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Jets rookie receiver Denzel Mims improving each week

Denzel Mims of the New York Jets runs

Denzel Mims of the New York Jets runs the ball after a reception during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 25, 2020. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Denzel Mims has made a quick impact for the Jets, becoming a go-to target in a short period of time.

The 6-3 rookie receiver only has 13 catches. But he’s making tough, contested grabs and showing glimpses of not only what could have been if Mims was healthy this season, but also what could be for the Jets.

Mims missed all of training camp, weeks of practice, and the first six games with hamstring injuries in both legs. The second-round pick from Baylor made his NFL debut in Week 7 and has shown improvement each week.

"I hate saying this, you play the what-if game a little bit," head coach Adam Gase said. "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 only going to get better. He does have kind of a swagger about him. He has a confidence to where he’s not afraid to go to him when it’s basically [crunch] time in the game."

The Jets are doing that, and it’s only going to benefit the team in the future, even if Gase and the current quarterbacks aren’t around when Mims really takes off.

At 0-10, the Jets’ main focus is developing and evaluating their young players. Mims, like first-round pick left tackle Mekhi Becton, have stood out.

Mims caught three passes for 71 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers. All of his production came after halftime when he was targeted seven times. Mims made plays and put pressure on the defense.

He made two impressive catches in traffic and with a Chargers defensive back’s hands all over him. He twice got the defense to commit a penalty – one illegal contact and one pass interference.

All three of Mims’ receptions were on third or fourth down. And on the Jets’ final two offensive plays, Joe Flacco threw deep to Mims on third and fourth down. They both fell incomplete, but it was clear how much the Jets believe in Mims.

"It shows they have a lot of trust in me," Mims said. "I’m just thankful to see that they grew that trust in me. It was only my fourth game. Of course, I got to get better in a lot of things but I’m going to continue to work."

The Jets have raved about Mims’ work ethic. While he was sidelined, he took part in walk-throughs, spent extra time meeting with coaches and constantly asked fellow receivers Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman questions.

None of that has stopped. Mims still is doing extra. That’s nothing new. When he was in college, he said he "struggled" making contested catches, but he really worked hard, and It’s paid off.

"It’s not really just something that you were born to do. It takes work to do that," Mims said. "I knew that If I wanted to separate myself from other great receivers I knew I had to get those 50-50 balls.

"At one point, our team was 1-11, the whole receiver group wasn’t winning 50-50 balls. The next year, I took pride in that. I wanted to get better. I wanted to win 50-50 balls."

Flacco sees that Mims has that skill and others that are terrific for quarterbacks and difficult for defenses to stop.

"I think he definitely has the ability to go up and use his length and use his speed," Flacco said. "He’s getting better and better at doing those things each week."

Mims says there many things he can improve upon, including his blocking, running better routes and making sure he’s in the quarterback’s vision. But Mims isn’t concerned with numbers and touchdowns. He said his focus is on winning.

"I know I can improve a lot," Mims said. "I’m going to continue to do that. Yes, I’ve had a little success. But it’s not enough. It’s not enough for me. It’s not enough for the team. We haven’t got a win. Most importantly I want to win. I’m going to do everything I can so we can get our first win."

Roster moves

The Jets placed rookie running back La’Mical Perine (high ankle sprain) and kicker Sam Ficken (groin) on injured reserve.

Perine was hurt in Sunday’s game, and Ficken missed two extra points in his first game after missing the prior three with a groin issue. Sergio Castillo will take over the kicking duties.

The Jets also signed running back Josh Adams and tight end Ross Travis to the active roster.

Denzel Mims season stats

Games: 4

Targets: 26

Catches: 13

Yards: 217

Avg: 16.7 yards

Long: 27 yards

First downs: 10

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