Dee Milliner continued his strong New Year's week and final month of the season with yet another award as the rookie cornerback was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month for December.
Milliner, the top pick of our 2013 draft at No. 9 overall, was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his outstanding performance in the 20-7 win at Miami in the season finale on Sunday.
After his up-and-down first three months of the season, the young man from Alabama put it together with his fine stretch run. The Cleveland Browns went at him as he mostly covered NFL receiving-yardage leader Josh Gordon and came up with six pass breakups and his first pro interception.
Then vs. the Dolphins, Milliner's primary assignment was the dangerous Mike Wallace. Chalk up five more PDs and his first two-INT game, giving him three picks for the season to tie him with Antonio Cromartie for the team leadership.
"It feels great, finally catching on to things, doing what I'm supposed to," Milliner said after that game, no pun intended. He added that he had a motto he followed this season, to great concluding effect: "Just be out there, be confident in what you can do, and just go out there and play."
Milliner unofficially is the first NFL player with back-to-back games of five or more pass defenses since 1994, when Stats Inc. first began tracking PDs.
Only five other players have two or more 5-PD games in a season: Pittsburgh's Dewayne Washington in 1998, Green Bay's Mike McKenzie in 2004 (three, including a playoff game against Philadelphia), Philadelphia's Lito Sheppard in 2006, and Brent Grimes, the current Dolphin who had two 5-PD games in a three-game span for Atlanta in 2010.
"I think Dee's game really picked up when Ed Reed came in," head coach Rex Ryan said of the veteran safety, who perhaps not coincidentally split the final six takeaways of the season with Milliner, three interceptions apiece, in the final four games. "Obviously [DBs coach] Tim McDonald has done a tremendous job with him, also [coordinator] Dennis Thurman, so he's in pretty good hands. I saw it on the practice field. That's when you notice the kind of player he's become."
Milliner also makes it a big one-two closing kick for our draft class as he accepts his honor following first-round DT Sheldon Richardson's being named the league's Defensive Rookie of the Month for November.
Our first Rookie of the Month was S Erik Coleman for his September 2004 NFL Debut. Two months later, LB Jonathan Vilma won the November award. LB David Harris took home the honor for November 2007 and QB Mark Sanchez for September 2009.