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Rex Ryan optimistic CB Dee Milliner will return Sunday

Dee Milliner walks off the field after his

Dee Milliner walks off the field after his first day of training camp. (July 31, 2013) Credit: Hans Pennink

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Rex Ryan expressed optimism that cornerback Dee Milliner will suit up Sunday in Green Bay. But if the Jets' former first-round pick does play, there's a good chance he'll be coming off the bench.

"I feel pretty confident that he'll be able to play,'' Ryan said Thursday, adding that Milliner "moved around pretty good'' on his sprained ankle at practice.

But when he was asked if Milliner will start, Ryan was far more cautious. "I don't know if we're there yet,'' he said.

"If he plays, he'll help us. I would think that we would end up starting Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls. That's my initial thought.''

The Jets have been playing the waiting game all week with Milliner. He hasn't practiced since Aug. 10, when he suffered a high ankle sprain during training camp. Last week, the Jets were forced to start Allen, a natural safety, and Walls at cornerback against Oakland in their regular-season opener.

The Jets on Thursday waived cornerback Leon McFadden, whom they picked up from the Browns on the final cutdown day. That was a clear sign they're confident that Milliner will be on the field soon. It's just a matter of when. He's been limited in practice the past two days, so his game-time status won't be known until Ryan releases the Jets' official injury report Friday.

With or without Milliner, the defense will have its hands full with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers, who lost their season opener in Seattle, will have had 10 days to prepare for the Jets. And Rex & Co. are expecting Rodgers to attack them in the air -- and with his feet.

"A guy makes a mistake, he can find it,'' linebacker Calvin Pace said. "And the fact that he can extend the play, it makes it tougher for the guys on the back end.

"You can't cover forever. And they've got a good receiving corps, so . . . everybody's going to have to do their job up front and on the back end. Our hope is to be good on first and second down, keep 'em to minimal yards, so that way, third down we can kind of pin our ears back and go after him a little bit.''

The problem with Rodgers, from an opponent's standpoint, is that he doesn't do just one thing well. Like the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, Rodgers doesn't look to extend plays by throwing the ball underneath, Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said.

"They're looking to throw the ball down the field,'' Thurman said.

"He's seen about every blitz you can use, he's seen about every coverage you can run. He is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, if not the best, in some people's eyes. So it's a big challenge for us on Sunday.''

Said Ryan: "It's tough to sleep this week as a coach.''

Having Milliner back will be "an added plus,'' safety Dawan Landry said. There's a chance Milliner will be rusty, given his time away from the field. But if he does make an appearance, don't expect the coaching staff to cut him any slack.

Said Thurman: "[If] there is no swelling and he is cleared to play, whatever reps he gets, we expect him to go out and perform up to a certain level.''

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