New York Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman recently said that he believes the Jets currently have the most talented group of cornerbacks that the Jets have had in recent memory, even without Darrelle Revis.
Antonio Cromartie is the undisputed leader of the secondary and a role model that his young teammates look up to. He did an admirable job replacing an injured Revis last season, playing the best football of his NFL career.
When the Jets drafted Dee Milliner (above) with the ninth overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, some wondered if the rookie cornerback would be able to fill the enormous shoes Revis left behind. However, he won’t have to.
Cromartie is the guy who is taking over the role in Rex Ryan‘s defense that Revis used to play. The fun part will be seeing who wins the training camp competition for the second starting cornerback role, opposite Cromartie.
Milliner’s draft status as a high first-round pick would suggest he’s the favorite to win that starting job in camp. But don’t be so sure. That great cornerback depth Thurman raved about goes far beyond the two starting spots.
26-year-old Kyle Wilson is himself a former first-round pick cornerback. However, I believe the Jets see him as a slot corner, and I don’t see him as a legitimate threat to win a job as an outside cornerback in the base defense.
Instead, I believe the player with the best chance of beating out Milliner for the CB2 role is 25-year-old Ellis Lankster, a guy who’s played in the system for a few years now and understands the ins and outs of the scheme.
Lankster got some serious playing time last season, and he responded well. I think Lankster is the frontrunner as of now to start opposite Cromartie, and it may take a Herculean effort from Milliner to beat him out for the gig.
First and foremost, however, Dee Milliner has to get on the field. The 21-year-old had offseason shoulder surgery and wasn’t able to do much other than mental reps in rookie mini-camp and OTAs, but he’s kept his mind sharp.
Milliner’s expected to be 100% by training camp, and he’ll get the chance to prove to the Jets that he’s good enough to start right away as a rookie, even in a complex system in which rookies are often brought along slowly.
I still think Lankster will be starting opposite Cromartie in Week 1, but it’s only a matter of time before Dee Milliner begins his ascent up the cornerback depth chart and makes a big-time impact on the field as a rookie.
With a good showing in training camp, Milliner can start that climb sooner rather than later. The Jets are certainly eager to see how he transitions to the pros. The cornerback competition should be fun to watch, no matter what.
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