Denzel Mims' sophomore season with the Jets was filled to the brim with adversity.
The former second-round pick was held off the field with an illness before the season began, catching COVID-19 during the regular season. He watched helplessly as his role in the wide receiver room quickly diminished—his poor performance when he did get opportunities didn't help his case either.
It's gotten to the point with Mims where the receiver wasn't touching the field even when he was healthy. All signs pointed toward a trade.
Fast forward to this summer and while Mims is still low on the totem pole in New York's offense, he's been impressing his coaches with his hard work this offseason.
"He’s in the best shape that I have ever seen him, and his teammates have ever seen him," Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur told reporters recently. "It’s been really cool. He went to work this offseason. He got his body right."
Earlier this month, Jets head coach Robert Saleh gave a similar evaluation of the 24-year-old wideout.
"Denzel is doing better. He’s second time around, he’s in fantastic shape, looks really good," Saleh explained. "He’s working on the things that we’ve asked him to work on with regards to the catch point and all that stuff, contested balls. And, obviously, grasping the offense. Obviously, we all, the whole organization, has work to do in terms of reaching the point where we’re not thinking about what we’re being asked to do, but he’s a lot further along than he was a year ago."
Mims flashed serious potential as a rookie in 2020. He racked up 357 receiving yards in nine games, showing his catch radius and playmaking ability downfield. In 2021, however, Mims had only eight catches (133 yards through the air) over 11 games.
The entire organization has continued to stand up for Mims, even at his lowest points. It's clear that they believe in him and his abilities, enough to keep him around and give him a chance to make an impact going forward.
"I love the energy he’s approached with every single day in the meeting rooms," LaFleur added. "He’s much more confident in the offense to the point that we can be in the meeting rooms and he’s going to speak up, give his answers, and stuff like that. It’s been cool. He’s putting himself in the best situation for himself to be as successful as he can."
There are other receivers ahead of Mims in this offense. Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Braxton Berrios and 2022 first-round pick Garrett Wilson will each play a key role, along with new tight ends C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin and Jeremy Ruckert.
If Mims can continue to take steps forward in this offseason, however, he'll position himself to step in when adversity comes knocking for those around him.
"You see all the explosiveness now because he’s in fantastic shape and ready to roll," Saleh said.
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