Well this surely isn’t what the Jets were expecting when they used the 57th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft on that athletic and physically-gifted cornerback out of Clemson. But as it turned out, Justin Miller’s greatest asset in college proved to be his strongest suit in the NFL, while his coverage-skills suffered. In 2004, Miller’s final season at Clemson, he returned three kicks for touchdowns (school single-season record) and led the nation with a 33.1-yard average. His 30.7 career return average ranks first in ACC history and fourth-best in NCAA history.
The Jets surely weren’t drafting Miller in the second round to solely be a star kick returner, but that is essentially what they received. In 2005, his rookie season with the Jets, Miller averaged 26.3 yards on his 60 returns. His 1,577 return yards sent a rookie record and quickly turned a weakness for the Jets into a strength. In the season finale against the Bills, Miller helped bring the Jets a 30-26 win with his 95-yard kick return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. But while Miller excelled on special teams, his coverage skills were a work in progress. He appeared in 16 games (eight starts) and only had to show two passes defensed for it. The Jets knew the cornerback would take time to develop, so surely he would be given time to develop.
In 2006, it was much of the same for the cornerback. A 28.3-yard average and two touchdowns on 46 kick returns earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl, but the coverage skills? Well those were yet again another story. That lone appearance in the Pro Bowl was perhaps his finest moment as a Jet, because after that, it all went downhill. Since the 2006 finale, Miller has appeared in just two games with the Jets because of a torn ACL in 2007 and a foot injury in the preseason this year.
While the decision to waive Miller may seem puzzling, it simply comes his poor coverage skills and his inability to stay healthy. As the team entered training camp back in July and had an opening across from Darrelle Revis, both Miller and head coach Eric Mangini were confident that Miller could reassume his role as a starter. Miller was healthy and a strong summer would wrap up a spot for him as he headed into his contract-year. But after an inconstent training camp, Miller injured his toe in the Aug. 23 preseason victory over the Giants and really wasn’t heard from since. He lost his job to rookie Dwight Lowery and never could play his way into a rotation featuring the likes of David Barrett, Drew Coleman and Hank Poteat. It’s tough to understand how a former second-round pick could not find his way onto the field with those players in competition, but the coaching staff ultimately never could trust Miller.
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