The New York Jets need to have another cornerback that can step up and deliver alongside Darrelle Revis. Can Dee Milliner finally put everything together heading into the upcoming season?
In the 2013 NFL Draft, the New York Jets selected cornerback Dee Milliner from Alabama, with the ninth overall selection. The initial reception was positive, as the Jets had already traded disgruntled superstar Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Coming out of Alabama, Milliner underwent five surgeries, but miraculously never missed a game. First year general manager John Idzik clearly didn’t put too much stock into Milliner’s abundant injury history but maybe he should’ve.
Milliner began the 2013 season starting opposite Antonio Cromartie. He gave up a touchdown in his first NFL game to wide receiver Mike Williams of the Buccaneers. Milliner wasn’t performing up to his draft status that year and did indeed battle injuries.
He wound up missing three games due to injury. (Injury to Milliner, no way, right Idzik?). Although his rookie season was uneven, the last quarter of the season provided Jets fans with a glimmer of hope.
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Milliner recorded three interceptions and a whopping 10 passes defensed in the final two games of 2013.
He matched up one-on-one in both contests and didn’t miss a single beat.
As illustrated in his highlight video above, Milliner possesses great instincts in man and zone coverage.
He has the size and speed needed to cover all types of receivers. Against the Browns and Gordon, Milliner excelled in press coverage and is able to find the ball and knock it down, even though he has his back turned to Gordon.
Milliner also does a tremendous job of jumping an in-route in zone coverage. In Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins, the Jets brought an all-out-blitz, leaving Milliner alone in man-to-man coverage against one of the league’s most dynamic deep threats in Wallace. He presses him, squats and jumps the quick hitch route for the interception. This play is even more impressive because he knew that the ball would have to come out quick. This allowed Milliner to anticipate the route.
Milliner showed enough promise at the end of the 2013 season, that Idzik neglected to spend any of his excessive amount of cap space on a starting cornerback. Unfortunately, that decision may have cost Idzik his job.
Milliner was banged up all summer going into 2014 and wound up missing Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders. He suited up Week 2 at Green Bay, but looked lost. He later tore his Achilles and was done for the year. He was also banged up last year and even when healthy, failed to earn any playing time on defense.
According to reports from the media, Milliner has really impressed so far in organized team activities. Even the coaches, such as defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, have acknowledged the chip on his shoulder. Dee realizes that this is his last shot to live up to his draft status. He clearly has been given that opportunity in OTA’s with Revis sitting out due to his recovery from wrist surgery. Milliner is laying with the starting defense and making his mark early.
No one has ever questioned the talent that Milliner possesses. Dee played at arguably the best program in college football and was drafted in the top 10. That is something that can’t be said for neither Marcus Williams nor Buster Skrine. If he is able to show the coaches that he is the guy that flashed at the end of 2013, he has a real shot to earn starter reps opposite Revis.