Denzel Mims builds momentum with a strong preseason opener
Wide receiver Denzel Mims made an impact from the very first play of the New York Jets‘ preseason opener against the New York Giants: he united with cornerback Javelin Guidry to take down C.J. Board on Saturday night’s opening kickoff.
From there, the sophomore Mims was mostly relegated to spectator status as the Jets’ starting offense took its first reps. He missed new franchise quarterback Zach Wilson‘s unofficial snaps at the helm of the unit, with newcomers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole getting most of the reps with the premier group.
The rumors that Mims, a second-round receiver from last year’s virtual draft, could be a surprise presence on the roster bubble appeared to take on new life as he lingered on the sidelines.
Granted new life in the second half, Mims took full advantage of the opportunity. He wound up playing the most snaps of all the Jets’ receivers (32), making the most of them with a game-high 51 yards on a trio of receptions. Each of those catches was a chain-mover and either took place in or moved the Jets into Giants territory.
Mims’ magnum opus came in the third quarter, when he converted an 18-yard third down by dragging three Giants across the first down marker with him.
"GET OFF ME"
-Denzel Mims (probably)
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) August 15, 2021
Three plays later, La’Mical Perine punched in the Jets’ only touchdown in their 12-7 preseason victory.
After the game, Mims insisted that he’s not concerning himself with the Jets’ fluctuating receiver depth chart, instead expressing a desire to “let (his) actions speak for themselves.” It appears he got the message across on Saturday night.
“He has had such a good week, week and a half of training camp and leading up to this game. It paid off for him,” head coach Robert Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “His size, his length, his speed, his power, all of it was showcased in a couple of catches that he had. Obviously the third down, but a couple of plays before that he lowered his shoulder on a corner and was able to pick up a few extra yards.”
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Saleh extended his appreciation to Mims as time wound down in the Jets’ summer victory, sharing a personal conversation with him on the sidelines. In a video from the Jets, Mims said that Saleh told him to “stay focused (and) locked in the moment”.
In his own statements, Mims said he wanted to play “angry” when he got on the field on Saturday night. The apparent burial on the depth chart, however, played no role in Mims’ fury, which he said he has to carry with him when dealing with the full-time rigors of the NFL.
“It comes from me. I just want to play angry, I’m not just going to let anybody go out there and try to bully me and run all over me so I just try to make sure I play angry, try to get my work done,” Mims said in a video from the Jets. “I just feel like that’s just the way I play. I just wanted to get the first down for our team so I just try to do just that.”
It’s easy to see where Mims can get frustrated, as his infantile Jets career has been perhaps defined by misfortune. Injuries to both hamstrings cost him a majority of last year’s training camp and a bout with food poisoning this spring not only delayed his debut on the practice field but cost him 20 pounds as well (he had gained about half of it back as of last week).
To that end, Mims embarked on a special teams mission in a possible attempt to make up for lost time. Some appeared to believe that his inclusion on the kickoff team was part of his apparent demotion, but Mims said that partaking in kickoff coverage was his idea.
“It’s something that I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to get on kickoff, all the special teams really, and just try to just be active, try to help the team get better. They had me on the (special teams) depth chart. I was at the bottom, but I was just like, ‘No, give me a try, let me show you what I can do’. And I impressed them, so they put me with the ones.”
Mims and the Jets return to preseason action next Saturday night, as they hit the road to battle the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field (7:30 p.m. ET, WLNY/NFL Network). The Jets and Packers will also engage in scrimmages on Wednesday and Thursday, taking place at the Don Hutson Center in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags