FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan insists this will not be a lost season for Dee Milliner. Even after benching him twice already this season, the New York Jets coach still believes the first-round draft pick will end up rebounding in a major way.
"He's close to being that player that we want," Ryan said Wednesday. "I will say this: By the time the season's over, I think he will be the best rookie corner and playing better than any rookie corner in this year's draft. I don't think there's any doubt. We anticipate that.
"He was the No. 1 cornerback selected, but that's how we feel about him. I think he's close. I really do."
Milliner has started four games, but has also dealt with a hamstring injury that sidelined him three games. He was benched in the second half against New England in Week 2, and again in the second quarter last Sunday against Cincinnati. Ryan says Milliner will be back in the starting secondary against New Orleans on Sunday.
"I think with Dee, when I went back and I watched that tape," Ryan said, "he's a lot closer than I think (he's) given credit for."
Also at play is the fact that Milliner took Darrelle Revis' spot in the secondary, starting opposite Antonio Cromartie. Revis was considered one of the premier players at his position, and Cromartie has assumed his role as the No. 1 cornerback.
"Oh, man, you feel bad," Milliner said of having to stand on the sideline and watch during games. "But, you know, it's for the better. I was out there making physical mistakes and they put other people out there, they put (Darrin) Walls in and he did a good job of finishing the game."
Against Cincinnati, Milliner gave up four receptions for 108 yards in just under a half. The previous week against the Patriots, he allowed six catches for 52 yards.
"I just see him getting better, I do," Ryan said. "And I know how bad he wants it. All facets, schematically, he's not making the mental errors, so I think that's a big thing. And just his technique, I see his technique coming. Now he just needs to have some success tied along with it, and I think that's what's missing, get an interception or two and I think he's going to be good."
Ryan also joked that this Sunday would be a good time for Milliner to have that kind of game. The Jets are taking on the high-powered Saints offense, with Drew Brees likely licking his chops at going after a rookie cornerback.
In fact, Milliner says, he expects to get picked on.
"I've put on film that plays get over me here and there," he said. "He watches film. He's one of the great quarterbacks in today's game. He's going to be out there and, of course, I'm the new kid out there. So, he's going to look to attack me on things."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press