Denzel Mims’ time to shine is here
A surprising late addition to the New York Jets‘ Week 8 injury report was top wideout Corey Davis, who was limited in practice on Thursday with a hip injury. Davis did not practice on Friday and is expected to miss Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He is officially listed as doubtful.
Davis’ injury immediately prompts one thought for every hope-starved Jets fan: this is the moment that Denzel Mims has been waiting for.
Mims has been one of the hottest topics surrounding the Jets for months on end. The tantalizing second-year wideout has struggled to earn reps all year.
Kicking off a saga that continues to this day, Mims was buried on the Jets’ depth chart in the team’s early practices and remained in the doghouse all the way through training camp.
Struggles with picking up the playbook were speculated to be the primary reason for Mims’ inability to earn playing time, but it was later revealed that he suffered from food poisoning and lost 20 pounds, adding to the receiver’s tumultuous offseason.
Into the preseason, Mims continued to find himself getting reps with the second and third-string offensive units. He played well in the team’s preseason opener but then missed the final two preseason games.
Mims played only three snaps in the Jets’ regular-season opener despite the team being without key receivers Jamison Crowder and Keelan Cole. When Cole returned in Week 2, Mims was a healthy scratch for the next two games.
In Week 4, Mims returned to the field. He has played in the Jets’ past three games, but has hardly been involved, averaging only 12.7 snaps per game and catching 3-of-5 targets for 39 yards. The Baylor product played a season-high 20 snaps against the Patriots in Week 7 but still caught only one pass for six yards.
It’s been rough.
But now, Mims should have his first opportunity to show the Jets’ new coaching staff what he can do with a sizable dosage of reps.
Mims is expected to step into the Jets’ “Z” receiver position, rotating with Elijah Moore and Keelan Cole.
Corey Davis has a hip-flexor injury, I'm told. Saleh wouldn't rule him out, but says "it's not looking good" for Sunday. Denzel Mims would step into Z position, rotating with Moore and Cole. #Jets
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) October 29, 2021
General manager Joe Douglas took Mims with the 59th overall pick in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft after passing on Mims in the No. 48 slot and executing a trade-down deal to No. 59 with the Seahawks. Mims remained on the board 11 picks later and Douglas scooped him up.
The Texas native was the 13th wide receiver to go off the board. Chase Claypool (Steelers, No. 49) and Van Jefferson (Rams, No. 57) were chosen between the Jets’ initial No. 48 slot and the No. 59 slot where they ended up taking Mims.
As Mims prepares to potentially take on a larger role this Sunday, it’s not as if he is looking to show upside as an NFL starter for the very first time. He displayed quite a bit of promise in a starting role during his rookie year.
After missing the first six games of his 2020 rookie season with a hamstring injury, Mims returned in Week 7 and embarked on a promising stretch to begin his career. Over his first six games, Mims averaged 3.2 catches on 6.0 targets for 54.0 yards, producing 9.0 yards per target and 17.1 yards per reception. He started five of those six games and played 90% of the Jets’ offensive snaps on average.
Mims was a consistent playmaker in a dormant Jets offense that lacked quality quarterback play and adequate pass protection. He posted at least 40 receiving yards in each of his first six games, becoming just the sixth receiver in NFL history to do that. Andre Johnson, Amari Cooper, Stefon Diggs, Michael Thomas, and CeeDee Lamb were the others. Ja’Marr Chase – who the Jets will see on Sunday – has since joined the club.
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After missing the Jets’ Week 14 trip to Seattle due to personal reasons, Mims’ production fell off a cliff. He returned for the Jets’ final three games and averaged 1.3 catches on 2.7 targets for 11.0 yards.
New York needs to find a way to unlock the Mims that fans fell in love with over his first six games. That version of Mims provided the Jets with flashes of exciting potential at every level of the field.
Mims caught 4-of-12 deep targets (20+ yards downfield) for 102 yards in his rookie season. That line isn’t overly impressive, but it was clear how good of a deep threat Mims could become with his 4.38 speed and 6-foot-3, 207-pound frame (featuring 33.9-inch arms). Mims had zero drops on his deep targets and also drew a pass interference call.
In the intermediate range (10-19 yards downfield), Mims was reliable, catching 6-of-11 targets for 112 yards and six first downs. Just as in the deep range, he had zero drops in this area of the field.
While Mims is known best for his downfield skills, it is actually in the short range (0-9 yards downfield) where he was arguably at his best in 2020.
Mims caught 12-of-16 short targets for 128 yards and four first downs, dropping only one pass. His average of 10.7 yards per reception on short targets ranked seventh-best out of 101 qualified receivers in the NFL.
It was Mims’ after-the-catch ability that allowed him to be so productive on short throws. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Mims averaged plus-1.5 YAC Above Expectation in 2020, ranking at the 91st percentile among qualified wide receivers.
Denzel Mims is a talented football player who has the ability to become a difference-maker in the NFL. Whatever the reasons have been for his failure to get on the field – whether Mims isn’t executing on the practice field or if the Jets’ coaching staff is just being stubborn – all of that needs to be left in the past. Mims will get his opportunity this Sunday.
It is time for Mims to give Mike LaFleur and the Jets absolutely no choice but to use him in a featured role for the rest of the season.
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