FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Denzel Mims has come into training camp with one mission: to be one of the Jets’ starting receivers.
“That’s my goal,” he said after practice Friday. “That’s my only goal.”
Mims returned in great shape and driven to prove himself after a disappointing, illness-filled second NFL season. The odds certainly seem to be stacked against his being a starter, though.
Since this current coaching staff was hired in January 2021, the Jets signed Corey Davis, re-signed Braxton Berrios and drafted Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson. All of them have been more involved in the offense during team drills than Mims has, but he’s confident in himself.
“I see myself on top,” he said. “I feel like I put in enough work to be there. That’s the coaches’ decision. I’m going to continue to work my tail off and do everything I can.”
Mims has been working with the special teams and could become more valuable if he can distinguish himself as a consistent special teams performer. Receiver Jeff Smith does both as well, and he appears to be ahead of Mims on the depth chart.
Mims was asked if he might want to go somewhere else if he’s used more on special teams than on offense.
“I like to do anything, everything I can to help the team, honestly,” he said. “But I would love to be the starting receiver, honestly.”
Mims believes he is making a strong case for himself in this camp.
“I show it every day,” he said. “It’s up to them if they want to play me or not. I show every day what I can do and I continue to do that.”
Robert Saleh said Mims has come “a long way” from last year and believes he still has room to grow.
Things haven’t gone as Mims or the Jets hoped since they took him in the second round in 2020.
He suffered a hamstring injury in training camp as a rookie and played in only nine games, catching 23 passes for 357 yards for former coach Adam Gase.
Saleh was hired in January 2021 and brought in Mike LaFleur to be his offensive coordinator. The system is much different from Gase’s.
Mims had to play catch-up from the beginning after getting a case of food poisoning in the spring. He lost 20 pounds, missed OTAs and struggled to regain his strength. He said he didn’t have the muscle in his arms and legs to be effective. He was targeted only 23 times and had eight catches, several drops and some bad penalties. He missed three games with COVID-19, was inactive twice and didn’t play in another game.
Mims is fully healthy now. He said he started working out again as soon as last season ended so he could be in the best shape possible for this training camp. He’s changed his diet, cutting out fast food and fried food, and he believes he’s grown as a receiver.
“Last year, dealing with the sickness, I wasn’t able to get back to where I used to be,” Mims said. “This offseason I put in a lot of work, worked out like crazy, was training like crazy to get myself ready for this season.”
The Jets have been happy with Mims’ performance and attitude and just want to see him keep growing.
“He’s doing a really good job,” Saleh said. “He’s fighting his tail off in the run game. Because he’s so well-conditioned right now, he’s doing things with his body in the passing game from a route-running standpoint that he hasn’t been able to do in the past. He’s battling in [special] teams; it’s going to be a big part of it too, being reliable on special teams.
“Really, really happy with the approach he’s taken this offseason, the way he attacked OTAs and the way he’s come into training camp, where he is mentally, the coaching that he’s accepting, doesn’t make excuses. He’s grinding. He’s approaching it like a professional. For that I’m grateful.”