Rookie Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims has shown enough in the past four games to have his coach wondering about what might have been.
What if Mims had been healthy and not had injuries to both hamstrings that cost him all of training camp and the first six games of the season?
“You play the what-if game a little bit,” coach Adam Gase said. “I know you guys have asked me about that before, I would love to see what an offseason, a training camp, a full season with him would have looked like. I feel like he’s getting better fast. He’s very coachable, he’s not afraid to ask questions, he tries to do things the way that you want, he makes mistakes, but he learns from them. I think he’s only going to get better. He does have kind of a swagger about him, he has a confidence about him to where he’s not afraid to go to him when it’s basically [crunch] time in the game.”
The offense has looked better with Mims in it the past few weeks. He had his best game last Sunday against the Chargers — when he not only had a career-high 71 receiving yards, but he also drew two key penalties on a touchdown drive. Mims has earned the trust of his coaches and his quarterbacks. The Jets targeted him seven times against the Chargers, including on their final drive when they were trying to tie the game up.
“It feels good to be back out there and playing with my teammates,” Mims said. “As far as it when it comes to them throwing to me in the fourth quarter and in crunch time, I’m proud that they are throwing it to me because it shows they have a lot of trust in me.”
At 0-10, this season is now all about next year and which players can be a part of the core moving forward. Mims has shown enough promise to make you believe he can develop into a key piece of the offense if he can stay healthy.
Mims will be challenged this week by a Dolphins defense that has two good cornerbacks in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Dolphins coach Brian Flores likes to play man-to-man, blitz and dare the receivers to beat his corners.
“I think almost every team that we’ve gone against so far since he’s been playing has challenged him quite a bit,” Gase said. “He’s had some releases where we definitely have to get fixed, where he’s gotten shut down whether it be at the line of scrimmage or tied up down the field not getting as far as we need him to. But he’s also had some really good plays where he’s had good releases, good job attacking the football, good job of even though a guy is all over him, he’s still catching the ball and coming down with it. I get excited when I see certain things on Sunday and I see how he’s progressing and the questions he asks and the things that he tries to do at practice. I get excited to just see how this kid is going to keep growing.”
Mims said he is focused on getting the Jets their first win and not much else. He admits there are plenty of areas where he still needs to improve. One aspect of his game that has stood out is his skill at making contested catches or 50/50 balls. Mims said it is a skill he has worked at.
“It’s not really something that you’re born to do,” Mims said. “It takes work to do that. In college, at the beginning of my career I kind of struggled with that. I knew that if I wanted to separate myself from other great receivers, I knew I had to make those 50/50 [catches]. At one point, on our team we went 1-11 and the whole receivers group wasn’t winning on 50/50 balls. The next year I came in and I took pride in that. I wanted to get better and I wanted to win 50/50 balls, and I just worked at it with my coach.”