Dee Milliner finally got his chance.
After more than a year of not playing on defense, the Jets cornerback saw game action as a member of the secondary Thursday night. But while the final score didn’t matter much, Milliner’s performance in the preseason opener against Jacksonville again raised eyebrows.
Explosive plays against the Jets’ defense will not be tolerated by Todd Bowles. And unfortunately for the second-year head coach, Milliner surrendered several of them.
On back-to-back routes, Milliner was beaten by Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson. First there was an acrobatic, toe-tap sideline catch for 16 yards. Immediately after that, quarterback Blake Bortles again zeroed in on Robinson and threw a 45-yard bomb downfield. Milliner again was in coverage — and again was beaten by Robinson.
“He just made a good catch. I went up to try to knock it down but he just got his hands on it and made a good catch,” said Milliner, who later whiffed badly on a tackle that resulted in a red-zone opportunity for the Jags.
“ . . . I can’t give up the explosive plays I gave up. I’ve got to tackle better on the one play,’’ Milliner said. “There’s no excuse for not being there. Just gotta get out there and do better.”
It’s been a difficult road for the oft-injured cornerback, the ninth overall pick in 2013.
He last played defense in an NFL game on Oct. 12, 2014, the day he tore an Achilles tendon against the Broncos. He finished the season on injured reserve. Last year, he tore a tendon in his right wrist during an Aug. 6 practice and had surgery the next day. When he finally returned to action in November, Milliner was used solely on special teams.
He refused to use his long layoff on defense as an excuse and instead accepted full responsibility for his shortcomings.
“I wouldn’t say I was a half-step slow, I’ve just got to make plays when my time comes,” Milliner said.
Asked which blown play bothered him more — the deep ball to Robinson or the missed tackle — he said: “Both of them. Because both of them were critical.”
He also added: “I can’t let it happen. I still should have been able to make them tonight, but as things go on, try to get better.”
Bowles did point out that Milliner wasn’t the only player who messed up.
“We know we can’t have explosive plays,” Bowles said. “But there were a couple corners that did that tonight and we have to correct it.”