His rookie year proved a lot of frustration for Denzel Mims, the New York Jets wide receiver and former second-round pick seeing his impact lessened due to injuries. That hasn’t discouraged Mims, who is excited to prove himself in 2021 with a new head coach who he says brings “the juice.”
Mims, taken by the Jets last April at No. 59 out of Baylor, saw injuries throughout training camp and then the regular season minimize his time on the field. In nine games as a rookie, he had 23 catches for 357 yards.
His goal this season, he says, is to prove that he’s a No. 1 wide receiver. He enters this season with a new head coach in Robert Saleh, a fiery personality who was previously the defensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers.
“I think he’s a great coach, his resume speaks for itself. A lot of players say good things about him. I think that speaks for itself, that’s the guy you want to play for,” Mims told Sports Illustrated’s NFL Draft Bible during an appearance on behalf of Panini.
In terms of his personality, Saleh in many ways is the counter-opposite of the oft-dour Adam Gase, who was fired after the rebuilding Jets went 2-14 last season. Mims thinks that Saleh will bring energy to the Jets locker room.
“Most definitely, I think he’s going to bring the juice every day,” Mims said. “I think only good things can happen. He’s going to bring the juice regardless, we have to feed off him.”
As for his rookie season, it was difficult.
Not only did the Jets struggle in terms of their record, but Mims had difficulty getting on the field and he wasn’t activated till Week 7. He had double hamstring injuries and then suffered a late-season head injury as well as a foot injury.
In addition, he missed one game late in the season due to personal reasons.
“It was pretty tough, I’ve been a healthy athlete my whole career. You get hurt like that, sitting out a long time – it’s very discouraging,” Mims said.
“I just tried to keep my mental right, stay on the right path, just stay positive. Keep grinding and trying to get better, stay healthy.”
At Baylor in 2019, he had 1,020 yards on 66 catches. He also had 12 touchdown catches. He was one of the best wide receivers in a deep and talented position last draft.
He said that the biggest adjustment from college football was using his time well. At Baylor, he had classes to take as well as football, impacting his free time and schedule. Here in the NFL, his sole focus, even his downtime, is supposed to be dominated by his job.
Mims spoke as part of a promotional event for Panini America, the trading card company. Panini America hosted several 2020 NFL rookies this past week for a signing of their 2020 Rookie Cards.
The cards can be found in outlets such as Walmart and Target as well as online.
When he was younger, he collected cards – “back in the day they were all one color…but now man, you’ve got gold, purple, bronze…there are a lot of great cards now.” He hopes to get back into collecting he says to display in his “man cave.”
“Back in the day we used to play – I don’t know if you know this game – but it is called paper football. We used to play for cards. You win, you get a card,” Mims said.
“I used to have a lot of cards. I lost them all when I was younger.”
Mims believes that, when he was younger, he accidentally threw his cards out one day.
He is trying to make up for it now, though. Mims said that he already has 20 of his own cards from Panini.