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on July 22, 2014 at 10:40 AM, updated July 22, 2014 at 11:11 AM
The Jets report for training camp this week, and they will hold their first practice in Cortland, N.Y., on Thursday.
As we count down the days to that first team workout, we're going to spotlight the most important players on the roster heading into the 2014 season. Notice we wrote "most important" players and not "best." An "important" player need not be the "best"; instead, he plays an important role that depends on where he fits and what he brings to the team based on that role.
What follows is a quick primer spotlighting the six most important players the Jets have. We are running one each weekday until camp begins.
Here's the list so far:
• No. 6: outside linebacker Calvin Pace
• No. 5: wide receiver Eric Decker
• No. 4: left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson
• No. 3: defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson
Today, we give you No. 2 ...
Name: Dee Milliner
Key stat: 86.6. That's quarterback rating for passes thrown into Milliner's coverage in 2013. Per Pro Football Focus, that ranked Milliner 45th out of 79 corners to have played at least 50 percent of the league maximum snaps last season.
Strengths: The book on Milliner coming out of Alabama, where he had 22 passes defensed as a junior in 2012, was that he could do it a lot of things as a corner, thoughhe was considered so-so as a tackler. But he has size (6-feet, 201 pounds), he has length (32-inch arms), he has upper-body strength, he has speed, he has instincts. The Jets saw all of that when they selected Milliner No. 9 overall in 2013. They wanted him to be an immediate replacement for Darrelle Revis. But the NFL isn't the SEC, and it took some time for Milliner to adjust, though he did finish the season with three interceptions in the Jets' last two games, when he was tasked with manning up against the Browns' Josh Gordon and the Dolphins' Mike Wallace.
Weaknesses: Milliner labored through shoulder, calf, and hamstring injuries as a rookie, and it affected his development. He wound up getting benched three times in his first nine games. Per Pro Football Focus, his cover snaps per reception—the number of times he was the primary man in coverage per reception allowed—was 8.3, which ranked 73rd out of 81 corners who played at least 50 percent of coverage snaps. Milliner didn't help his cause this spring by being limited with another hamstring injury, which drew a rebuke from head coach Rex Ryan.
Why he's so important: Physical cornerback play is a staple of Ryan's and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman's defense. And with Revis and Antonio Cromartie both gone, and with the Jets having missed a chance to land Cromartie's cousin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Milliner is the next man up, as it were. The Jets need Milliner to play better, especially if they're going to improve on a pass-coverage unit that earned the fourth-worst team grade (minus-42.5) from PFF last season. One consolation: Cornerback is the defensive position that arguably requires the biggest adjustmentfor rookies. The addition of rookie safety Calvin Pryor means Milliner will have help, and he may not be out on an island often, as Revis and Cromartie were. But first and foremost, Milliner needs to stay healthy during training camp.