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Jets' auditions for free safety point to Dion Bailey and Rontez Miles

Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York

Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets looks on before an NFL game at Coliseum on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. Credit: Getty Images / Thearon W. Henderson

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - With strong safety Calvin Pryor ruled out of Sunday's game against Jacksonville with an ankle injury, Jets coach Todd Bowles essentially staged a "cattle call" audition for a replacement this week in practice.

The candidates included free-agent pickup Dion Bailey, cornerback Marcus Williams, who had problems tackling last week in a loss at Oakland, practice-squad member Rontez Miles and former No. 1 draft pick Dee Milliner, who has been inactive all season but is healthy now.

Bowles declined to announce a starter, but he said it's doubtful that Milliner will be activated. If he's not activated by Tuesday, the Jets' top pick from the 2013 draft must be placed on injured reserve the rest of the season even though he's healthy.

The coach expressed confidence in Bailey, whose coverage mistake allowed Tom Brady to complete a critical third-and-17 pass that was the turning point in a loss to the Patriots two games ago. "He didn't shake my confidence at all," Bowles said of the player acquired on waivers from Seattle five week ago. "He hasn't been here long, so some of the things we were running [at Oakland], he wasn't as familiar with during the week. It turned into an open passing game, so we just played the corners."

Williams missed six tackles in that game, so he'll likely return to corner, where he's more comfortable. But it sounds as if Miles, who has been on the practice squad for three seasons, might get a promotion to at least a backup role.

"I like Rontez," Bowles said. "If he comes up, I'm pretty sure he'll do a good job."

Still, it's Bailey, a second-year player who was an undrafted free agent out of Southern Cal, who has the most experience at safety. He made several big plays in his first game with the Jets against Miami in London, but there have been some struggles while learning the Jets' defensive playbook.

"I was a free agent, so every day is an audition if you're not on your 'A' game," Bailey said. "I've taken a lot of positive strides . . . "

"Obviously, I've had an increased amount of reps this week with us only having two safeties on the roster. So I should put my best performance forward this week because I've had the most opportunity to prepare."

Bailey smiled when reminded of a 2012 game at MetLife Stadium in which he intercepted two passes in USC's win over Syracuse. "Yeah," Bailey said, "I have a good track record at MetLife."

Note & quotes: Running back Bilal Powell (ankle) is doubtful and guard Willie Colon (knee), receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle, toe) and cornerback Buster Skrine (shoulder, hand) are questionable.

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