On the bubble: In the Middle-ton

Brandon Middleton isn't a household name. In fact, he isn't even on Wikipedia. But during Thursday's 16-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills, he certainly played like it. But will be enough for the former University of Houston standout to land a roster spot?

Brandon Middleton isn't a household name. In fact, he isn't even on Wikipedia. But during Thursday's 16-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills, he certainly played like it.

Middleton, who joined the league in 2005 out of the University of Houston, led Detroit with five grabs for 50 yards, including a sliding, complicated grab in the second quarter. But it has become routine to see number "10" make the difficult catches during the preseason.

Just two weeks ago, it was Middleton's one-handed grab of a Jon Kitna pass late in the first-half that kept a Lions drive alive, and sent a buzz through the otherwise disappointed Browns fans in Cleveland.

In total, he recorded nine grabs for 117 yards.

Yet, despite his soft-hands and solid route running, Middleton could be the odd-man out in a numbers game; under Martz, receivers are a dime-a-dozen, and Detroit traditionally loads training camp with "fodder" to sharpen the offense and give the quarterback's fresh targets on a daily basis. Between Middleton, former Michigan standout Rod Bellamy, and the versatile Troy Walters, only one is likely to survive this weekend's final cuts.

"He's played lights out," said head coach Rod Marinelli following Middleton's strong performance against the Bills. "He's done a heck of a job. He's made great catches, but he's practiced that way too. Hopefully he is with us still, but he's done nothing but perform, and that's good and bad. I'm happy."

Middleton's name was also frequently mentioned during training camp. After a standout collegiate career, he has yet to land a full-time gig on an NFL roster. So when the coaching staff would praise his efforts to the media, Middleton was all ears.

"Yeah, it would (feel good), because they don't let me know that," he said. "They coach me hard, and sometimes I walk away saying: 'I don't even know if these guys really like me.' It's nice to hear that they did say (good things) and I appreciate the opportunity that they did give me."

Over the next 24 hours, the Lions coaching staff will evaluate the game-film; among it will be Middleton's small highlight collection. Whether or not that is good enough to translate into a roster spot won't be known until the door is closed to Marinelli's office, with Middleton inside.

"I've been here before," he said. "I've never made it past a training camp, so I've been trying to keep my nerves down, trying to keep everything level, so I don't get disappointed. Everybody here is talented, so certain things swing one way or another. Maybe it's the size, maybe it's somebody's speed or maybe it's somebody's special teams ability. You really don't know what the coaches are thinking.

"I'm just going to be level headed; I'm going to be thankful if I do make the team and I'll be thankful if I don't because it was still a great opportunity. I got to meet a great group of guys and just move on."


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