New York Jets coach Rex Ryan wants cornerback Dee Milliner to get on the field and stay there.
Last week during the open OTA for the Jets, the former Stanhope Elmore and Alabama star was sitting out because of tightness in his left hamstring. Milliner missed three games with a hamstring injury after the Jets took him with the ninth pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. That came after he missed the post-draft workouts because of shoulder surgery, then parts of training camp with an Achilles injury.
Ryan has said the missed time hampered Milliner’s development. This year, the Jets want Milliner to be their No. 1 cornerback after they released Antonio Cromartie during the offseason.
“He has to understand that he has to be in extraordinary shape,” Ryan said. “His challenge is to be in world-class shape because we have to have you out there. He needs to be out there. He needs to get work because that’s how he’s going to get better.”
Last season, Milliner made three interceptions – one in the Jets’ next-to-last game and two in the final game.
“You saw it as the year went on last year,” Ryan said. “He got better because of the work on the practice field and in the classroom. He was taking off from there, and you don’t want to see this happen. He’s got to step it up, because I think he’s got all the talent in the world.”
Milliner said he hurt the hamstring during Monday’s workout and doesn’t think it’s another serious injury.
“It bothers me because I want to be out there on the field with my teammates getting better during OTAs,” he said. “In another way, it’s fine because I know (I’m not) injured or hurt that bad.”
The Jets continue OTAs on Monday through Thursday.
COURTNEY UPSHAW GETS HANDLE ON WEIGHT
Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw (Eufaula) is closer to his playing weight this time around at Baltimore OTAs, and Ravens coach John Harbaugh has noticed after seeing him over that figure the past two seasons.
“He looks like he’s in really good shape,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll start monitoring the weight a little more closely, (but) he’s in the ballpark. It’s not like he’s out of shape weight-wise. He’s close, no problem getting through practice. He looks good. We’re happy with him.”
That wasn’t the case last year, when Harbaugh said: “Courtney’s weight issue … is that he doesn’t eat right. Courtney eats too much, and he doesn’t eat all the right foods. He knows that, and that’s something he’s going to have to get a handle on or he’s not going to be the best he can be. But he’s aware of it.”
Upshaw declined to say how much he weighed after Baltimore’s public OTA last week, but he’s not going to need to lose 20 pounds before training camp, as he did last year, to reach his playing weight of 273. Upshaw said he weighed 295 at times last summer.
“I feel good,” Upshaw said. “I’m still working to drop a few more pounds, but I feel better and I’m able to run better than I was in the past. There’s a difference there.
“I’m trying to stay close and not be outrageous with it like in the past few years when I got on the scale and it’s a surprise with my weight because I’m like 20 or 30 pounds over. You have to work extra.”
Upshaw was on the field for 27 percent fewer plays in 2013 than he was as a rookie in 2012.
“I want to get out there on that field and produce – make some tackles, gets some sacks, whatever it takes to help the team,” Upshaw said. “I can’t produce if I’m overweight and tired.”
Baltimore continues OTAs on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
KAREEM JACKSON SHOWING JADEVEON CLOWNEY HOW IT’S DONE
Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson is setting a good example for Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft during the Texans’ OTAs. Heading into his fourth season as a starter for Houston, Jackson has been working in the slot to fill in for Johnathan Joseph on the Texans’ defense. Joseph had toe surgery after the 2013 season and hasn’t been a full participant in the offseason workouts.
“Those young guys we have been talking about, they see a veteran playing two spots and now that gives them incentive to learn what they have to learn,” Houston defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said. “I think that makes everybody better because everybody knows that ‘If I can play two spots, I can help the team more.’ Clowney is going to look and he’s going to see this veteran who started last year. He’s playing inside and outside, and so if I can play defensive end and linebacker, then I become more valuable.”
Clowney was a defensive end at South Carolina, but is being asked to play outside linebacker in Houston’s 3-4 defense.
Houston continues OTAs on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
WILL ‘LIGHT YEARS’ MEAN LIGHT SPEED FOR EAGLES’ OFFENSE?
Guard Evan Mathis (Homewood) said the Philadelphia Eagles are “light years” ahead of where they were at this time last year when they were preparing for their first season under coach Chip Kelly. The Eagles won three of their first eight games under the former Oregon coach, but went 7-1 in the second half of the 2013 season to make the NFC playoffs.
Mathis said Kelly’s fast-paced offensive plan should run smoother this season after a year’s experience.
“Just offense, there’s a lot going on,” Mathis said. “There’re a lot of plays, a lot of hand signals you get from the sideline and the execution is usually supposed to be very fast. And last year, we’re learning the hand signals, we’re learning the plays and really getting used to the tempo of the way he does things. Just looking back at it, we were going hard, we were going fast and giving it our all, but I think we were a little unsure a lot of times, and this year, you can see so much more confidence on the field. Everybody’s executing. It’s much more crisp and that’s just what you get with a year under this system and under this coaching staff.”
In his ninth NFL season, Mathis earned All-Pro honors for the first time in 2013.
Philadelphia continues OTAs on Monday through Thursday.
ROMAN HARPER ‘ENERGIZED’ BY MOVE TO PANTHERS
After eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints, safety Roman Harper (Prattville) has joined another NFC South team, signing in the offseason with the Carolina Panthers.
“It’s an adjustment,” Harper said. “Everything is different – new colors, new teammates, new city. But at the same time, it has really energized me after eight years in one place. It’s refreshing, and it’s a new challenge. It’s really got me going.”
After injuries limited him to nine games and he made just five starts for the Saints last season, Harper has been lining up with the first team during the Panthers’ public OTAs, ahead of another former Alabama standout, Robert Lester (Foley).
Carolina continues OTAs on Monday through Thursday.
MARK BARRON, JEOFFREY PAGAN REMAIN SIDELINED
A couple of ex-Alabama defenders are among the players missing from action during OTAs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Mark Barron (St. Paul’s) is trying to get over a hamstring problem, and the Bucs don’t expect him to be ready to go until training camp.
Defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan hasn’t been able to participate in the Houston Texans’ OTAs as he recovers from shoulder surgery following the 2013 season. The Texans took Pagan in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Getting closer to practicing with his team is wide receiver Julio Jones (Foley). Last week, Jones was on the field during the Atlanta Falcons’ public OTA, but he was working on the side with trainers as he recovers from a foot fracture suffered last season.