Denzel Mims, Keelan Cole
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

New York Jets minicamp 2021 kicked off Tuesday with a familiar feeling that’s carried over from OTAs, and Denzel Mims is at the center.

Robby Sabo

FLORHAM PARK, NJ—OK, so if they signed Corey Davis as the No. 1 and Denzel Mims obviously assumes WR2, that means the third spot is up for grabs. Right?

There’s veteran Jamison Crowder, a man whose recent contract restructure places him in the mix. There’s Braxton Berrios, otherwise known as “the man catching every Zach Wilson pass.” There’s also the newly-signed Keelan Cole and rookie Elijah Moore.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 … 7? … 8?

Don’t forget about Vyncint Smith, Lawrence Cager, Josh Malone and little-known Manasseh Bailey, a former basketball player who’s currently making the most of the reps he’s given.

So many bodies, so few spots, too much confusion to even start thinking about numbers that go as high as 7 (bodies kept once the preseason concludes). Sure, this particular New York Jets wide receiver room is a deep and unproven one, making the prognostication game that much more difficult, but such a game in the first place is silly more often than not.

It’s minicamp. Depth chart confusion is a good thing, and with any luck, more confusion can turn into something great down the road.

The most recent bout of fan confusion deals with the second-year Baylor product, No. 11. Tuesday in Florham Park saw Mims look on as Moore, Berrios and Cole assumed first-team reps. This was also the case during the last media-available OTA session last week.

Therefore, some fans are understandably jumping the gun on Mims’s low-stock status. Please don’t. There’s a very good reason not to: Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur deploy an old-school mentality.

Along with Mims, who’s only recently returned from injury, Davis and Crowder made their respective debuts Tuesday in Florham Park. Davis also returned from injury while Crowder, as previously mentioned, decided on sticking with the Jets via pay-cut.

As practice finished out its last seven-on-seven session, Mims, Davis and Crowder were all clearly visible while watching Moore, Berrios and Cole get the first call. Why? Well, because on this team, players have to earn it.

Miss time, fall behind. As simple as it sounds is as lost as it’s become in its football practice. The NFL level, courtesy of its fantasy-football-loving fans, oftentimes plugs players into specific spots entirely too early. Even real-life coaches are often found guilty of rushing a guy up the depth chart too soon.

Not Saleh. Not LaFleur. Not even when Joe Douglas spends $37.5 million on a “so-called” No. 1 wide receiver.

Granted, both Mims and Davis are returning from injury; perhaps that played into things. And this was Crowder’s first day back. Then again, Davis is the $37.5 million man, Mims is the prized second-round pick, and Crowder is the tried and tested veteran who’s already “earned” his place in the league.

It goes both ways. But it’s the old-school coach looking to drive competition that plays it day-by-day and free of assumption.

Jets X-Factor Membership

Labeling Denzel Mims a non-starting receiver for the Jets is beyond premature. That isn’t to say Cole has no chance of beating him out this August. But at this stage, we’re still dealing with rotation and old-school minds that require everybody to earn it.

Besides, LaFleur has been rotating his receivers, tight ends and backs constantly over the course of the last three weeks, and all three “presumed starters” heading in have seen some time with Zach Wilson and the first team.

Mims even caught a touchdown from Wilson on Tuesday—a back-shoulder flat-type-fade beauty that displayed fantastic timing.

Not unless Jerry Rice and John Taylor are on the field should a WR1 and WR2 be stamped in ink during the month of June.

Wilson’s up and down day

And just like that, the former No. 5 pick connects with the kid to get team sessions off to a good start. On a five-to-seven-step drop, Wilson led Davis beautifully on a dig route for a good chunk (20-plus yards).

A little later, a Kenny Yeboah sighting takes place as Wilson finds him down the seam against zone. The anticipation was tremendous—as Wilson threw it well before Yeboah turned his head—and the undrafted rookie timed it right.

Unfortunately, Yeboah dropped an easy one a few plays later.

Trevon Wesco snagged one near the right sideline and decided to turn on his truck-stick body language (in a somewhat not-so-serious way).

Wilson’s mistakes included a Brandin Echols pick-6 resulting from a forced throw to the middle of the field. Not one, but two defenders were in the area. The ball popped up and Echols took advantage.

All in all, it was a decent day from Wilson—neither spectacular nor terrible. Well-above average is a good way of describing it.

The young defensive DBs

Another rookie defensive back found himself in the mix Tuesday: the aforementioned Echols who featured a pick-6 on this day.

Practice started with somewhat of a walkthrough. Saleh was even spotted playing some quarterback, as helmets were seemingly optional. The previously mentioned Echols joined fellow rookie Jason Pinnock and Bryce Hall as the first on the field.

Michael Carter II also received his fair share of first-team reps, but Tuesday was Echols’s day.

Carl Lawson’s familiar spot

Carl Lawson assumed a familiar spot on the field at times during team sessions. After joining the team just last week, the Jets’ prized defensive free-agent acquisition looked good out there.

An interesting note is the idea that John Franklin-Myers joined Vinny Curry and Lawson on the field simultaneously.

Safety J.T. Hassell once again enjoyed plenty of time on the field.

Elijah Moore continues his eye-popping play

One of the plays of the day was a Wilson to Moore 9-route resulting in a big chunk. With Bryce Hall all over him, in perfect position, Wilson found Moore’s outside shoulder near the sideline.

The exciting thing about this rookie is realized when understanding what’s between his ears. He’s fundamentally smart. He’s savvy. He even cares about the details.

This play popped thanks to Moore’s understanding of the position. He didn’t allow Hall to squeeze him near the sideline, which means he made sure his split/release and stem were inside enough in order to give himself space near the sideline.

It was this space that he used to create last-moment separation (perhaps with a bit of a soft shove) that made the throw and play possible.

Moore also caught a Wilson slant via a rub pattern with Tyler Kroft, among other highlights. The Jets have a good one with this kid.

Michael Carter’s one-handed grab

Another spectacular completion came courtesy of the rookie running back. Starting from the backfield, Michael Carter went with the wheel down the right sideline.

The rookie did the rest with just one hand.

Backup quarterback Mike White enjoyed a far better day than he’s previously played this spring. Here, he got the job done with the kid.

James Morgan also had a bit of magic in him on this day when he found Vyncint Smith for a bomb that resulted in a 40-plus-yard touchdown towards the end of practice.

The injured area

The injured area was loaded today.

Those separated from the team during positionals were Mekhi Becton, Lawerence Cager, Blaker Cashman, Jonathan Marshall, Daniel Brown, Chuma Edoga, Ronald Blair, Foley Fatukasi, Blessuan Austin, Tristen Hoge and Marcus Maye, the man who showed up to mandatory minicamp despite the ongoing contract negotiations.

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