The New York Jets are banged up in a big way at cornerback.
Dee Milliner, a major part of Rex Ryan’s defense in his second season, was helped from the practice field after injuring his left ankle. A half-hour earlier Sunday, rookie Dexter McDougle was carted off after tearing a ligament in his left knee.
"Those things happen and it’s unfortunate, but you’ve got to move on," Ryan said before the team announced the severity of McDougle’s injury. "Who plays in their place, I’ve got to find out who’s still out there."
Veteran Dimitri Patterson, projected as a possible starter opposite Milliner, missed practice for the second straight day with ankle and calf injuries — making the Jets’ secondary extremely thin. Their next preseason game is at Cincinnati next Saturday.
Milliner, expected to be the team’s No. 1 cornerback, went down after defending wide receiver Quincy Enunwa on a long pass and writhed in pain on the sideline at SUNY Cortland.
"He came down and rolled his ankle," Ryan said.
Trainers rushed over to Milliner, the team’s No. 1 draft pick last year, and examined him.
"I was focusing on the ball," Enunwa said. "He might have run into me or something. I’d have to go back and look at it, but I don’t know honestly what happened."
Added quarterback Michael Vick: "It hurt me to see Dee on the ground."
Milliner got up after several minutes, but didn’t put any weight on his leg before being carted to the medical tent. Milliner grimaced while trainers placed his foot in a tub of ice. He was then carted to the locker room.
Ryan didn’t want to speculate as to whether Milliner’s ankle was sprained or broken, but thought the fact he was told he rolled it would indicate it could be a sprain.
Milliner struggled as a rookie last year before rebounding with a solid final month. After parting ways with Antonio Cromartie in the offseason, the Jets envisioned Milliner being their top cover guy — and he said during camp he had the confidence to believe he’s the best cornerback in the league.
McDougle was expected to make an immediate impact, either as a backup or potentially as a starter over Patterson. The third-round pick out of Maryland was hurt during a 1-on-1 drill with wide receiver Stephen Hill, who jumped over the cornerback to catch a pass. McDougle went down, tore off his helmet and stayed on his back as fellow cornerback Darrin Walls and wide receiver David Nelson came over to check on him.
"I guess he came down, a cleat got caught," Ryan said. "I just listened and was there for him, but he felt a sharp pain, and that was it."
He walked off the field, but was eventually carted to the locker room to be further examined.
"Thank you everyone who has sent me your support and prayers," McDougle wrote on his Twitter page. "This is a tough blow but I promise, I will be back better than ever. (hashtag)GodSpeed."
McDougle missed nearly all of last season at Maryland with a shoulder injury, and said he teared up while standing on the field at MetLife Stadium last Thursday night before making his NFL debut.
"I know he was like, `Oh, you’ve got to be kidding,’" Ryan said.
Ryan said both Milliner and McDougle would have MRI exams to check on the severity of their injuries; the team was still awaiting results on Milliner. With them sidelined along with Patterson, Walls and Ellis Lankster worked with the starters.
Kyle Wilson, Johnny Patrick, Ras-I Dowling and Brandon Dixon are the only remaining cornerbacks. Backup Jeremy Reeves has been hobbled with a knee injury.
"It’ll be adversity for some and opportunity for others," Ryan said. "We’ll put the best 11 out there and we’ll be able to play defense."