FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - It's official: The Jets will open the regular season with a converted safety and a career backup as their starting cornerbacks.
The news that Dee Milliner had been ruled out for Sunday's home opener against the Oakland Raiders came as no surprise. He hasn't practiced since suffering a high ankle sprain in practice Aug. 10 and he never made it out of the rehab area this week.
But with that came the announcement that Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls will be the Week 1 starters.
Deep down, coach Rex Ryan knew there was no chance Milliner could take the field this week. But as late as Thursday, Ryan replied "never say never" when asked about the former first-round draft pick's status for the game.
As expected, Ryan expressed nothing but optimism about his makeshift secondary. "We feel good about it," he said.
The transition to cornerback hasn't been easy for Allen, who suffered a concussion during the Jets' third preseason game against the Giants. But he's athletic, has proved to be a quick study and has press cover skills that are as good as anyone else on the roster, Ryan said.
"We're going to find out on Sunday, because there's nowhere to hide when you're on that field," he said before talking up Allen. "You're going to plan on running jump balls all day long, I like our chances. Is he still going to be a little bit of a work in progress? Sure . . . But for right now, he's doing a good job for us. He's a playmaker."
Walls, according to Ryan, "is a much better player than he was last year." He has four starts on his resume. Allen has no starts at cornerback and rookie Calvin Pryor will make his regular-season debut at safety.
Milliner, meanwhile, "is getting much closer" to returning, Ryan said. But he's still not sure if Milliner will be a go for Week 2 in Green Bay.
Decker takes high road
Eric Decker isn't sure what prompted the barbs from three-time Super Bowl champ Mark Schlereth, but the Jets wide receiver doesn't much care.
"I'm confident in my ability," Decker said Friday. "I'm confident in this team. I'm going to let my talking be on the field."
Decker caught 172 passes for 2,352 yards and 24 touchdowns the past two seasons for Denver. But Schlereth, also a former Bronco, called out Decker as only the fourth option in Denver -- and much worse.
"He's a marginal No. 2 at best," the ESPN analyst said Wednesday on ESPN Radio. "The worst cover guy you have on your defense is assigned to Eric Decker every week."
He added, "New York will go crazy watching him be covered one-on-one and incomplete passes, throwing his arms up, begging for flags. I'm telling you New York, get ready, begging for flags like, 'I was interfered with. That's the only reason I didn't catch that ball' every play and then tripping over his own feet. Going for a big play and all of a sudden the turf monster gets him, bam, sniper, down. It will drive you crazy.''
Said Decker: "I didn't really have a reaction, to be honest. That's his opinion, I guess. I'm not gonna get into a battle over who says what or how he feels."
Linebacker Nick Bellore (calf) is probable and will play. Safety Josh Bush (quadriceps) and defensive end Ikemefuna Enemkpali (foot) are out. . . . For the Raiders, linebacker Nick Roach (concussion) is questionable and cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (knee) is out.