There's the Dee Milliner we've all been waiting for.
While many people assumed that it would be CB Antonio Cromartie lining up across from Browns WR Josh Gordon, head coach Rex Ryan instead chose to go with his rookie cornerback, and the decision paid off handsomely.
"Early in the week Coach told me I was going to be on Gordon," Milliner said, "so I knew there was going to be an opportunity, there were going to be a lot of plays thrown at me, so I was just ready for it."
"A lot" equated to 16 Josh Gordon targets, though the NFL's leader in receiving yards caught just six of those balls for 97 yards and failed to score a touchdown for the first time in five games.
"He's pretty good," Gordon said of Milliner. "He's a great young player and should be good for a long time in this league. The more experience he gets, the better he'll be and— offenses won't attack him as much."
But today, the Browns did attack him — early and often. And Milliner delivered with a team-high nine tackles and his first career interception.
The INT came on a throw by QB Jason Campbell intended for WR Greg Little during Cleveland's first drive of the third quarter with the Browns nearing red zone territory in a 10-10 game.
"It felt great to finally get my hands on the ball and keep it this time," Milliner said, alluding to a couple of times throughout this season when potential picks went through his hands.
The Browns went 3-and-out on their only other possession that quarter thanks in part to one of Milliner's five PDs on the day on a third-and-19 pass thrown Gordon's way.
Prior to this afternoon's performance, only two New York Jets have ever had as many as five PDs in one game, according to Stats Inc. CB Darrelle Revis did it twice in his six years with the Green & White, after CB Marcus Coleman set the bar with six PDs during our Monday Night Miracle win over Miami in 2000.
Milliner credited his "best game all season" to his film studies and scout team looks throughout the week.
"We knew he was going to run a lot of digs and verticals, depending on where he was lining up," he said of Gordon. "If he was inside the slot, they were going to try to give it to him and isolate him. We knew those things. Coach called coverages to prevent the big plays that he usually gets."
"The thing about Dee," Cromartie said, "he's starting to understand route concepts and starting to understand what teams are trying to do. When you start understanding things like that, you start to play faster, the game starts to slow down a lot more, and I think that's exactly what happened for him today."
Whether it's the speed of the game, the studying of film or the scout-team preparation, "I'm *finally *doing what my coaches have been harping on me every day," Milliner said.
Better late than never.
"This guy right here is going to be an outstanding player, there's no question," Rex Ryan said. "We know we have another game in front of us, and it's going to be a huge challenge for him going against Miami. They pretty much slaughtered us the last time out, so we'll see how we do. But that young man is going to be a player, there's no doubt."