First of all I just want to say that if you place a player's worth or even talent based on pro-bowl inclusions, well, I think you're making a big mistake. If Dee Milliner wants to become a pro-bowl player, he just needs to win the popularity contest. Saying that, there is going to be a lot of expectation on Milliner this year, due to the lack of any real proven talent at the position. Should we be worried about the cornerback position? even though I have a lot of faith in Dee, I'm worried.
Rex Ryan seems to think Dee has what it takes, but he won't go so far as to stake his reputation on it:
"I feel good about Dee. I think Dee's going to be a great player. Would I stake my reputation on him being... a Pro Bowl player? I mean, it depends. I'm going to be disappointed if he's not, I can tell you that much. Because I think he's got that kind of ability."
Now every single coach in this league is praising one of their players who underperformed last season. It's as much a part of the off-season as the NFL draft. However, we absolutely need Dee to play at a high level this year. We brought in Dimitri Patterson and we still have Kyle WIlson who continues to improve, but the cornerbacks on paper look weak. There is no other way to say it, if Dee doesn't make the step up, we're going to be in serious trouble.
Milliner suffered his way through a rookie season that saw him get benched three times, and suffer a hamstring injury that cost him three games and valuable first-team reps. He was rated as the 87th best cornerback, out of 110 in pass coverage and he allowed 7 touchdowns on the season. Which, considering he missed time and was benched frequently, is quite staggering.
Dee was a superb player at Alabama and there have been numerous corners who have taken a year or two to adapt to the NFL speed. Milliner looked to be coming on towards the end of the season as he finished his year with two interceptions in two games, to earn rookie of the month. His tackling improved, his play recognition improved and his first step improved. He will need to continue that development to ensure the New York Jets trust throwing him out there against the opposing team's number 1.
However, we became so accustomed to seeing the opposing number one shut down by one man (Darelle Revis and, to an extent, Antonio Cromartie) but don't expect to see that with Dee. He will get plenty of help out there in coverage and I hope we don't stick him on an island early. Players thrive on confidence and we need Dee off to a good start to help build that confidence going forward.
Rex is pretty sure that will happen:
"I think he's got a chance to be," Ryan said. "I don't think there's any doubt. But a lot of things can happen. A guy can get injured. A guy can do whatever where a guy gets derailed. But (I'm) saying that I'll be disappointed if he's not. Something like (injuries), in my opinion, would have to happen to him for him not to end up being that kind of player."