As the top players on the Jets' draft board were snatched up, New York general manager John Idzik was forced to do the unthinkable and directly replace Darrelle Revis with his first selection.
The Jets were not able to get their explosive pass-rusher in Barkevious Mingo or Dion Jordan, so Rex Ryan will essentially go back to his old formula of pass defense by generating pressure with exotic blitzes and leaning on his stud cornerbacks on the back end to hold up in man coverage.
This philosophy may not be very popular when looking at how other NFL defenses are structured, but it is hard to argue with the results the Jets have had under this unique scheme. Rex Ryan’s defense have finished first, third, fifth and eighth without a stud pass-rusher on the roster.
Milliner has ideal size for the position at 6'1", 198 pounds. He has tremendous instincts required for zone and has the physicality to play in press-man coverage and is more than a willing tackler. He does not have the most fluid of backpedals but he has tremendous hip flexibility, which is a strong indicator of success in the NFL for man coverage corners.
There were some concerns surrounding Milliner's deep speed, which were silenced with his outstanding 4.37 time at the combine.
Outside of health concerns (he is still recovering from shoulder surgery) the biggest knock on the former five-star recruit is that he does not have ideal ball skills. He had an outstanding 22 passes defensed in 2012, but he only caught six of them for interceptions. Milliner must improve his ability to catch the ball in order to be a more well-rounded cornerback.
However, Ryan’s man coverage-heavy defense is not predicated on his corners creating a lot of turnovers. After all, one of the downsides to playing man coverage is that the defender’s back is usually turned as they run downfield, making it difficult to record interceptions.
Playing opposite Antonio Cromartie, Milliner will have an easier on-field transition to the NFL shadowing a team’s secondary target. Most top-ten cornerbacks are asked to be the star in the secondary; Milliner will be more of a role player and get much more favorable matchups.
The move also allows former first-round pick Kyle Wilson to move back inside to the slot, where the team has been developing him for three years before he was kicked outside after Revis tore his ACL.
Plus, Milliner is an effective blitzer, which is a necessity in Ryan's defense that is filled with exotic blitz schemes. Ryan rarely used Cromartie and Revis as blitzes, but they were much more established cover men that, frankly, were too effective in coverage to be "wasted" rushing the passer. As a rookie, expect Milliner to do a little bit of everything and record a few hurries and sacks.
Adding a corner like Milliner also helps hide what could be a scary safety situation for the Jets in 2013. Without both veteran starters from last year, the Jets could go through some growing pains. Without making a significant upgrade at one of the position, there is no way the Jets would have the same pass defense from a year ago returning just one starting defensive back.
However, there will be the lingering storyline of the Jets using one of their top picks to directly replace a living legend in Darrelle Revis, who was traded earlier in the week. Milliner was not timid of the possibility of having to fill such a huge void before the draft, but now that the possibility has become a reality, only time will tell if Milliner has the mental toughness to deal with the intense scrutiny of replacing a great player, which is only exacerbated in the New York media.
Still, no matter how you look at it, the Jets filled a huge need with one of the best players in the draft, which is a philosophy few can argue with.