New York Jets news, commentary and insider info from beat writer Kimberley A. Martin.
Rex Ryan: Dee Milliner will 'never' be Darrelle Revis – and that’s OK
CORTLAND – Having shipped their All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay, the Jets knew they needed to replenish their secondary during the April draft.
But along with the ninth overall selection of Dee Milliner came the immediate comparisons between the former Alabama star and the NFL’s best cornerback.
Again, Rex Ryan tried to temper the expectations put upon Milliner, fans and the media that it’s impossible to compare the recently-signed rookie to the Jets’ former shutdown corner.
“I understand where people are coming from,” the coach said Monday. “But Darrelle was a special player. We’ll see what kind of player Dee Milliner is.
“Dee Milliner will never be Darrelle Revis. He’s going to be Milliner. And I think that’s going to be good enough.”
Said veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie: “He can’t be compared. He’s got to make sure he don’t get himself caught up in trying to be compared to him. He’s his own man. Darrelle is his own man. So the only thing he has to do is come in and be Dee Milliner. And that’s what we’re asking him to do.
“We’re not asking him to be a Darrelle Revis.”
Milliner – who agreed Sunday to terms of a deal – has missed four training camp practices (three because of his contract impasse) on top of their entire offseason program because of shoulder surgery. (Because Tuesday is an off day, Milliner won’t be able to practice until Wednesday – provided he passes his physical.)
“We know he’s mentally there,” said Cromartie. “He was there during all the OTAs. But that’s only part of it. …It’s just a point of getting in shape. We just have to see how good he is in shape and make sure he’s taking care of himself. We’ve got to make sure that as a unit and as an organization, we monitor what he’s doing. Make sure that when he gets on a field, that we try to work him back in and not try to throw him in the fire.”
The only question now is: How long will it take him to learn the defense?
“If he's done any studying at all, we expect him to come in and be close to where he needs to be” on the playbook, said defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. But both Thurman and Ryan admit adjusting to the speed of the game will be Milliner’s toughest challenge.
Soon after the Jets drafted Milliner, Cromartie said he asked the team to send him film of the Alabama standout. And as the veteran watched the young cornerback at work, he took mental notes of what he liked and what he thought needed fine-tuning.
“He’s coming from a Nick Saban defense, so they press a lot. And that’s what we like. We like press corners,” said Cromartie. “He’s good in the run game and he’s a guy that can also play the ball well.
“You always want to be up on guys that they’re bringing in special, like a rookie. And me being the veteran guy, I try to bring’em on as much as I can.”
Cromartie said he’s spoke “maybe once or twice” to Milliner after minicamp ended just to encourage the rookie to come back in shape.
“You’re not going to be in football shape,” the veteran noted, “but you’ve got to try to be in the best shape you can be.”
Asked if he thought Milliner has the potential to be great, Cromartie didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“I think he can be,” he said, “it just depends on what he wants out of it and what he expects from it.”