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The Denzel Mims situation calls for proper NY Jets fan perspective

Denzel Mims
Denzel Mims, NY Jets, Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Some NY Jets fans have lost it over the Denzel Mims situation

FLORHAM PARK, NJNew 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.

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.

Not good.

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.

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:

  1. Work his way up the depth chart and fulfill the promise of a second-round selection.
  2. 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.

New York Jets, Jets X-Factor

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)

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.

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2 years ago

Great outlook here, the idea that every player can be judged on one or two seasons is “McDonald’s, get it now” thinking. I LOVE Mims, we always knew he would need time to adjust as a pro, so what happened? COVID, no practice, HORRIBLE or I should use the buzz word of 2020, “generationally” bad coaching, injuries, a second offensive system, and illness. Ok, so Mims isn’t so good that he can overcome that in two or three months, let him develop and as Robby mentions in this article thank our lucky stars we aren’t relying on practice squad and waiver wire picks ups while he gets up to speed.

2 years ago

What I don’t understand is why people don’t get that JD took Mims based on what Gase was probably looking for in a wr at that time. Why would people think that Mims should fit this coaching staff’s profile for a wide receiver? Compare Mims and all the WRs brought in, totally different sides of the spectrum. As most fans are, I hope that the coaching staff can bring this 6’3″, 4.3 speed wr along but I’m not surprised he’s not playing as much. People should really read that article by Andrew on why Mims is buried on the depth chart. Makes total sense. Just on the highlighted routes (which I’m sure is just a fraction of the playbook) there are so many variations on how a route needs to be ran by the WRs. If Mims can’t figure out the little nuances of this scheme, I wouldn’t want him out there either. Yes the argument could be that he run the go or deep post but what’s the point in that? If teams know that he’s only coming in on deep posts or go routes, the offense becomes predictable and thus stale.

2 years ago
Reply to  DapperJet

Mims is tall, fast, has good hands, and can block effectively. There hasn’t been an NFL offensive system invented for which his physical traits would not be an asset.

As for the mental side and his alleged inability to learn the offense, I am very disappointed if that is truly what is holding up him from playing. But I’m going to need a lot more evidence before I simply assume that Mims is lazy and is not doing what is necessary to learn the system.

I think it is fair to question whether the coaching staff has done what they need to do to teach Mims the position. Remember LaFleur is a first time OC and Miles Austin is a first time WR coach. If Mims is still struggling to understand the system after Week 1 then I think you have to ask whether part of the problem is poor position coaching.

David Aron
2 years ago

I guess I’ll present my anti-perspective.
While I agree with the general premise that a bottom third 2nd round pick might need some time to come into his own, the Jets were on the board in the middle of the 2nd round in a WR rich draft. In such a draft, any WR taken early should have the expectation to be able to contribute soon and often. The decision to trade back cost the Jets the chance to draft WR Claypool and WR Jefferson, both of whom have had success with their respective clubs. WR Jefferson would have had the added caveat to be playing for his father the WR coach.
So, yes, I am disappointed and perplexed at this coaching staff’s reluctance to insert a player with some undeniable talent and play to his strengths, rather than force a (presently) square peg into a round hole (or system). Let the kid learn just one position well before he gets that tough love. And its not like the Jets were tearing it up through the air before he got into the game.
WR Mims could be the joker in the deck for some future down-field tendency breaker, however, I don’t know enough about this coaching staff to believe this to be true. I do believe that the Jets are keeping WR Mims on ice, fresh and healthy, to get a premium draft pick from some future WR needy team in some TE Herndon-esque trade.

2 years ago

Great analysis. The best hope for Jets Fans and Mims himself is to quickly get up to speed on an awareness of the new scheme and where he fits in it so he can maximize his valuable skills toward team victories.

2 years ago

Having Mims be a healthy scratch with Cole and Crowder back is a lot easier to understand than playing Berrios and Jeff Smith over him. That said, I have a number of unanswered questions.

1. There is a big difference between not physically being capable of playing a certain position and not knowing the position. So when people say that Mims can’t play the slot, which is it they are claiming?

2. Not knowing a playbook is not a permanent condition. I couldn’t care less what Mims screwed up in training camp. It is now Week 2. Is there evidence that Mims is still struggling with running certain routes?

3. If Mims is STILL struggling with the playbook, why are we acting like this is a permanent condition? Why are we assuming that 1st-time OC LaFleur has done everything in his power to teach Mims the offense? Why are we assuming that 1st time WR coach Miles Austin knows what the Hell he is doing?

4. Why have there been a revolving door of excuses for not playing Mims more?

2 years ago
Reply to  Robby Sabo

What Saleh has said is exceedingly vague and it seems to me that people are simply running with it and making a bunch of assumptions without any evidence aside from a desire to simply assume that Saleh and LaFleur are not making a mistake.

I can actually defend a healthy scratch of Mims in Week 2 (with Crowder and Cole back) more than I can defend the pathetic usage in Week 1. Yes, you want your WR4 and WR 5 to be versatile. But there is no way that (with Crowder and Cole out) Davis, Moore, and Mims weren’t the best three WRs. Berrios and Smith were more versatile? Fine. Let them come off the bench as needed.

There are many, many times I’ve heard of WRs struggling to learn a new system. For example, Patriots WRs are notorious for not doing great in their first years because of the difficulty of learning the entire Erhardt-Perkins system. But I have literally never heard of an otherwise talented WR being so incapable of learning an offensive system by the start of the season that the coaches did not even trust him to take a snap until garbage time. You do realize how weird that is, right?

And yet, aside from Saleh’s vague comments, LaFleur is not saying that Mims is still struggling. To the contrary, he just said that Mims is coming off his best week of practice. And, after Mims’ catch, LaFleur supposedly told him that he was “almost there”.

This does not add up. The Jets are down two of their starting WRs and Mims just had his best week of practice but they can’t give him more than 3 snaps?

Arty R
2 years ago

The problem is, we don’t know these coaches are actually good talent evaluators. They’re both first timers. Maybe Mims is better than Braxton Berrios. Lefluer needs to utilize talent properly. Mims better not leave New York and look like Randy Moss elsewhere.