Denzel Mims shook his coverage with a stop-and-start move and made a fingertips catch on the sideline that brought life to overheated Jets fans.
The play with the second-team offense at Wednesday’s practice hinted at Mims’ untapped potential and the cheers in the bleachers revealed the still-strong infatuation with the 2020 second-round pick, even if he has been overshadowed at receiver by free-agent acquisition Corey Davis and fast-rising rookie Elijah Moore. Then later, just to temper building excitement, a potential diving touchdown was knocked out of Mims’ hands.
It’s been that kind of up-and-down training camp for Mims, but lately the scale favors more ups than downs.
“I’m getting a lot more comfortable,” Mims said. “I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but I know the system and I know what they want.”
Here’s what Mims doesn’t want. Any more salmon. Food poisoning from a bad piece of fish “took a big toll” that caused him to lose 20 pounds — from 217 to 197 — and miss the majority of spring practices, sometimes keeping him away from the facility completely.
“It set me back a lot because guys were practicing every day and I was dealing with an illness,” Mims said. “I’m trying to do everything I can to make sure I bounce back so come Week 1 I’m ready to go.”
Mims regained half the weight. He says he never lost confidence.
“You can get better or you can get worse — and I feel like I’m getting better,” Mims said. “There’s a lot left in the tank. Some players learn better on the field doing it and some players learn over film, but since I’m out there, I’m learning a lot more. I’m in the groove, actually moving.”
To make up for lost time, Mims and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson met up in Florida for training after the Jets dispersed from OTAs and minicamp. It took until Tuesday for the two to connect in an 11-on-11 period, however, because most of Mims’ reps have been with Mike White.
“He’s got that fire right now, and he wants to be great,” Wilson said. “He is just trying to show everybody what he can do and doing everything he can to make sure he follows his assignment and gives that full effort. We’re going to do what we can to make sure we get him the ball.”
When it’s not his turn in the rotation behind starters Corey Davis and Jamison Crowder, Mims stays involved by catching extra passes from other quarterbacks on the side.
“That’s what I want, something I chose to do,” Mims said. “They don’t force you to catch extra balls, but I want to get extra time with the QBs and the coaches so that I can be ready.”
Mims’ rookie season amounted to 23 catches for 357 yards, but he didn’t start strong (first six games missed due to injury) or finish with a flourish (one catch over the final two games). So, it was easy to interpret the Jets’ prioritizing receiver upgrades in the offseason — adding Keelan Cole as well as Moore and Davis — as giving up on Mims.
“Absolutely not,” coach Robert Saleh said. “There isn’t a player in this organization that anyone is ready to give up on. We’re in the second week of camp, so they haven’t even gotten a chance to go against another roster yet.”
From the sound of it Wednesday the fans haven’t given up yet, either.
“I feel like they are behind me,” Mims said. “They always show me love when they see me.”
It’s a wild concept given that the depleted Jets started receivers Breshad Perriman, Jeff Smith, Braxton Berrios and Chris Hogan at times last season, but there is receiver depth for Wilson. Mims doesn’t need to be the game-breaker he was prematurely anointed to be as a rookie. It’s a comfortable spot — unless you get lost in the shuffle.
“If you worry about that,” Mims said, “you aren’t going to get better.”