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Denzel Mims’ 2020 season in review: Strengths and weaknesses (Film)

Denzel Mims
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

New York Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims has all the tools to become a wide receiver No. 1. Today, his strengths and weaknesses are analyzed.

Being a rookie in the National Football League is never easy. The game completely changes from college to the pros, not only inside the white lines but off the field as well.

Aside from the glaring change of speed of the game and the obviously increased competition, NFL rookies must adapt to the whole new work ethic that’s presented in NFL locker rooms—new diets, accountability in the weight room and on the practice field, dealing with grumpy vets—while also getting caught up to a more complex playbook and practicing against the world best players.

Sometimes, this is a lot to take on during a normal year. Yet, 2020 was anything but normal.

Imagine being Denzel Mims. His life is about to change drastically but at least minicamps and OTAs can ease him into it. Confidence can slowly be built over the spring, eventually leading into training camp.

Then, the pandemic happens.

OTAs and rookie minicamps get canceled. And, finally, when things are good enough and you can hit the practice field, an injury pops up … twice.

Mims’ rookie season was anything but normal.

Despite the bumps, Mims played good ball in 2020. He went beyond just “showing flashes.” The Baylor product produced when he was featured, a great sign for New York Jets fans that have been longing for a great, homegrown wide receiver since the departure of … Jerricho Cotchery?.

Besides showing great skills on the field, Mims was voted by the Jets’ equipment staff as the “rookie who acts like a pro in the locker room,” winning the Jets’ Hampton award—a great sign regarding his work ethic.

Mims has been publicly backed by his teammates and former head coach Adam Gase, who always spoke highly of number No. 11 each time he was asked about him. Unfortunately, Gase did not translate his words into actions, seemingly forgetting about Mims during games while calling plays.

Despite that, Denzel Mims found a way to produce.

I separated some plays below that showcase his biggest strengths: the ability to locate the football, big catch radius, YAC skills and a good understanding of coverage when lined up inside.

I will also point to what I believe should be Mims’ focus of improvement: varying his releases, stacking defensive backs and accelerating throughout the route.

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Mims’ strengths

1. Adjusting to the football 

It’s no secret to anyone that Mims is great at high-pointing and locating the football. This was the reason he was drafted in the second round. The guy can win 50-50 balls.

In the three plays below, Mims runs a go-route and beats the defender with physicality and great location of the football, adjusting his path towards the ball. It’s a plus that his biggest skillset has translated from college to pro.

2. Catch radius

Denzel Mims can’t be missed easily. He reminds me a lot of New York Giants’ newly-acquired receiver Kenny Golladay when the matter is catch radius, because Mims combines this with a fearless approach to balls thrown over the middle.

In the two plays below, Mims turns shaky passes into completions. A dig-route between a few defenders and a pivot/jerk route that was thrown way too in front of him.

3. YAC ability

A guy as big as Mims is usually hard to bring down if you try to tackle him high, but the kid also showcases good balance and aggressiveness in every situation with the ball in his hands.

These two plays against the New England Patriots are a great example of his ability to be an aggressive ball carrier, an underrated and rare skillset.

4. Understanding coverages

The two plays below are similar, yet not equal. Mims lines up inside the numbers and has to run a deep curl-route, finding the soft spot in the zone defense.

I was impressed how Mims perfectly adjusted his route based on the coverage he was facing, giving the quarterback an easier throw. It’s no coincidence that the ball went Mims’ way on both plays.

Mims’ weaknesses

1. Varying releases, stacking DBs

Denzel Mims wins with physicality, and that’s fine, but he needs to refine his game and vary his moves to beat NFL corners on a consistent basis. In the game the Jets played against the Los Angeles Chargers, Joe Flacco saw how Mims was outdueling cornerbacks with physicality, so Flacco fed the youngster.

It did not matter that Mims only used speed releases (simply going outside the moment the ball is snapped), but it will in the long run. Mims must vary his moves in order to beat elite cornerback competition consistently in the NFL. He must learn how to attack inside and create separation early in the route, and not only when the ball gets to him.

Mims also needs to stack the cornerback more. That means, the moment he beats the DB, he needs to get on top of the defender,  making it harder on the defensive back to bounce back on the play.

The four 9-routes he ran vs. the Chargers are a great example of Mims’ physicality doing the job alone for him—something that’ll only take him so far without more of a release arsenal.

2. Running routes with a sense of urgency

Route-running is a tricky art. Sometimes you need patience, other times you need urgency. Mims has yet to reach his potential here.

The play below is a prime example of what happened multiple times during last season: Mims did not reach his full speed during the route, which sometimes made the play develop slower than it should.

Overall, Denzel Mims is an exciting player for Jets fans. Gang Green has lacked a great, homegrown wide receiver forever, and Mims can be that guy. His apparent great work ethic will go a long way in refining his game, so he should be able to add the technique to his already dominant physical game.

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3 years ago

Great work as always, Vitor! I always learn something from your film study.