Sunday, December 1, 2013
Dee Milliner picking splinters after benching
By Matt Ehalt
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets have benched rookie cornerback Dee Milliner more times than he's provided a difference-making play this season.
The Jets benched Milliner for the third time after he allowed a touchdown in the Jets' 23-3 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Milliner's struggles were part of another rough day for the secondary as the Jets yielded 331 passing yards.
"Just got to continue to play, continue to work, get better each day," Milliner said. "All I can do."
The Jets drafted Milliner with the ninth pick in the 2013 draft and have not received much return on their investment thus far. He missed three games with a hamstring injury, and when he has played, he's struggled in coverage.
Jets coach Rex Ryan had previously benched Milliner against New England on Sept. 12, and against Cincinnati on Oct. 27. The third time came Sunday after Milliner allowed Mike Wallace to elude his grip and scamper down the sideline for a 28-yard score to make it 20-3 in the third quarter. Milliner said he should have put his shoulder into Wallace to make the tackle.
Darrin Walls replaced Milliner after his benching, and Milliner said he's not sure if he's going to be the starter next week. Ryan didn't go into specifics on the benching, but said Milliner needed to be more aware of situations on the field. The rookie admitted he's struggled more than he expected to.
"I wanted to come in and try to get some games under me, play, try to help the team the best way I can," Milliner said. "I've been struggling here. You're going to have that, but have to get over it."
While Milliner's struggles were magnified by his benching, he wasn't the only Jets defensive back to have a rough day. Dolphins' quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 28-of-43 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns, consistently using short routes to exploit the middle of the field.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie played after leaving last Sunday's game with a hip injury, and didn't have his finest performance. He missed a few tackles early, as the Dolphins were not afraid to run to his side, and he got beat by Brian Hartline on a slant that the receiver turned into a 31-yard touchdown pass to put the Dolphins ahead 13-0 in the third quarter.
"The way I feel right now, I feel like I'm about 60," Cromartie said with a laugh after the game. "It held up. I felt good. This is the best I felt, just having confidence in my hip. Just going out and just running around, felt like I could go out and go play football. Didn't have any problem with it or anything like that."
Over the final few weeks, the Jets will likely do everything in their power to help Milliner out of his funk and finish the season strong. Cromartie is confident the rookie can bounce back.
"He's a tough kid, he's mentally strong. That's what it takes as a cornerback. You got to move on to the next one and move forward," Cromartie said. "Only thing you can do is get better."