Although the Jets are eliminated from playoff contention, that does not mean that they have nothing to play for. All across the roster players are attempting to secure their starting job, contract extension, or even roster spot for next year. Dee Milliner is currently one of those players vying to maintain his starting job, but he may have solidified his spot for next year.After being drafted 9th overall by the New York Jets this year, he has struggled for the majority of his rookie season. In his NFL debut, he allowed Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams to catch 4 passes for 52 yards, including a 17 yard touchdown on which Milliner got burnt badly and was then called for unnecessary roughness after the play. Week 2 wasn’t much better, as he allowed rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson to record 3 catches for 56 yards. Also, in the first quarter of this crucial Thursday night game Milliner got embarrassingly fooled on a Brady play action allowing Dobson to be found wide open for a 39-yard touchdown. Also, Milliner got benched near the end of this game due to his poor performance.
After this abysmal performance, Milliner missed several games due to his benching and injuries, and did not start again until the Jets’ next matchup against the New England Patriots. Yet again Milliner was matched up against fellow rookie Aaron Dobson, although this time Milliner got the better of Dobson. Dobson was held to just 3 catches for 34 yards on 7 targets, and after this many believed that Dee Milliner was finally going to emerge as the all-pro cornerback that he was projected to be. However, that was not the case.
In the following week the Jets played the Cincinnati Bengals, and I’m sure that all Jets fans remember this game. The Jets lost 49-9 and allowed Marvin Jones, an unknown receiver, to catch 8 balls for 122 yards and 4 touchdowns. Dee Milliner played a huge role in allowing Marvin Jones to have this crazy game, and eventually Rex Ryan benched the struggling rookie for the second time this year. After this game Milliner received severe backlash from the media, including articles titled Jets CB Dee Milliner torched by Bengals and New York Jets Week 8: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly & Dee Milliner.
From this point on, Dee Milliner was irrelevant in the New York Jets pass defense until a December 1st matchup against the Miami Dolphins. For the majority of the first half, Milliner was responsible for covering Brian Hartline, and he did so with little success. After getting torched by Mike Wallace for a 28-yard touchdown, Rex Ryan yet again benched Milliner, this being the third occasion on the year. Although Dee Milliner remained in the starting lineup for the following weeks, many questioned if that would continue next season.
However, against the Browns this Sunday Milliner played probably the best game of his career against statistically the best wide receiver this year, Josh Gordon. While it would have made more sense to have Antonio Cromartie cover Josh Gordon and give Milliner the petty assignment of guarding Greg Little, Rex Ryan decided to test the rookie cornerback, and Ryan could not have been happier with the results. Milliner allowed Josh Gordon to catch 6 passes for 97 yards, although considering Josh Gordon was targeted 16 times this stat line is actually quite impressive. Milliner has also become the first player in six weeks to hold Josh Gordon to under 100 receiving yards AND zero touchdowns However, what doesn’t show up in the stat line is that Milliner broke up three possible touchdowns to Josh Gordon, an almost just as impressive feat.
Although this one game doesn’t make up for a season of failures, it does perhaps provide hope for the future. If Milliner was able to step up and perform well in possibly his biggest challenge of the year, he might be capable of developing into a quality cornerback in the NFL. Next week, Dee Milliner will likely be asked to cover Brian Hartline yet again, and hopefully he continues his current hot streak and prevents the Jets from having drafted yet another bust cornerback in the first round (Kyle Wilson).