In the 2013 NFL Draft, the New York Jets selected Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner with the ninth overall pick. The Jets traded away their All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 13th overall pick which they used on defensive end Sheldon Richardson. With Revis gone and two first-round picks, the Jets were able to use the first one on a replacement cornerback. While Richardson made an immediate impact, things were a lot different with Milliner.
Time is Running Low for Dee Milliner
Dee Milliner’s Career Progression
Injuries and poor play have plagued Milliner’s first three years with the Jets. In 2013, he came in as the starter at cornerback after missing the first three games to a hamstring injury. His play at cornerback was anything but spectacular. He was benched three times in the 13 games that he played. Milliner gave hope however, towards the end of the year. His play improved in the final two games of the season. He got his first interception in Week 16 and he had two interceptions in Week 17. He was also named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Week 17 and was also named Defensive Rookie of the Month for December.
All signs pointed to 2014 as the breakout year for Milliner. Things did not go that way however, as a quadriceps injury and an ankle injury limited him to some game action in only three of the Jets first six games. An Achilles’ tendon tear in Week 6 landed him on the reserve/injured list.
Milliner started 2015 in a similar role: recovering from injury. During training camp he sustained a wrist injury that needed surgery. He then missed the first eight games of 2015.
He missed even more playing time, but not because of injury. The cornerback positions were held down well enough compared to Milliner’s first two seasons. Darrelle Revis was not on the Jets in 2013 or 2014, and Antonio Cromartie was not on the Jets in 2014. That allowed Milliner more playing time than he may otherwise have gotten. With Revis and Cromartie back and others like Dexter McDougle, Darrin Walls, Buster Skrine, and Marcus Williams as backups, Milliner didn’t have much of a role at cornerback. In his five games played in 2015, he didn’t start nor play a snap on defense, but instead played on special teams. Even when Williams and Revis were injured, Milliner wasn’t being used by head coach Todd Bowles.
Why is Dee Milliner Being Held Onto This Long?
The fact that Dee Milliner is still on the Jets may turn some heads. People have to realize how much potential he has. As mentioned before he was a first-round draft pick. Out of 254 players, Milliner was drafted ninth overall.
In his three years with Alabama he played in 39 games. In those 39 games, he had 89 solo tackles and 47 assisted tackles for a total of 136 combined tackles. Also in his first year he had the third most passes defended in the SEC with eight. In his next two years he had the first most passes defended in the SEC with 11 and 22 respectively. Overall his 41 career passes defended were good for second most in the NCAA and the most in the SEC since 2005.
The Jets and former head coach Rex Ryan had high hopes for Milliner. Ryan held onto that hope as he praised Milliner even after benching him in 2013.
“He’s close to being that player that we want,” Ryan said, according to NFL.com. “I will say this: By the time the season’s over, I think he will be the best rookie corner and playing better than any rookie corner in this year’s draft. I don’t think there’s any doubt. We anticipate that.”
While Ryan is known for making outlandish statements, most people viewed Milliner as a top ten prospect coming out of college. Not many people expected his career to go off the rails like it has.
Where Does Dee Milliner Stand Now?
Time is running out for Dee Milliner. The Jets have showed that by declining his fifth-year option from his rookie contract. He is not off the team yet, which gives him perhaps his last chance to prove himself on the Jets.
Milliner got off to a fast start in training camp. Through the first three days he was playing great and Todd Bowles agreed while keeping it in context.
“Right now, like everybody else, he’s playing fast,” Bowles said according to the NY Post. “He’s healthy, he’s running around out there, and we’re just looking forward to him improving. If he can continue to stay healthy and get better, we’ll see what happens.”
That fast start has been long since forgotten after Milliner’s first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jets fans were left in dismay after seeing him give up a big play to Allen Robinson and then missing a tackle on Tony Washington which turned into a 36-yard gain. The fact that the two plays happened in such a short time from each other, put a lot of emphasis on Milliner.
Then Preseason Week 2 came. This was another chance for Milliner to redeem himself. Instead Milliner left early with a sore bicep. The injury doesn’t appear too serious, but this is does not help Milliner’s case in any way.
What Does Dee Milliner’s Future Hold?
Trying to predict Dee Milliner’s future is a gamble. Nobody, not even Milliner himself, can accurately predict that. Another serious injury or two could end his NFL career. On the contrary, he could stay healthy and fulfill his potential as a great starting cornerback. Anything is possible for Milliner which makes his case so curious.
Milliner will need a chance to shine though and with many capable cornerbacks already on the Jets, it means he must play well and fight for his job for the rest of preseason. He has shined at times in training camp, looked terrible in preseason Week 1, and left with an injury in preseason Week 2. Time is running out for Milliner and this may be his last chance.