The Jets were handed a potentially major blow in the secondary during Sunday’s practice as Dee Milliner and third round pick Dexter McDougle both left the practice field with injuries. McDougle’s season is almost certainly over after an ACL injury was confirmed, with fears that Milliner’s apparent ankle injury could be serious as well.
For McDougle, it is an incredibly unfortunate turn of events for a player that missed the majority of his final collegiate season and pre-draft workouts with a shoulder injury, a setback he had only just recently been cleared from. It’s also a sadly missed opportunity - the rookie corner saw a decent amount of work in the first preseason game on Thursday and had been taking first team reps in camp since that game, as Dimitri Patterson has also been nursing an injury. Another player known for his injury proneness, Patterson struggled in the first preseason game and it looked like an open door for McDougle to make an instant impact.
Milliner’s potential loss on the other hand could be a catastrophic blow for a team that did its offseason planning around Milliner stepping up as the defense’s number one corner. An area that was already one of the more unproven aspects of the Jets defense now has even more questions.
If Milliner is out for an extended period as well, the Jets may have to dip into the free agent market and see if any worthwhile stopgap becomes available through training camp cuts. The team’s original plan for a stopgap, Dimitri Patterson, has the worst injury history of all and it would be a massive blow if four of the team’s top three corners all missed significant playing time.
Darrin Walls deputized well during Milliner’s tough rookie season last year, and is a likely candidate to start if injuries keep out Milliner for a significant period. Of course, the Jets have a former first round pick at corner on their roster still in Kyle Wilson as well. Wilson’s been entrenched as the team’s slot corner for several seasons now and filled in competently as a starter when the Jets lost Revis to an ACL injury in 2012. Wilson is likely looking at his last year as a Jet, but if he is thrust into the starting lineup it will give him an opportunity to shine for his next contract - if not with the Jets, than with somebody else.
For now, the Jets just have to hope Milliner’s injury isn’t season threatening. Any scenario where Milliner can be rested and ready for the opening game of the season would be considered a major victory.