Some NY Jets fans have lost it over the Denzel Mims situation
FLORHAM PARK, NJ—New York Jets fans in 2020: “We have no star wide receivers or depth at the position!”
New York Jets fans in 2021: “Why isn’t Denzel Mims playing over our star wide receivers and incredible depth at the wide receiver position?!”
Infiltrating the Jets fan’s mind is a near-impossible task better left for the supernatural. Pain and torture lead to pessimism and despair, the likes few fanbases can recognize.
Having last won the Super Bowl in 1969 (the 1968 season) and not experiencing NFL tournament action since 2011 (the 2010 season), any minute detail can blow up your Twitter timeline to a stranger-than-fiction yet curious degree.
The Mims situation certainly qualifies.
Mims, 23, played just three snaps in the Jets’ 19-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers this past Sunday. Warnings about this possibility were relayed to fans, so it’s not like this one hit home with total shock leading the way.
Instead, the idea that Mims didn’t play even with Jamison Crowder and Keelan Cole both missing the contest is what’s currently ruling the social media timeline roost.
The fact that converted quarterback Jeff Smith tripled Mims’s play total (9) fired up the fanbase this week.
Jets total WR snap count in Week 1:
- Corey Davis (53 snaps)
- Elijah Moore (51 snaps)
- Braxton Berrios (33 snaps)
- Jeff Smith (9 snaps)
- Denzel Mims (3 snaps)
But why, exactly?
Sure, Mims represents a second-round selection Joe Douglas snagged in his first NFL draft (2020). Yes, the kid comes equipped with natural ability a guy like Braxton Berrios simply cannot match. And yes, the idea that the Jets fan was so starved for weapons a year ago has understandably ballooned the Mims express to an unrealistic speed.
Yet, there’s so much more than that, and only the right perspective can sensically cut through the noise.
Denzel Mims’ current depth-chart standing is a positive, not a negative
That’s right: Denzel Mims’s current predicament is an overall Jet positive. The idea that the kid is buried on the depth chart should highlight the fact actual Jets receivers are in town.
Corey Davis, a.k.a. Mr. Two Touchdowns in Week 1, is the team’s bonafide No. 1 target. Elijah Moore, a.k.a. Mr. Fits Today’s NFL Perfectly, is the team’s most talented versatile weapon.
Although Moore still needs to prove it on the field, Douglas didn’t miss on these decisions. He announced to the world that he left Sam Darnold naked last year and vowed to fix it.
That’s exactly what he’s done.
Not only that, but Crowder came back on a more affordable deal, Cole’s versatility helps things tremendously, and Berrios’s synergy with young Zach Wilson is unquestioned.
Isn’t Denzel Mims having a rough time cracking the top three or four a good a thing in #Jets land? Doesn’t this mean the problem that was a lack of WR depth/weapons has been solved?
Let the kid fight through/earn it. Good coaching must travel beyond optics at times.
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) September 15, 2021
Why allow outrage to take hold when the options in front of Mims are getting the job done? I mean, jeez, even Berrios played well in Carolina.
It’s about coaching and understanding Mike LaFleur’s offense
As Jets X-Factor’s Andrew Golden laid out Wednesday, a huge part of the Mims situation comes down to understanding the offense. Jets head coach Robert Saleh hit on that very idea Monday when asked about Mims’s lack of opportunity.
“He’s (Mims) been doing a good job getting himself a little bit better every day, but he’s got to know, when you’re not one of the main guys, you got to know all three spots and you’ve got to know it at a high level so you can step in and take advantage of all those opportunities,” Saleh told the media Monday. “So, if the Z, the F or the X needs a break, you’re the first one that goes in because you know all three spots, you can execute at a high level and you can roll.”
Well, that’s as plain as day as anything could possibly be.
This is Saleh’s first public test via a player as head coach. Instead of running with the generic responses that are meant to protect the new-age professional athlete with a comfy blanket, he actually dished out a bit of real-world information.
Apparently, Mims isn’t too up-to-date on the playbook.
Compounding that idea is his actual skill set.
Mims is a vertical outside threat. Standing 6-foot-3, he’s a high-point weapon that ran a ton of verticals at Baylor. Not only did he not need to understand an extensive collegiate playbook, but he’s also not a guy who can really play slot effectively at this level.
To play slot, especially in the LaFleur offense, savvy route-running (both physically and mentally) is required.
Think about the myriad of options a slot weapon is faced with when running routes—as opposed to the outside threat that’s constantly dealing with a boundary. Rather than vertical, back to the ball or inn-cuts, the slot guy has 360 degrees of nuance to grapple with on an every-down basis.
Crowder and Berrios are the guys who hold it down there. Cole deserves mention as a slot wideout. Moore can also play a little slot, too; but the Jets would much rather see him as the weapon wideout (neither exclusively outside nor slot).
In other words, Mims doesn’t play the same position as Berrios. With Crowder out, Berrios was needed to play slot (as the team would much rather have Moore in an X-Factor-type role).
NY Jets wide receiver depth chart:
- Outside (X): Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith
- Weapon (Z): Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith
- Slot (H or F): Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Jeff Smith
Even Jeff Smith played some slot this past summer. As a former quarterback, he’s seemingly picked up on the offense extremely well and understands all three positions.
No Crowder this Sunday.
While most expect Mims to get first crack, as it makes sense to throw him outside (when not Cole) while putting Moore in the slot, I wouldn’t rule out Jeff Smith as No. 4. Having both Smith and Moore on same field opens up LaFleur’s playbook. #TakeFlight https://t.co/BJMIRALDd4
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) September 10, 2021
Furthermore, the argument that good coaching finds ways to utilize their best players is hogwash for one critical reason: They don’t view Mims as “one of their best players right now.”
At this moment, he’s not, and not going the “free handout” route is what good coaching is about. Now that he’s down on the depth chart, the kid has two choices:
- Work his way up the depth chart and fulfill the promise of a second-round selection.
- Fold like a cheap tent.
Not every player handles situations the same way. Not every player should be given the benefit of the doubt.
Plus, Mims caught food poisoning prior to the spring festivities. He lost a lot of weight en route to a slow springtime start (OTAs and in minicamp). There’s no reason to rush the situation or fly off the handle.
The Denzel Mims expectations are unreasonable
Naturally, had the Jets won, none of this would be a topic. It really comes down to that. But since the first game after a hype-filled offseason turns up in the loss column, everything, including Mims, must be thrown into the unmitigated disaster pile.
Again, it comes down to unreasonable expectations. Imagining Mims as a “second-round pick loaded with talent” isn’t the right path to sanity. Second-rounders—especially that of the late-second-round ilk at the wideout spot—are far more boom or bust than the Jets fan is willing to admit.
First and foremost, understand this one crucial certainty: Most of Douglas’s draft picks will bust, even if the Jets turn this thing around to the level of long-lasting success.
That’s just the way it works in the NFL; it comes down to development and process.
Secondly, Mims was a 59th overall pick (late second round). The chances that a 59th overall pick succeeds wildly in the NFL are slim.
The last 11 picks at No. 59 overall in the NFL draft:
- 2021: Terrace Marshall (WR-CAR)
- 2020: Denzel Mims (WR-NYJ)
- 2019: Parris Campbell (WR-IND)
- 2018: Derrius Guice (RB-WAS)
- 2017: Tonah Kpassagnon (EDGE-KC)
- 2016: Roberto Aguayo (K-TB)
- 2015: Ty Sambrailo (OT-DEN)
- 2014: Jack Mewhort (OT-IND)
- 2013: Aaron Dobson (WR-NE)
- 2012: Vinny Curry (EDGE-PHI)
- 2011: Greg Little (WR-CLE)
The last 11 picks at No. 59 overall:
2021: Terrace Marshall
2020: Denzel Mims
2019: Parris Campbell
2018: Derrius Guice
2017: Tonah Kpassagnon
2016: Roberto Aguayo
2015: Ty Sambrailo
2014: Jack Mewhort
2013: Aaron Dobson
2012: Vinny Curry
2011: Greg Little
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) September 16, 2021
Just five of the above 11 players are still in the league, and of the five wide receivers, none have shined. Ohio State product Parris Campbell is still looking to find his place at the NFL level.
Starvation predictably and understandably creates unreasonable expectations, as do nightmares of second-round past. Fans still have the wicked thoughts that accompany Devin Smith, Stephen Hill and even Alex Van Dyke (for the old-school fans)—all second-round receivers drafted by the Jets.
“Denzel Mims” and “sure thing” never belonged with one another in the first place.
Final Denzel Mims thoughts
Would it be nice to see Denzel Mims tearing it up and Mossing folks on the sideline? Sure. That’s always the plan when a general manager selects a talented wideout in the second round.
There’s just one little problem: “Nice” is rarely the outcome—even for established football programs.
It’s why culture and process are constantly preached in Florham Park, NJ. Douglas, similar to each NFL general manager, knows full well the majority of his draft picks won’t work out. Just glance at Bill Belichick’s draft history to understand that.
Some teams draft better than others. More critically, all established football programs in this league produce good players (via draft or free agency) by way of the correct process.
Right now, Denzel Mims is going through that process. Whether or not it works out for him and the New York Jets remains to be seen.
Also, right now, this organization, the very one that starved for wide receivers this time last year, actually employs the depth required to make Zach Wilson’s life much easier—and Denzel Mims’s current struggles should help convey that fact.
Relax and allow the team and the kid to go through the process together. Wide receiver should be the least of the fans’ concerns right now.