As training camp is officially in full swing, the theme this year under new general manager John Idzik seems to be “competition.” Recently in a press conference Rex Ryan said the only guaranteed starters are Antonio Cromartie, David Harris, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and Nick Mangold (not cool leaving Muhammad Wilkerson out Rex, not cool at all). After Antonio Cromartie, the Jets cornerback depth is locked into a brutal battle for the second spot.
When you have a top ten pick (Dee Milliner) and a young former first round pick (Kyle Wilson) battling for the same position, there’s bound to be controversy. If they seem to play at the same level throughout the preseason, how do you decide on a starter?
Milliner is a rookie playing a position rookies notoriously struggle at (even Revis was shaky his rookie season). Even more importantly, Milliner will need to refine his technique as Alabama corners are not taught to backpedal in college. Although these sound like serious faults in Milliner’s chance to start, the pros are impressive. He dominated the best competition the SEC had to offer, which is the best conference in college football. Before his final year at Alabama, he was primarily a nickel and dime back which is used quite often in Alabama’s defense. He was awarded freshman All-American honors and dominated at the nickel, and eventually dominated on the outside throughout his last year at school.
Kyle Wilson might be one of the more curious cases on the Jets roster. Most fans seem to love or hate the guy and may have even given up on him too early. Entering his fourth season, the former first round pick has certainly shown improvement as the years have passed. As a rookie, Wilson was drafted to be the Jets nickel back as Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie were the outside corners. What the Jets failed to realize was that you can not fit a square peg into a round hole. Wilson didn’t play nickel corner in college, making it seem quite reasonable he would struggle at the position in the NFL. Last season when Darrelle Revis went down, Wilson stepped into the second corner spot covering the second best wide receiver on the outside. In this role Wilson had what was definitely his best season to date. Although he still has trouble recovering on deeper passes, his press coverage ability seems to be improving, a vital aspect of Rex Ryan’s defense.
After these two “obvious” candidates, the Jets corner depth is littered with wild cards. Isaiah Trufant, although undersized, played excellent as a slot corner last season until suffering a season ending injury. Ellis Lankster garnered tons of hype last preseason, but showed very little when given opportunity in meaningful games. Darrin Walls had an impressive few days of OTA’s but will need to show progress throughout training camp, when it matters. Aaron Berry started for the Lions after going undrafted, but has yet to remain healthy as a Jet or show any consistent contribution.
The argument of who should start is a common case of a fan base losing patience. Jets fans want to see another Darrelle Revis and are aware that Kyle Wilson will never be that. What they aren’t sure of is if Dee Milliner can be that guy. They want to see the unseen. While this is exciting and packs limitless potential, the more intelligent route would be the patient one. Milliner has the potential to be a top ten corner in this league, but throwing him into the fire against the opposition’s second best target will not help him. Milliner can succeed in a nickel back role, as he’s proven before throughout his freshman year at Alabama. Let’s see what Kyle Wilson can do on the outside and groom Dee Milliner to dominate at that spot in the near future. Patience Jets fans, as this is one camp competition that should show promising signs for the future.