When the New York Jets drafted cornerback Dee Milliner with the ninth pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, they expected the Alabama product to replace the departed Darrelle Revis in their secondary. While he’s still just a rookie and has plenty of time to figure things out, Milliner has not been the kind of plug-and-play guy the Jets thought they were getting.
On Sunday that was obvious once again, as the Jets benched Milliner for the second time this season. New York apparently thought undrafted free agent Darrin Walls was a better option out there during the team’s 49-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Milliner was repeatedly abused by the second-year receiver Marvin Jones through the first two quarters of Sunday’s game before being benched. Jones had a career day, hauling in eight receptions for 122 yards and four (yes four!) touchdowns. How ridiculous was Jones’ day against Milliner? In 18 career games entering this week, Jones had a total of four touchdown receptions.
So far this season, Milliner has graded out terribly according to Pro Football Focus. But rookie cornerbacks often struggle in the NFL. That said, through five appearances, Milliner should be better than he has been, especially given where he was drafted.
In Week 2, Milliner was benched because he made too many mental mistakes. This week the rookie was reportedly in position to make plays, but he just didn’t make them.
Entering the 2013 draft, Milliner was almost unanimously regarded as the top cover guy available. After trading Revis to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it was obvious that the Jets had a hole to fill in the secondary. Milliner made perfect sense.
While his early struggles don’t mean he’ll never get things turned around, Milliner’s struggles are pretty surprising. He’s 6-feet tall and 201 pounds and also ran a 4.35 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. That means he has exceptional measureables. Someone with that level of natural skill shouldn’t be having the issues in coverage that he is.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Milliner and the Jets’ secondary for the rest of the season.