The Trouble with Dee - A Little More Evidence of the Hidden Hole in the Defense

I don't think I can do a full film review of the Miami game, just too many chaotic elements, so I'm pecking my way through it. I may post sporadically on what I see. But I do think the game shows what may have been a somewhat hidden element in what has helped sink the season...and that is Rex's attachment to Dee Milliner. The first drive alone showed just how discombobulated he still is at this point in the season. Beaten short, beaten into the inside, and beaten like a drum deep, not to mention just being steamrolled by Wallace on a tackle attempt that was almost humorous.

Here is the play where he is beaten deep by Moore. Only a Douzable hit on the QB saves this from being a walk in TD. Note that Cromartie (who was seriously hobbling, but has had problems all year) also was beaten deep at the bottom of the screen. Reed had over the top help for Cromartie on that side of the field so there is no way he could get over to Milliner. Splitting the Jet defense with two wideouts on the sidelines has been going on for a few weeks now.


The reason why I call the play of Dee a hidden hole in the defense is because it has drawn much less attention than maybe it should. Fan ire goes to Cromartie who dropped off the face of the map (probably due to chronic hip woes), and a weird kind of pride about the Jet Run Defense (#1, historic), forgetting that this is a passing league and that of all the pass defense woes Dee Milliner might have been the worst of them this year, even worst than Cromartie. Repeated benchings did very little. Bold claims about how amazing Dee would be by year's end by Rex Nostradamus have done nothing. I'm not saying the kid is a bust, but even with first season problems expected he seems closer to bust than to shutdown corner people have to admit.

Below is an updated list as of the Miami game of the statistical performances of all 4 top Jet corners:


It is a percentile of the top 25% of snaps from PFF. 100 means you lead the league, 0 means you are at the bottom of the league. I consider these three stats the trinity of stats for corners because they fill in each other's weakness. They at least give a pretty good picture. One can see that Cromartie and Dee have been just about equally as bad. One gave up more long yards (Cromartie) the other more QB production, both near the bottom of the league. One has an injury excuse (one presumes), the other has a rookie excuse. But we can see that, as written about elsewhere by myself and others, Wilson and Walls have performed substantially better in their varying duties. There are caveats here: Wilson plays the slot so his QB rating allowed and yards per target should be lower, but also in the slot he has an unexpectedly good completion percentage as well...and he had above league average numbers at corner last year. Walls on the other hand allows completions at a higher rate, but his yards per target are league-best type numbers and the production allowed (92.4 QB rating) is not as poor as either Cromartie or Milliner in more limited opportunities. He seems more of a bend but don't break corner by these numbers.

Just for a little fun take a look at how Wilson did against the league last year compared to how Milliner did this year:


Wilson was better than league average (high 60s, low 70s percentiles) last year at corner. All three dimensions were comfortably good performances, though certainly nothing spectacular. Milliner on the other hand has been a sieve of production and yards. There are some differences for instance better safeties last year -- but Rex chose to not go with safeties that could defend the pass...on the other hand the pass rush seems much more robust this year which can help corners.

But more than this I'd like to forward that the sticking with Milliner did something to this team that just wasn't necessary. Yes, the Offense completely collapsed. Yes, there are cover problems all over the place in the Defense, but stubbornly going with Milliner likely extended drives, produced extremely long plays that simply would not have happened, and that could have turned games a different way. It made a bad situation completely untenable. It was very clear that Miami came out scripting an attack on Milliner (as well as running off Coples' edge) and it remained a serious problem until they just took him out of the game.This was a win or no-playoffs game. It was the season.

DVOA does an interesting thing. They breakdown team defense against types of receivers. Now these are team stats, but I think we can grant that predominantly it has been Milliner who has defended the #2 WR of the other team. Check out where the Jets rank...31st in the league:


Jets were 12th in the league against #2 WRs in 2012

As much as people want to talk about Rex Ryan Defensive Genius, and celebrate the Run Defense, the fact of the matter is that he put out a highly flawed concept and roster out there and did very little to actually adjust to a growing weakness that other teams had found, Milliner. Just claiming he is going to be amazing doesn't superglue the whole thing together. He had two options in Walls and Wilson to maybe just take the edge off, to slow down the leak in the boat that might have gotten us just a bit closer to a chance to win a game or two more. But he just kept running the guy out there late in the season, even after tough love attempts failed.


It's all over though now, so this is a bit academic. The Jet playoff chances went from a pre-game 11%+ (and a possible 25%+ with a win over Miami) to 3% now. That was the win or lose game. That was the game. People will say (irrationally) that we could never win that game anyways with an offense like that, but that is not how coaching is done. You coach to increase your percentages, each and every place where you can. You don't say: "Well, Cromartie can't cover because he's banged up, so it doesn't matter if our other cornerback can cover". You force the other team to find your weaknesses. Something about how Rex pushed towards this playoff run smells rotten. It smells very Sanchizey, like recent years where it looked like everything was crashing in slow-mo.

Anyone interested in thinking about Jet chances take a look at the first drive of that game, look at the play of Dee Milliner - the guy was all over the place and nowhere. And then think to yourself: What if the game didn't start out with a 15 play, 9 minute drive? Was it all doomed? Was it that it didn't matter who played in the secondary? Games have momentum. Playing Dee there was a significant coaching mistake, and gifting him the job coming out of preseason was one as well. From beginning to end Rex is Rex.

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