Reviewing Denzel Mims’s first start of the 2022 season for the New York Jets
We all knew Denzel Mims would get his shot at some point this year. And that time has come.
So, how has he done so far?
After being inactive for the New York Jets‘ first six games of the 2022 season, the former second-round pick made his season debut against the Broncos in Week 7, due to the benching of fellow wideout Elijah Moore.
Mims hardly played to begin the game, as other receivers were more suited to fill Moore’s role. But once Corey Davis suffered an injury early on, it was Mims’s time to shine. He ended up playing 24 snaps (41%) but only made one four-yard catch on two targets.
The following week, it became clear that Davis would not be ready for the Jets’ upcoming game against the Patriots. This meant that Mims was set to make his first start of the season.
Filling in for Davis as the Jets’ Z receiver, Mims started against New England and played 44 snaps (75%). He wasn’t very involved in the passing attack, catching two passes on three targets across 32 routes run, but those two receptions yielded a pair of first downs and a career-high 76 receiving yards.
Mims also had to fill Davis’s shoes as an integral cog in the Jets’ run game. He participated as a blocker on 12 of the Jets’ 16 run plays, giving him the most run-blocking snaps in the game among New York’s wide receivers.
Let’s take a look at some plays from Mims’s first extended appearance of his third NFL season.
Denzel Mims film vs. Patriots: Targets
All three of Mims’s targets were flashes of the 25-year-old’s intriguing talent.
The Jets send Mims in motion prior to the snap, and he uses the motion to get a slight head start on his go route, as he is able to push off his back foot just after the ball is snapped. The motion also gives Mims natural outside leverage as his man is somewhat late to slide over.
Using his 4.38 speed, Mims gets a step on his defender and has separation vertically. For some reason, Zach Wilson goes for the back-shoulder throw rather than trying to lead Mims downfield, making the catch more difficult and erasing a better opportunity for a big play (and potential touchdown).
Mims makes a fantastic effort to try and bail Wilson out. He contorts back to the ball, leaps, and snags it above his head with two hands while falling back, making sure to complete the catch by pulling the ball into his body as he goes to the ground.
Unfortunately, Mims does not have enough room to get his feet in bounds, but nonetheless, it’s an impressive grab that reminds of you his exciting film at Baylor.
To me, this play shows some progress for Mims in the fundamental areas of the game.
Running a slant, Mims gets enough depth to clear the underneath defender before breaking in. Once Mims does make his break, he does it sharply and with purpose. Then, he shows good awareness as he flattens the route to avoid the safety over the top.
Mims extends his arms and makes an excellent snag on a pass that I would argue is placed a little bit too far in front of him. It’s a great display of his catch radius (his 33⅞” arm length ranks at the 93rd percentile for wide receivers). After that, Mims again shows good awareness as he gets down to protect himself from the safety.
In 2021, the fundamental aspects of the position were Mims’s primary issues. It’s promising to see him do some of the little things correctly.
The route and catch aren’t overly impressive, as Mims just sits his curl route down in the soft spot of the zone and makes an uncontested grab, but what he does after the catch is another glimpse into why he was a second-round pick.
Mims manages to keep his balance after absorbing a massive helmet/shoulder shot to the ribs, and he keeps chugging forward. After that, a defender grabs onto Mims’s jersey from behind, but Mims runs through that, too. Mims eventually gains 47 yards after the catch, the best total gained on one play by a Jets wide receiver this season.
When you see plays like the three above, it reminds you why Jets fans were so excited about him when he was drafted. Purely looking at his physical tools, he is a special talent. He won’t maximize those gifts until he masters the fundamental aspects of the wide receiver position, but even if he fails to do that, he is talented to enough to make somewhat of an impact.
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Denzel Mims film vs. Patriots: Routes
Let’s look at some plays where Mims was not targeted.
I actually came away with a positive impression of Mims’s route-running against New England. That’s not to say he looked like Davante Adams, but I thought he handled his responsibilities fairly well and created a decent number of opportunities.
There’s nothing impressive about this particular route, but I wanted to include it since I think it serves as an accurate representation of how a lot of Mims’s routes played out in this game.
The Jets asked Mims to run a lot of vertical routes. I think it’s a good fit for him. While Mims isn’t great at creating separation on these (as he doesn’t use much finesse either mid-route or in his release), he is fast enough to create a small bit of separation. And when you have a frame like his, a small bit of separation is all you need to show the quarterback that you are an available target.
As we saw on Wilson’s deep shot to Mims, the quarterback will trust him to make a play even if the separation isn’t amazing. This is why vertical routes make sense for him. He doesn’t have to do much to make himself a threat.
On this particular play, Mims runs vertically out of the slot. The coverage is tight, but Mims does eventually get a step on his man, and with Mims’s speed and size, the quarterback could conceivably look at that matchup and consider it a throw worth attempting. The same thing wouldn’t apply for receivers with the same speed who are much shorter, but at 6-foot-3, Mims doesn’t need as much room to appear open.
Tyler Conklin does a nice job of picking Mims’s man, and Mims shows good patience as he squares up the defender before cutting underneath Conklin. Mims gets open on the drag route. Good timing by the two teammates on this route combo.
Mims runs an out route against a Cover-3 corner with outside leverage. He presses vertical and makes a fairly sharp break as he cuts his route with a relatively flat angle. Mims is able to get across the corner’s face and has a decent amount of separation.
It’s far from the greatest route, but it’s good enough to where a throw could certainly be completed if the ball were placed in a spot where Mims could come back to it, especially toward the sideline. When you have Mims’s frame, there’s a greater margin for error on routes.
Nice out-and-up from Mims out of the slot. There’s certainly a window there if Wilson wants to try it, but I can see why he doesn’t, as there is a safety over the top. Regardless, Mims does his job and creates an option.
Mims gets himself open on a return route, as he works outside before coming back inside.
The corner drops down and presses him, so Mims responds by chopping down his inside arm to deflect the corner’s jam attempt, keeping himself clean. Mims smoothly transitions into pivoting back toward the inside. Garrett Wilson is carrying the inside defender downfield. Mims cuts underneath him, getting open due to the defender being late to switch. Good timing by the duo on this route combo, just as on the Conklin play.
I feel like Mims’s route-running in this game was an improvement over what I saw from him in 2021. I’d classify it as decent. And if he can just be decent as a route-runner, I believe he can make a respectable number of plays, so long as the quarterback trusts him enough to give him shots even when the separation isn’t enormous.
Denzel Mims film vs. Patriots: Blocking
Let’s quickly discuss Mims’s blocking.
Mims has potential as a blocker thanks to his size, and we saw him display some of that potential in Denver last week as he helped lead the way on Breece Hall’s 62-yard touchdown run. However, I was not impressed by his blocking in this game.
Mims run-blocked on 12 reps. He wasn’t really involved in the play on most of them, but there were two bad blocks that stood out, and I didn’t notice any good ones to balance them out.
Mims lets the edge defender enter the backfield and make the stop behind the line. It seems like a mental error. At the snap, Mims appears to be fixated on the second level before quickly realizing that he should pick up the edge defender. The split-second of hesitation is all it takes for Mims to blow the assignment.
Mims comes in pre-snap motion to the play side and tries to block the linebacker. He comes into the block a little too aggressively and also does not take the best angle, so the linebacker easily side-steps him. As the linebacker slides laterally, Mims tries to engage with his outside hand but the linebacker swats it away, freeing himself up to get involved in the tackle.
A respectable game from Denzel Mims
I thought Denzel Mims did a decent job of filling in for Corey Davis. He didn’t light the world on fire, but he showed some examples of why he could still be a useful piece for the Jets. We’ll see if this performance buys him an opportunity to get some snaps even when Davis returns, or if the Jets will push him back down to weekly inactive status.
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