Jets head coach Rex Ryan told Dee Milliner on Monday that he would be going up against Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who came into the game leading the league in receiving yards. The rookie first-round pick rose to the challenge in the Jets’ 24-13 win over the Browns.
Gordon still had six catches for 97 yards, but those numbers were down from the 114 yards per game he averaged coming into Week 16. He was also kept out of the end zone for the first time in five games. It was a tall task handed to Milliner, who has had his struggles this year, but he responded well against Gordon. He called it “an opportunity to get a lot of plays.”
“Coaches came to me and told me I was going to be on him so when he told me, I was going to do whatever he told me,” Milliner said. “I watched a lot of film, [and] worked hard in practice. Got the same thing from the scout team I saw today.”
It was a boost for Milliner, who a few weeks ago got an endorsement from his head coach. Ryan said by season’s end the former Alabama star would be the top cornerback to emerge from this past year’s NFL Draft. On Sunday, Ryan called Milliner a player who “is going to be outstanding.”
In terms of the scouting report, Milliner was told to play physically with Gordon and make sure to wrap him up on short passing routes. It was an effective strategy and one that Milliner put into action. For the early part of the year, he struggled with his press coverage but that has taken a turn for the better over the past few weeks, starting with a strong performance against the Raiders two weeks ago.
In the third quarter of what was beginning to look like a promising drive — the Browns had gone 50 yards on eight plays and were in Jets territory — Milliner got the inside position on wide receiver Greg Little. He read the eyes of quarterback Jason Campbell perfectly and jumped the route for his first career interception.
The ball sat on a shelf in Milliner’s locker after the game and he said it will go back to his home in Alabama to sit on a shelf with some other mementos.
“Coach gave us a call, he knew that they were going to give us an inside route,” Milliner said. “The play, everybody was in the spot they were supposed to be, [and] did their responsibility. When I looked up, I looked at the quarterback and I see he was getting to ready throw the ball in the zone. And I broke on where the receiver was at.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.