- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- On Wednesday, Rex Ryan reached back for an old motivational ploy, using over-heated praise to pump up struggling rookie cornerback Dee Milliner.
Basically, Ryan said Milliner, whom he benched last Sunday, isn't as bad as everybody thinks, predicting he'll be the league's top rookie corner by the end of the season. Veteran Rex-ologists will recall that he's used this technique in the past on players such as Vernon Gholston, Vladimir Ducasse and Kyle Wilson. Hey, no one said it's a fool-proof method. Clearly, Ryan is trying to rebuild Milliner's confidence, which is taking a beating. Getting benched twice in four starts will do that to a player, even a high first-round draft pick. He was also the first cornerback selected.
The Jets have mishandled Milliner from the beginning. They handed him a starting job even though he missed the offseason (shoulder surgery) and the first few days of training camp (contract), poking a hole in John Idzik's "competition" mantra. He wasn't ready, lasting only six quarters before he got pulled for the first time. He missed three games with a hamstring injury, returned to the starting lineup and got yanked again after five-plus quarters.
Now the New Orleans Saints are ready to come marching into town, and Milliner is facing another potentially long afternoon. Instead of another kick in the rear, Ryan is giving pats on the back -- the same back that has a huge target on it.
ICYMI: Quarterback Geno Smith said he needs to make "dramatic" improvement for the Jets to challenge for a playoff spot. ... It's Ryan Bowl X. You didn't think Rex would let it pass without having some fun, did you? ... Wide receiver Santonio Holmes is making gradual progress, but the word close to the team is that he won't play this week. ... The Jets are getting hit with injuries at wide receiver and tight end. There's a good chance tight end Jeff Cumberland (concussion) will miss the game, but he hasn't been ruled out yet.