A good portion of the NY Jets fan base is not going to like reading this next sentence. But second-year Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims is likely headed towards being a healthy inactive on most game days. And that practice could start this coming Sunday at home against the New England Patriots.
With Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and the returning Jamison Crowder firmly entrenched as the team's top three receivers on the depth chart, and with a healthy Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, and Jeff Smith providing value on special teams and experience playing in the slot, Mims will likely be the odd man out in the rotation, barring injuries.
The numbers game doesn't allow for the Jets to dress seven wide receivers every week. And because of his lack of versatility in a backup role, Mims can fall by the wayside quickly.
Mims falling down the depth chart at wide receiver has surprised many observers and followers of the Jets. A year ago, the 2020 second-round pick played only nine games because of injury but showed positive flashes, registering 23 catches for 357 yards and 15 yards per reception.
When the 2020 season ended for the Jets, there weren't many positives for the fan base to hang their hat on. Denzel Mims was one of them. It wasn't perfect, but the former Baylor standout showed big-play ability, and it looked like the sky was the limit for him.
The NY Jets' new coaching staff isn't as high on Denzel Mims
But a lot has changed for Mims' trajectory and the Jets since last season ended. And it's affected many of the team's holdover players from the two-win disaster of a year ago.
An entirely new coaching staff has come on board with a different vision of the types of players they seek for their system.
The change in philosophy has been evident throughout the Jets roster, in who the team signed in free agency and who they drafted in 2021. The Jets scouting department had to shift towards the type of players that Robert Saleh, Mike LaFleur, and Jeff Ulbrich seek for their respective schemes.
For evidence of the shift, look no further than projected starting cornerback Blessuan Austin. The recent Seattle Seahawks acquisition wasn't released by the Jets before the season started because of a poor summer, his salary (two years left on his rookie contract), or his age (25).
The Jets' new regime let Austin go in favor of their handpicked cornerbacks, Brandin Echols, Michael Carter II, Isaiah Dunn, and Jason Pinnock.
Last week during the CBS broadcast of the Jets/Panthers game, announcer Andrew Catalon revealed that Saleh admitted that he wasn't sure if C.J. Mosley would fit his defense.
Mosley, a 3-4 inside linebacker at 250 pounds, came into Jets camp at 231 pounds and practiced at such a high level that he changed Saleh's initial observation.
Mosley's salary and resume would've most likely prevented the Jets from moving him. But the fact that Saleh admitted that he wasn't sure if Mosley was the right player for the Jets defense reveals that the option to move on without him was on the table for the future.
A holdover player on the Jets who didn't make it to the regular season with the team is tight end Chris Herndon.
The Jets' new offensive staff inherited Herndon, and had they been impressed with what they saw this summer, the Jets coaches may have been inclined to lobby for Herndon to remain with the team. Instead, Herndon was shipped off to Minnesota.
Denzel Mims is in the same boat now that Chris Herndon and Blessuan Austin were — as a leftover player.
When the smoke cleared from the 2020 season, all that was left in the Jets receiver room were Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, and Braxton Berrios. Mims looked like an instant starter at his natural position on the outside.
Within a few months, the Jets signed Corey Davis and Keelan Cole, and then drafted Elijah Moore at the top of the second round, a player Gang Green would've drafted late in the first round.
Moore flashed mightily in the early goings of the summer. Crowder and the team worked out a contract to bring him back in 2021. And Keelan Cole stepped up to show his leadership and versatility in the Jets' new scheme.
An illness put Mims behind the eight ball early on in camp. And by the time he was ready to come back and contribute, many of the Jets' receivers flew right by him. The bottom line is that Mims had to prove himself all over again.
But this time, to a staff that never chose him.
Crowder and Berrios are also holdover players, just like Mims. But in the case of Crowder, he brings experience and is a proven entity in the slot.
Berrios has a similar skillset and can return kicks. Mims does not have the skillset suited for those roles, and he has minimal experience in those specific areas.
All summer long, media members on the Jets beat, who have experienced Gang Green's practices first-hand, informed the team's fanbase of Mims standing on the roster. Jets fans didn't want to hear it, but this past week, Saleh essentially verified the assertions made publicly.
"Not one of the main three" and "You got to know all three spots at a high level." Two direct quotes from Robert Saleh, that tell you where Denzel Mims stands in the Jets pecking order at receiver.
It's a sobering reality for Jets fans who adopted Mims as their patron saint. Especially after Mims showed what he was capable of on the outside in limited duty last week (one reception for 40 yards).
But based on information from sources close to the team, the Jets offensive staff doesn't think Mims is better than who is in front of him on the depth chart. And the team's coaches want to see Mims do a better job with his study habits during the week.
The bottom line is that Mims hasn't practiced or proven to his new coaches that he can handle the roles that Moore, Crowder, Berrios, and even Jeff Smith can on game days. It takes more than physical talent to make it in the NFL.
Denzel Mims fans would love nothing more than to see him turn things around and become the superstar they envision. But for now, Mims has his work cut out for him to earn his new coaches' trust.
It doesn't mean that he won't eventually. In the war of attrition that an NFL season entails because of injury, Mims will likely still get his chance to shine.