTAs and carrying over to parts of training camp.

"I kind of know what he's going to do and he knows that I'm going to do," said Middleton. "Sometimes we may look at each other and communicate a little bit, but most of the time — we have taken so many reps together — that I can kind of see what he's going to do just by the way he lines up. We kind of make it like that. Since we've had so many reps together, I pretty much know him like the back of my hand what he's going to do in situations."

Adams has become a more complete defender his sophomore campaign, making plays all over the field and stuffing the stat sheet. He is third on the club with 41 tackles and has added five pass defenses, three stops for loss, three QB hits, two forced fumbles and one interception.

"I've seen him take a lot of steps just with his run fits in the box, his communication with other guys, him processing routes, processing plays, being ahead of all the motions and just being able to make a lot more plays," said Middleton. "He's made a lot more plays in the first six games than he did pretty much all of last year from my point of view and has just been more consistent."

Best Images of the Jets on the Practice Field Wednesday

The Jets defensive backfield, which is also dealing with injuries to cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson (quad) and Buster Skrine (concussion protocol), will be challenged by the Vikings' seventh-ranked pass offense. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been scorching hot out of the gate and he has a pair of No. 1 receivers in Adam Thielen (58-712-4TD) and Stefon Diggs (40-435-3TD) in addition to a fine pass-catching tight end in Kyle Rudolph (27-266-2TD) as well as a former first-round pick at wideout in Laquon Treadwell (19-180-11TD).

"They've got some talent. Thielen, he's the league's leading receiver coming into this game. Stefon Diggs is real smooth out of his routes, his entire route tree is smooth. Kirk Cousins puts the ball out there and he takes chances and he has a lot of confidence in his guys," said Middleton. "Treadwell, he's coming along these last couple of games. We're going to do our best to stop them. We feel like we match up well against them, we feel like we can do a lot of good things that can slow them."

With Skrine still in concussion protocol, the Green & White figure to be without at least two secondary regulars in Week 7. They also could be minus the services for Johnson for a third consecutive game, but the defense remains confident in their critical depth players like corners Darryl Roberts and Parry Nickerson and safeties Middleton and Brooks.

"Guys step up when their number is called and that's what we pride ourselves on. It's a next man up mentality," Middleton said. "Whoever it is — whether it's Trumaine or it's D-Rob – whoever is in the game at that time, we don't expect to lose a beat and that's how we all feel. That's how we prepare and that's how we expect to play every Sunday."

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