The New York Jets drafted cornerback Dee Milliner with the 9th overall pick in April, but he has struggled to live up to that billing thus far. Milliner missed three games with a hamstring injury, and he has been benched for the second half of games twice this season. However, Rex Ryan has continued to praise his rookie corner in the media, and he he gave Milliner another opportunity to prove himself Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Milliner responded extremely well, and for the first time this season he looked like the player the Jets believe he can become. He only allowed five catches, none of which went for big plays, which is a solid day against a passing offense as potent as the Saints. He also nearly had two interceptions, one on a ball that was tipped by about four different players before landing with Robert Meachem, and one that just hit the ground as Milliner dove for it.
The fact that he was in position to make those plays is hugely important, because it shows how much progress he has made. Milliner was caught out of position several times last week during the Cincinnati Bengals’ rout of the Jets, and he has been burned for a couple touchdowns. Against the Saints, however, Milliner did a good job of being physical off the line of scrimmage and keeping receivers in front of him.
He was beat deep once, but he was bailed out by a Nick Toon drop. However, every corner gives up the occasional big play, and Milliner’s error on that play was the classic rookie mistake of watching the ball and not the man. Milliner will learn to correct simple mistakes such as that, and eliminating them will make him a much more consistent player.
This game could be a turning point for Milliner, and it will surely give him a huge confidence boost. The Jets have had their share of struggles defending the pass this season, and they need Milliner to become a solid starter. If he can do that, it will be a major improvement for the Jets’ defense, and Milliner could be a huge asset in their playoff push.