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Dee Milliner, Brian Winters out for the season

Jets cornerback Dee Milliner is hurt during the

Jets cornerback Dee Milliner is hurt during the first half of a game against the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium. Credit: Lee S. Weissman

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The news is as bad as Rex Ryan initially feared.

The Jets announced on Monday that cornerback Dee Milliner and starting left guard Brian Winters -- two key pieces of general manager John Idzik's 2013 draft class -- have been placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Milliner tore his right Achilles tendon on a special-teams play minutes into Sunday's 31-17 loss to the Broncos and Winters tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the third quarter. Both players will need surgery.

In corresponding roster moves, the Jets signed former Seahawks cornerback Josh Thomas and claimed offensive lineman Wesley Johnson off waivers from the Steelers.

Thomas, a 2011 fifth-round draft pick of the Cowboys, played his first three seasons with the Panthers before the Seahawks signed him in August. Johnson, also a fifth-rounder, was selected by the Steelers in May but was waived Saturday.

The injuries to Milliner and Winters -- and Greg Salas (wrist/ankle) and Trevor Reilly (knee) -- couldn't have come at a worse time for the Jets (1-5), who entered training camp with obvious roster holes (particularly at cornerback) yet still have about $21 million in salary-cap space.

Idzik began 2014 with Milliner and journeyman Dimitri Patterson as his starting cornerbacks, with 2014 third-round pick Dexter McDougle waiting in the wings. But all three are no longer on the active roster. McDougle suffered a season-ending ACL injury in training camp and Patterson was cut after going AWOL for 48 hours during the preseason.

As a result, Ryan likely will start backup Darrin Walls and recent pickup Phillip Adams (also a former Seahawk) Thursday night against the Patriots.

Milliner's Achilles tear caps a slew of injuries that date to his time at Alabama. Before being drafted ninth overall by the Jets, he underwent five different procedures, including shoulder surgery that forced him to miss much of the 2013 season. Nevertheless, he was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month for December.

In training camp this year, he suffered a high ankle sprain that kept him sidelined for much of the preseason and for the regular-season opener. Soon after, he suffered a quadriceps injury that forced him to miss another two games. Then, on a first-quarter field goal by the Broncos, Milliner suffered a non-contact injury that ended his season.

"It's tough on Dee," said safety Antonio Allen, who was converted to starting cornerback to compensate for Milliner's training-camp injury. "I just told him my heart is out there for him, I was going to pray for him, do whatever I can, and just stick with it and come back faster and healthier."

Despite the uneven play of Milliner, Winters and starting quarterback Geno Smith, Ryan went out of his way to defend the selections Idzik has made in his two drafts for the Jets.

"I thought our first draft class we had with John was an A-plus," Ryan said of the 2013 group, which included Smith, Milliner, Winters and Oday Aboushi, who likely will replace Winters Thursday night.

"I would argue with anybody. Dee Milliner was going -- is going -- to be an outstanding player. The young man's got tons of talent and it's just a matter of him staying healthy."

New York Sports