First of all let me say that I was a big fan of Dee Milliner in college, at Alabama he was one of the best corners I've ever seen and when we selected him I was excited. I'm still excited. He has experienced some severe growing pains this season and at the moment he is getting completely exploited, should he start on the outside? probably not, does that mean he's never going to be a starting cornerback? absolutely not.
When asked about Milliner today, Rex stated the following:
By the time this season is over, I think he will be the best rookie corner...in this year's draft."
Getting talked up by your coach doesn't mean a great deal, getting talked up by Rex means even less. He'll stand by his players no matter what, sometimes we love it and sometimes we really hate it. However I love this, I've had some Jets fans tweet me saying he is a bust, which I ignored. I reply to nearly every comment, but I can't be dealing with anyone labelling a player with a bust tag after 8 games.
To add to that, Dee has missed significant time in training programs as well training during and pre-season. Either due to a contract dispute or injury. Cornerback is a very tough position to just come into and play at a high level immediately, it notoriously takes corners a year or so to really get their game straight for the NFL level. The college game is not the same, you will get away with more and you won't face as much pin-point passing as you do in the NFL, the speed, size and strength is different and for a corner that's very difficult.
I'm not here to defend Dee Milliner, he has been very poor this season. However as Rex also pointed out, it's just little things that are affecting him right now and I don't think he trusts his own ability at the moment. He'll continue to grow and although I'm not ready to say he will be the best rookie corner by the end of the year, I am ready to say I'm confident that we'll be thankful for taking him when we are 8 games into the 2014 season.
He has been targeted 35 times this season, and allowed 16 completions. 45.7% is not great, but to put it into perspective there are 100 defensive backs in the NFL who have allowed a higher completion percentage...including Revis who has allowed a 50% completion this season. No I'm not saying he is better than Revis, so we don't need the 100 comments to say I'm crazy, I'm just saying that in terms or targets and receptions, he's not been terrible.
He is joint 39th worst in the league in terms of yards after catch allowance with 122 yards. He's allowed 3 touchdowns, same as Cromartie. He's had just the one pass defended, same as Cromartie, and the NFL QB rating throwing into his coverage is a terrible 101.0, which is still better than the 101.7 that Cromartie is allowing. He's also only missed one tackle, where as Cromartie has missed 5.
So yes we have some problems with Dee, but the kid is a rookie who has been shoved into the starting line-up. He'll develop and he'll get better, the talent is there and the skillset is there. If we want to really attack this secondary, lets start with Cromartie, the veteran who many considered to be a pro-bowl prospect this season. Lets lay off Dee and give him some time to develop, if he hasn't improved by the end of 2014, then you can start to ask the questions.