"I have to thank God for making me this good!"
Those are the words Justin Miller exclaimed last Sunday at training camp during defensive back drills. Now, wearing No. 21, the fourth-year cornerback out of Clemson has made his presence felt during the offseason program, preparing to seize a more-vital role on the defense.
Selected in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Justin Miller has mainly excelled in special teams as a kick returner. Being the only man to represent the New York Jets in Hawaii at the 2007 Pro Bowl, Miller's fearless running style placed him in the Jets' record books.
In 2005, Miller set a record for a rookie with 1,577 yards on 60 attempts. The following season, he recorded the organization's longest kick-off return, sprinting for 103 yards against the Indianapolis Colts. In 2006, he established another record with three kick-return touchdowns in a single-season. The total was matched by Leon Washington in 2007, as Miller missed 14 games with a knee injury.
Miller's special teams accomplishments aside, fans still hoped for more from him, wanting to see the 57th overall pick emerge as a starting CB. With the opportunities he has had to shine on defense, Miller has had modest success. His style of play is aggressive, and his speed has allowed him to keep up in coverage.
Draft experts expect most cornerbacks to be fully adjusted to the speed of the NFL by their third season. As the Jets' began their 2007 campaign, all reports on Miller's progress were positive.
Unfortunately, his efforts were hindered by a strained hamstring throughout the preseason. When he returned to regular action, he sustained the aforementioned knee injury in Week Two of the regular season, placing him on injured reserve.
With Darrelle Revis establishing himself as the Jets' primary CB on the roster, Justin Miller is, once again, having an excellent showing at training camp. Practicing with the first defensive unit since the start of the offseason, the job appears to be Miller's to lose.
Nipping at his heels for the other starting CB position is ninth-year man David Barrett, who has been a solid tackler with passable coverage skills, but is generally inconsistent.
If the game has finally slowed down for Miller, the potential for the Jets' secondary to be a dominant faction seems bright. Jets fans should expect a very talented tandem, with Miller and Revis blanketing receivers on both sides of the field.
History has taught fans that players tend to perform beyond expectations when entering the final year of their contracts. If one couples the positive outlook on Miller's progress with his eagerness for a new contract, he may find himself in position to exploit opportunities, as opposing quarterbacks underestimate him.
Angel Navedo is the Head Writer at NYJetsFan.com, boasting Jet Fuel Radio, frequently updated news and opinions, and a premier fan community.