We are spending a lot of time on Milliner, with good reason. When a hall of famer leaves town, you are going to talk about the replacement player a lot. Our friend Thomas Watts from our Alabama site bamahammer.com is back, with some film room analysis of the Jets newest cornerback.
Dee Milliner is headed to New York to play for the Jets, but what are Rex Ryan and company getting from the former Tide star? They’re getting an athletic corner that can help to fill the void left by the Darrelle Revis trade. He will not be able to do everything Revis did for the Jets, though.
Dee Milliner left Tuscaloosa measuring in at 6’0, and 201 pounds. He has a wingspan of 32 inches. Milliner was everywhere in Nick Saban’s defense, but showed the most comfort in zone defenses. Rex Ryan prefers to put his corners out in man coverage, so let’s take a look at Milliner’s man coverage abilities.
First, a play from the 2013 BCS Championship Game. Alabama chose to predominantly put Milliner on Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. The Irish first round pick at had tough sledding against Dee all night even though Eifert had a solid six-inch height advantage. The situation: 3rd and 2, 11:21 in the first quarter. Alabama leads 7-0. Milliner is lined up on the short side of the field directly across from Eifert (right by the 30 in the given picture) Notre Dame sends a player in motion, and Alabama leaves it up to Milliner to defend Eifert. Dee does have safety help from Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix
As the ball is snapped, Milliner shades Eifert toward the boundary, and stays in his hip pocket. (Top right of the provided shot) Dee’s position will force Irish quarterback Everett Golson to put the ball into a very small window to make the completion. Notice that Golson is staring Eifert down from the snap.
In the final shot, Golson has thrown the ball, and Milliner is face-guarding Eifert. The result of the play is an incompletion. The window to complete the ball was simply non-existent. Golson shouldn’t have thrown this ball, but he was hoping for Eifert to make a play. Milliner made matters worse by being in position with his body and then sticking his arm in and forcing Eifert to bobble the ball as he tried to come down with the catch. For laughs, notice the Nick Saban photobomb on the right of the picture.
Next, we’ll take a look at a technique weakness from Milliner. The play comes from the Michigan/Bama game at the start of the 2013 season. Alabama is up 34-7 over the Wolverines with 23 seconds to go in the 3rd quarter. It is 2nd and 6. Michigan has a stack of two wide receivers on the short side of the field with Milliner close and safety/nickel corner Vinnie Sunseri five yards off the line. Wide receiver stacks are one of the toughest assignments a secondary can draw.
Right after the ball is snapped, the nightmare continues. Both Michigan receivers run inside. Milliner manages to get his hands on the up receiver, but the play has hit its crucial point. Where are these two receivers going to go, and who is going to go with them? (The snarl of color at the 40 is what I am referencing) Also, #35 (Tide LB Nico Johnson) is about to clear to cover the flat release.
Finally, the camera missed some of the action, but the wide receiver stack has born fruit. Milliner has fallen down trying to keep up with the wide receiver on the back of the stack (Devin Gardner) which leaves a gaping hole in the secondary. The hole is made worse by safety Nick Perry not responding quick enough and a touchdown is given up by the Tide. Why did Milliner end up on the turf? He got turned around and couldn’t recover as a result of poor technique. For reference since the quality of the video is garbage, Milliner is the crimson blob on his stomach at the 25, and Nick Perry is the blob at the 11.
A final note about Dee Milliner: He never had to backpedal in college. Nick Saban does not teach his corners to backpedal, instead he teaches them a three-step shuffle. If Rex Ryan and company want Milliner to backpedal, it will increase his learning curve early in the NFL. Dre Kirkpatrick of the Bengals had the same problem coming out from Tuscaloosa.
Thanks to Thomas Watts for taking the time to help us out. Check him and the rest of the staff of our Alabama website, bamahammer.com