Florham Park, NJ – The Jets boast one of the top run defenses in the league. The pass defense has been a different story. Antonio Cromartie has regressed in a big way, and none of the younger cornerbacks have stepped up. With the playoffs out of reach, it is one of the big issues the Jets will be looking to fix in the offseason. There is some good news for Gang Green, though.
Dee Milliner, the team’s top pick, has turned things around the last few weeks. After looking lost for most of the season, he didn’t let up a single reception against the Raiders.
The following week he continued the trend. Against the Panthers he only allowed 29 yards on four targets. He added in six tackles for good measure. But the performance that has gotten everyone excited was this past week against the Browns.
Milliner notched five pass breakups, had a team-leading nine tackles, and recorded the first interception of his career. He did this all while defending one of the best receivers in the NFL in Josh Gordon.
“[Milliner]’s pretty good,” said Gordon. “He’s a great young player and should be good for a long time in this league.”
“I said at the end of the year that we’ll see if this guy wasn’t the best corner in the draft,” added Rex Ryan. “I don’t know. That kid’s (Gordon) a pretty darn good receiver, (Milliner) had six PBU’s and an interception.”
Confidence is key with corners, and it was clear Milliner’s was growing throughout the day. He was tested all day, and his performance never wavered. Overall Gordon was targeted an eye-popping 16 times, which was close to half the targets for the entire team.
“We knew that was going to happen so I just tried to keep my composure,” explained Milliner. “My teammates and the coaches stayed on me. I tried to go out there and do what I do.”
Alabama cornerbacks have taken some time to adjust to life in the NFL. It took Kareem Jackson a few seasons, and Dre Kirkpatrick struggled too. But Jackson is now considered one of the best young corners in the league, and Kirkpatrick has shown signs of turning the corner for the Bengals.
“I’ve seen a few players come down the road in my day,” said Ryan. “This guy right here (Milliner) is going to be an outstanding player. There’s no question.”
Milliner has one more game to impress Jets fans this season. After that, he’ll get an entire offseason to refine his technique. Something he didn’t get to do this past year, when injuries and contract issues caused him to miss most of training camp. With Cromartie a potential cap casualty, an improved Milliner will go a long way to shoring up the Jets deficiencies in the defensive backfield.