Milliner benched to help confidence

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
7:03
PM ET
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Jets benched Dee Milliner last Thursday against the Patriots to prevent him from losing confidence, according to Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. Milliner was benched in the second half of the 13-10 loss, and played just 37 snaps.

"It wasn't that we were unhappy with what we were seeing," Thurman said. "They're getting ready to take some shots at this kid. Rather than have him in a situation where he can get himself deflated we decided to make the move to get a more experienced guy in there and we did. We felt like it as the right thing to do. "

Milliner, the ninth pick in this year's draft, struggled in the first half. He was beat for a touchdown before it was ruled to have hit the ground, and it appears he made a mistake on New England's first touchdown when the Jets failed to cover Aaron Dobson on a 39-yard touchdown.

The rookie was replaced by Kyle Wilson and Darrin Walls. It marked his second straight game where he had some struggles, as he allowed a touchdown pass in the opener against Tampa Bay. Milliner was also called out during the preseason by Rex Ryan for not being aggressive enough in coverage.

Thurman added that young corners become easy targets for opposing quarterbacks and coordinators.

"We're not down on him at all. He's got a chance to be a hell of a football player," Thurman said. "You don't want a rookie to go out there and get shell-shocked and not be able to come back from that. We were concerned about that."

Thurman and Ryan both did not say whether Milliner is going to be starting this weekend against the Bills, and the young corner said he doesn't know either. Ryan said that Milliner will play this weekend and will be an active part in the defense, but didn't commit to him as one of the outside corners.

Milliner called Thursday "difficult" but understands that he needs to be better. He said he needs to improve on his checks and being more alert when he's on the field. He said it hasn't been a technique issue, and did not use his strained Achilles tendon in the preseason as an excuse.

"I knew before I got drafted I was going to be one of the guys that got targeted wherever I went," Milliner said. "It doesn't make it any better playing alongside (Antonio Cromartie) because guys aren't going to throw his way too much."

Cromartie praised Milliner for how he's handled the benching, saying he's acted like a professional.

"He's made sure he's come out and worked hard and he's got a lot more attention to detail. He's coming into it," Cromartie said. "He's still learning the defense. A lot of stuff technique wise and leverage wise he's actually picking that up more and more. It's a learning curve for him and he understands that."

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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