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Dee Milliner may return Sunday as Jets face first of six straight elite quarterbacks

Dee Milliner warms up before a game against

Dee Milliner warms up before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium. (Sept. 8, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- That daunting gauntlet of superstar quarterbacks the Jets are going to face for six straight games begins Sunday, when Rex Ryan's team heads to Green Bay to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Thankfully for Ryan and the Jets, help looks as if it's on the way for the beleaguered secondary.

Dee Milliner, the second-year cornerback who sat out the season-opening win over Oakland last Sunday and has been sidelined the past four weeks by a high ankle sprain, practiced Wednesday for the first time since Aug. 10. The former first-round pick could be in the lineup when the Jets (1-0) visit Green Bay (0-1).

"I'm very optimistic," Milliner said when asked about his chances of playing on Sunday. "[I] just have to get out there and . . . basically, just do what they tell me to do. And if I feel good, I'll be out there."

Milliner's return would be coming at a perfect time, as the Jets begin a stretch in which they face six consecutive elite quarterbacks. After staring down Rodgers this weekend, the Jets will face the Bears' Jay Cutler, the Lions' Matthew Stafford, the Chargers' Philip Rivers, the Broncos' Peyton Manning and the Patriots' Tom Brady.

Milliner, who finished a rocky rookie season last year on an upswing -- he was named Defensive Rookie of the Month for December, and had two interceptions in the Jets' final game against Miami -- was supposed to be the No. 1 cornerback on the Jets this season, with the departure of Antonio Cromartie and following the front office's decision not to sign a high-profile free agent at the position in the spring.

But Milliner sprained his ankle in training camp, on the same day that rookie Dexter McDougle, slated to be a backup, suffered a season-ending knee injury. Then, when veteran free-agent cornerback Dmitri Patterson skipped out on the preseason game against the Giants and subsequently was cut, that left the Jets with journeyman Darrin Walls and converted safety Antonio Allen to start at corner against Oakland in the season opener.

On Wednesday, Milliner rotated in with the rest of the corners and did team drills during practice, according to Ryan, who said the Jets will want to see how Milliner feels Thursday before making any decisions about his availability on Sunday.

"This was the first time he's really worked football drills," Ryan said of Milliner. "Let's see how he comes back [Thursday] . . . [Oakland] had 75 snaps on offense; I don't expect Dee to play 75 snaps on defense. But we'll see how he progresses . . . I'm cautiously optimistic that he'll be able to go."

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