Denzel Mims could be upset about a rookie season that was filled with losses, and not just the final score on game days. Injuries to both hamstrings robbed him of training camp, practice reps, experience and game action.
But the talented receiver has a positive outlook and is looking forward to the future. Mims believes he can be a No. 1 receiver for the Jets.
"The main focus for me is I want to be labeled as a good route-runner," he said. "That’s what in the offseason I’m going to work on a lot. I’m going to try to be good in that area and try to do good at everything else.
"I want to be that go-to guy. I’m going to try to do everything I can so I can impress the coaches and my teammates so they can trust me."
The Jets have been looking for a legitimate go-to receiver for a few years. In Adam Gase’s system, it’s usually the slot receiver, and Jamison Crowder has performed well. But whoever coaches next season will have his own system, and Mims could be utilized more.
Mims missed the first six games because of the hamstring issues. He also had to sit out a game for falling out of COVID-19 protocols because he had to fly home to Texas for a family emergency.
Gase probably would have targeted Mims more if he had been available. The second-round pick from Baylor has the skill set to be a go-to guy, and his willingness to learn and ask questions and his desire to be great have earned high praise.
"The more I’ve been around him," Gase said, "he’s done nothing but impress the [expletive] out of me."
In the seven games in which he has played, Mims has shown he can make contested catches in traffic and beat defensive backs on the outside. He has 22 catches for 342 yards, and 14 have resulted in first downs.
He’s one of the many what-ifs about the Jets (1-13) this season. What if he had been healthy from the beginning?
The Jets wouldn’t be a playoff team, but Mims would be further along in his development and the offense probably would have looked far more dynamic than it did on many game days.
The time lost at the beginning set Mims back, especially because there was no real offseason training. He got hurt just before training camp opened and had to play catch-up almost immediately, but he proved to be a quick study. Mims constantly asked Crowder and Breshad Perriman questions and spent a lot of time with the coaches to make sure he knew what he needed to do.
"He’s grown and matured very quickly," Gase said. "I love how inquisitive he is about everything. He tries to do things right. He respects the veteran players and tries to do all those little things right that people probably don’t notice. I’ve been really impressed with him."
Mims’ teammates have been impressed, too. When the Jets handed out team awards this week, he was voted "The Rookie who Acts Like a Pro."
The Jets knew Mims could play, but Gase said he didn’t know what to expect after Mims missed all that time early. But he continued to work and study and ultimately earned everyone’s trust.
Gase has shown plenty of trust in Mims, calling his number during drives late in games. Mims has been targeted at least seven times in four of the seven games he’s played.
The Jets will close out their home schedule against the Browns on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium, and Mims could be targeted plenty. Their focus is on developing the young players, and they already like what they’re seeing from him.
"He practices hard, tries to learn everything, he takes coaching, whether it’s hard or just talking to him," Gase said. "He wants to do the right thing. He wants to be in the right spot for the quarterback. I can’t be more pleased with how he’s developed. It’s a shame we just didn’t have him earlier."
Notes & quotes: CB Javelin Guidry is doubtful for Sunday’s game with a knee injury. WR Jeff Smith (shoulder) is questionable . . . Assistant coach/wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson will not attend the game. He’s a high-risk close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 . . . Defensive assistant Blake Williams will not attend the game. Williams is the son of Gregg Williams, the Jets’ former defensive coordinator, who was fired earlier this month.