Milliner Has a Speed Issue, He Cannot Close - The Reece TD Run

You can see Milliner's pre-draft 40 run video here.

I brought this up in the past when looking at how consistently Milliner has been beat deep, and how he has played top speed receivers. He simply looks like he has no explosion in his gate, and when the receiver puts on the burner he cannot keep up or close. I noticed this I think mostly when he was giving chase and Ed Reed of all people seemed to be doing a better job.

We've seen it all year. Someone - sorry I forget who you were - pointed out that speed was actually a pretty big concern in looking at Milliner's draft status, and his combine runs were a really big deal in alleviating a potential mark against him (ball drops were another, and we've seen some of that in season as well, not to mention possible brittleness). So I dug some up to give context, here they are below:

Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: The top-rated corner answered all of the questions about his speed and quickness with a remarkable workout at Lucas Oil Stadium. Milliner posted a 4.37-second 40-yard dash and demonstrated better-than-anticipated explosiveness with solid measurements in the vertical and broad jump. Additionally, Milliner displayed outstanding footwork and movement skills in the positional drills.


and this...

The overarching concern about Alabama CB Dee Milliner’s game heading into the NFL’s scouting combine was that he did not possess top-end speed.


Milliner set an early standard during Tuesday’s workouts with (unofficial) 4.31 and 4.37 times in the 40-yard-dash. A 4.31 mark, should it stand once official numbers are released, would be the second-best mark at the combine, just four hundredths of a second off the time run by Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin.

Only three other defensive backs in Tuesday’s early group clocked in under 4.4 seconds: Dwayne Gratz (4.35), Brandon McGee (4.38) and David Amerson (4.38). Milliner’s run also blazed past that of Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, believed to be a potential first-round pick himself — Banks posted an unofficial 4.58.

Where Milliner did stumble was in some of the positional drills. He dropped several passes during those workouts, including multiple balls that hit him right in the hands. That certainly was a concerning development, though it’s worth pointing out that Milliner is set to undergo surgery for a torn labrum on March 12, so he’s far from 100 percent.

Milliner had just two interceptions for Alabama during the 2012 season, compared to 21 pass break-ups. Even more so based on Tuesday’s issues, teams will have to determine to what extent his hands contributed to that lack of forced turnovers.

But a negative mark in that column likely will not outweigh the elite speed Milliner put on display in Indianapolis. Though his drops are troublesome, there is no question that he’s capable of making plays on the football. Confirming for the NFL world that he has the wheels to pair with his instincts could drive him into the draft’s top-five picks.


I'm not a big draft guy so this was stuff I was generally not watching. But it gains special relevance in view of what we have seen out of him this year. It honestly does not look like he is able to stay with top speed guys in the league, and maybe not even modestly fast players like Hartline of Miami who regularly seemed to out-accelerate him and gain easy separation.

That is why the Reece TD run was so interesting to me. People focused on the wrong guy there when they complain that Reece out ran Cromartie (who is admittedly injured). The problem is Milliner. You can see first hand how he has no closing speed. In particular there is a stretch where he is in open stride" but is only taking very short choppy steps trying to build speed and Reece gets significant separation from him. This looks a lot like how he has look going up the sidelines in defense to me. Here is a GIF of the play, Milliner is the Jet in the middle on the chase down:

click on the GIF if it does not play, or click here to see.

Now Reece, despite being a fullback, has some serious speed on him for a guy his size. 4.42 posted, compared to Milliner's 4.37, but there is no way he should be getting that kind of separation in the open field on Milliner one of the fastest guys in the draft. He is also running with the ball which should reduce his time a bit.

What is concerning really is the real possibility that although Milliner can run a nice 40 yard dash in a track suit - Cromartie posted a 4.47 in 2006 - but Dee does not have "football speed" the notorious x factor that turned Jerry Rice and his mythical 4.71 40 into probably the greatest WR in football history up to this point. sidenote: An interesting statistical article on slow receivers here.

Just the eyeball test has told us that Cromartie (when healthy) can run with pretty much anyone in the league (despite posting a full 1/10 of a second slower 40 once upon a time, but Milliner can't. Cromartie exudes athleticism and speed, Milliner not so much at least in speed.

Adding to this concern is the notion that Jet scouts might really have sweet tooth for the 40 times of prospects if we throw in that Stephen Hill who had a lot of question marks and has been slow to develop. Like Milliner Stephen Hill also saw his draft value shoot up after posting a very fast time (4.36) that had people buzzing and apparently even trading up. We've seen a lot of Hill, and clearly he has speed, but there is nothing that we've seen that suggests that he blows people off the field in how he runs either. He isn't a guy who you toss the ball 10 yards to and he explodes up a seam, he just isn't. The fear is that in Hill, and possibly Milliner they have two great "measurables" guys, but not guys that are bring those numbers to the field, in different ways for possibly different reasons. Could it be that both guys fooled Jet scouts and never will be capable of what the "numbers" promised?

I remember looking at all of Milliner's measurable on draft day and comparing them to Revis's draft numbers and was surprised how similar they were. The Jets were getting a fine athlete. But perhaps that is where the comparison ends. All the instincts, the explosiveness, the prowess isn't there really. The best I see from Milliner is that he is quick out of breaks, and somewhat agile. But without the top end, wide-gate speed he could be a highly flawed early 1st round pick, a corner with a ceiling and a bit of a problem?

There is also the possibility that we haven't seen the "real" Milliner due to lasting injury. But if this is the case then his physical fragility becomes the big question mark, something that may be worse than a lack of an extra gear. Personally I don't see a dominant, dynamic physical athlete in Milliner, maybe others see something different. One would have to wonder though: if he had top end speed why would he have gone into the combine with that kind of question mark? Those kinds of things tend to show themselves on the field. I've seen enough to think he could be a good corner, but that isn't what they drafted. They drafted a game changer.

Have we drafted the reverse of Jerry Rice?

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