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Miller Time: The Jets Have to Look at Clemson's Justin Miller

by EricBarton50
Contributing Columnist

In less than four days the Jets will be OTC at pick #26. Jets GM Terry Bradway and Head Coach Herm Edwards have been stressing the need to add a playmaking pass catching Tight End that can be a downfield threat. The best Tight End in this draft is considered by most to be junior Heath Miller from Virginia. Heath Miller would give Pennington a reliable target. Miller, who has a knack for getting open, could be the reliable pass catching TE/fallback option similar to what Mark Chmura gave Brett Favre years ago. However, if you think Heath Miller will be anything more than a very solid pro, you might be sorely disappointed. With that in mind…

Another plan that Bradway and Herm have discussed is the need to add youth and speed in the secondary, specifically at the cornerback position. Let’s take a look into the Jets current depth chart at the cornerback position. David Barrett is our #1 corner, and while he performed well down the stretch last season and is physical, he lacks the top end speed to ever be a true #1 corner.

Donnie Abraham will soon turn 32 years old and is slower than a tortoise carrying an elephant on its back at this point in his career, not to mention that he is considering retirement. Even if he returns in 2005, he should be nothing more than a backup–way back up. He is a terrible nickelback, lacking the quickness and awareness to lineup against slot receivers and Derrick Strait is a talented, hungry young cornerback. Just a year removed from winning the Jim Thorpe Award, recognizing him as the best defensive back in the nation in 2003. But, to date, we don’t really know if he can handle the starting role opposite David Barrett this season.

Ray Mickens is coming off a major injury and is 31 years old. I like him as a nickelback, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see that Mickens has lost a step or two in the past year and a half of inactivity. Clearly, this position is in dire need of youth, athleticism and speed.

The top corners in the draft are Antrel Rolle, Pac Man Jones, Carlos Rogers, Justin Miller, Marlin Jackson and Fabian Washington. Go grab your pen and notebook and cross off Antrel Rolle, Pac Man Jones and Carlos Rogers. They have absolutely no chance of slipping to where the Jets pick at #26. Justin Miller, Marlin Jackson and Fabian Washington are the second tier of cornerbacks who might be available when the Jets pick in the first round.

Marlin Jackson is a physical corner, but I think he’d be better suited to play safety because he lacks great burst, and when beaten in coverage in the NFL, you need to have a second gear to catch up and make a play on the ball in the bigs. Jackson came into Michigan as the natural successorto the Ty Law/Charles Woodson top-corner throne, but never was able to live up to the hype. How can he be expected to do that as a pro?

Fabian Washington: No Comment. This guy deserves no consideration to be a first round pick. Just thinking he could be the pick in the first when he was, at first, a projected third rounder before he ran a 4.28 at the combines, makes me shudder. While his athleticism is intriguing, his late rise up the draft charts based on combine numbers raises alot of red flags with me.

And that brings me to Clemson CB Justin Miller.

Now here’s a great football player. This Clemson junior cornerback has it all. What five things do you want in a cornerback?

1. Size (5’10” and 185 lbs. minimum)
2. Speed (both straight line and closing speed)
3. Attitude (confidence, swagger and a short memory)
4. Agility (turn and run ability, short area quickness)
5. Tackling ability (toughness is a must here)

Simply put, Justin Miller has it all. While measuring in at just 5’10, you’d be surprised because he plays mcuh bigger than that, with his dynamic vertical leap compensating for a lack of ieal height. He has a highlight reel of hits and forced fumbles that would makes one jump out of their chair and pump your fists. He hits like a strong safety, punishing wide receivers and running backs at every chance he gets. And he also weighs in at 200lbs and clocks a speedy 4.43 in the 40 yard dash. And if you want to question his agility or speed, just go watch films of him returning punts and kickoffs. On top of being an excellent cover corner, where he totaled nine pass deflections and three interceptions last season, he, along with Oklahoma’s Antonio Perkins, is the most dangerous return man in the draft. Last season alone, Miller had 20 kickoff returns for 661 yards (33.1 avg.) and a pair of scores, adding 339 yards and a touchdown on 26 punt returns (13.0 avg.). His 30.7-yard career average on 50 returns is the best in ACC history and the fourth best in NCAA history. Not to mention he’ll be only 21 by the time the season starts in 2005, while fellow highly-touted corner Carlos Rogers will already be 24. And don’t expect him to sulk under the bleachers after giving up a TD pass, either–a knock that Rogers carries–Miller takes no prisoners and has a swagger that all great corners have.

When you dissect Justin Miller as a pure football player and as a cornerback he brings a lot of things to the table. If you’re looking at a current NFL player that most closely resembles the style of play of Justin Miller, look no further than Foxboro’s hard hitting FS/CB Eugene Wilson. Justin Miller is faster, stronger and has better cover skills as a corner, but both are punishing, smash-mouth, jaw-breaking hard hitters! As a return man, Justin Miller is on a whole different level. He has quite possibly the greatest combination of vision, speed and burst in a return man since Deion Sanders was drafted. Like Sanders, Miller runs north-south on returns, taking a fearless approach to the return game not seen in Jets-land since Bruce Harper retired.

Justin Miller is far and away the most complete corner in this year’s draft. Never again will you see a great player like Justin Miller have the chance to be up for grabs this late in the first round. This cornerback class is as deep as it has been in over a decade, and if Miller had returned to Clemson for his final season, he might have catapulted to the Top 10 overall in 2006. Sometimes luck can work in the Jets’ favor, lets hope that Bradway takes advantage of it.

Should Justin Miller and Heath Miller both be on the board when the Jets are OTC, Bradway should waste no time in beginning Miller Time–Justin Miller that is.

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