Jacksonville Jaguars' William Middleton Ready to Hit 'the Next Level'
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The fourth-year corner out of Furman would be easy to dismiss as a journeyman nickleback, but he could quietly make the leap in his fourth NFL season. He started a career-high six games in 2011, earning serious playing time before losing the final four games of the year to a knee injury.
Middleton isn't a big corner, but that doesn't mean he isn't physical. He's proven effective in the run game without being a liability in coverage.
The Jaguars thought enough of him to tender the restricted-rights free agent at a fifth-round level. It's uncommon for other teams to give up draft picks to sign restricted-rights free agents, so the Jags get him back at a bargain price in 2012.
Middleton has seen steady improvement each year he's been in the league, garnering more responsibility and playing time as he's gotten more comfortable. Jacksonville has a stack of corners on the roster, but there are still questions as to who will start. Rashean Mathis will be battling to recover from injury and keep a roster spot. Aaron Ross is a veteran, but new to the Jags. There is definitely room for Middleton to play a significant role.
For some players, "The Next Level" is stardom. For others, like Middleton, it represents the chance to establish themselves as viable NFL starters. If he can hold down a role as a starting corner and play like he did last year for Jacksonville, he'll find himself on the receiving end of a fat new contract after the 2012 season.
He's gone from a special teams, end-of-the roster player to solid backup, to part-time starter. Now it's time for Middleton to reach The Next Level.
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