Jet X Analytics analyzes Denzel Mims’ first NY Jets campaign by detailing his production via different route types.
Denzel Mims had himself a largely promising rookie campaign over nine appearances, consistently flashing intriguing potential even if his overall production was somewhat lackluster. Mims secured 23 of 44 targets for 357 yards, 15 first downs, and zero touchdowns, all while averaging a fairly quiet 39.7 yards per game but a respectable 8.1 yards per target.
Those aren’t world-beating numbers, but it was the quality of Mims’ catches that captured the hearts of fans.
The New York Jets‘ young weapon made a number of eye-popping contested catches. More impressively, he did so while showcasing impressive speed after the catch. In all, he clearly passed the old-school “eye test,” consistently recording highlight-reel plays and looking the part with his 6-foot-3, 207-pound frame and top-tier athleticism.
Adam Gase’s utilization of the rookie remains one of the most common talking points. Despite playing well, early and often upon hitting the field, Mims was fed only 4.9 targets per game in his rookie season. Coaching was one of the primary reasons for his low target numbers.
Understanding exactly how Mims was utilized can give us a better idea of where he stands as a player and how the Jets should deploy him in order to hit maximum production.
Which route types were Mims’ best? Which ones should the Jets ask him to run more often? Which ones should the Jets ask him to run less often than he did under Gase?
Based on my own charting from rewatching each Mims target, here is how Mims performed on targets in his direction with 15 different route varieties.
Obviously, there are far more specific route types than just these 15, but most routes can be considered a variation of one of these. If Mims ran a route that was not a clear match to one of these types, I went off of the depth and direction of his break to find the closest match.
The go route was Mims’ most frequent route variety in terms of targets, with nine such instances. He caught three of those for 79 yards. In addition, he drew a 19-yard pass interference penalty on a go route against the Los Angeles Chargers’ Michael Davis, giving Mims a fairly solid line of 98 yards and four firsts on 10 go-route opportunities.
Of Mims’ 44 targets, 20.5% of them came on a go route. I believe that is a good rate for him. There are aspects of his vertical game that he can improve, namely his contested-catch success and ability to create separation early in the route, but he is loaded with potential here. The go route should continue to be a focal point of his game.
Mims’ straight-line speed (4.38-second 40-yard-dash time) helps him make up for fundamental deficiencies as a vertical separator, and his physicality at the top of the route helps him to create just enough separation as the ball arrives. This allows him to make a strong play on the ball even if he did not gain much separation. His size is also a massive boon at the catch point, but he can make better use of it (as we are about to dive into).
Mims has an interesting after-the-catch skill-set that features some clear strengths and weaknesses.
Firstly, Mims is not the type of guy who should be fed a screen. He had no screen targets with the Jets in 2020. That shouldn’t startle anybody, as he had just one screen target with Baylor in 2019.
Mims also rarely gains any extra yardage after the catch when he secures the ball with his body facing the quarterback, such as on curls and digs (Digs usually do give a receiver a full head of steam horizontally, but Mims’ two catches on digs in 2020 required him to halt his momentum and face back to the quarterback due to accuracy issues). He averaged just 2.2 YAC per reception on curls and digs, usually getting brought down immediately with no extra yardage when he had to come back to the quarterback for the ball.
The common theme here is that Mims is not much of a playmaker in situations where he’s given the ball without momentum. He lacks the fluidity and slipperiness to make the catch and turn upfield with gusto.
However, Mims thrives after the catch when he is given the ball with momentum over the middle of the field. On drag and slant routes – two concepts in which the receiver secures the ball while already sprinting over the middle – Mims caught 8 of 10 targets for 113 yards and four first downs, averaging a stellar 7.6 YAC per reception.
It is in those situations where Mims’ impressive 4.38 speed flashes the most. Mims couples his speed over the middle with some elusiveness, consistently showing the ability to halt his momentum post-catch to force a trailing defender to whiff on a tackle attempt and fly by.
Mike LaFleur would be wise to draw up more drags and slants for Mims in 2021.
Dig and post struggles
Mims’ worst routes were the dig and the post. Combined, he caught 3 of 9 targets for 50 yards and three first downs.
I don’t think Mims’ struggles in this area were entirely his fault. He had two losses in contested situations – one on a dig and one on a post – but he balanced it out with two contested grabs on dig routes.
It is on these throws in which bad quarterbacking seemed to haunt him the most.
Mims beat stud New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson on a 12-yard dig in Week 9. Joe Flacco threw the ball way over Mims’ head. Mims also beat star Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White on a 15-yard dig in his Week 7 debut, possessing enough separation for a possible 25-yard gain if given the ball in-stride, but Sam Darnold threw the ball late-and-behind, forcing Mims to make a contested catch that resulted in a 16-yard gain as he was limited to just one yard of YAC. Those are just two examples.
Digs and posts represent a solid blend of Mims’ vertical prowess and his YAC abilities on in-breaking routes. I would advise the Jets to continue drawing these up for Mims in spite of his lackluster numbers there last season.