Denzel Mims addresses his bizarre Jets benchings: ‘Frustrating’

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The Jets’ Denzel Mims saga has been bizarre. A second-year player, chosen by the current general manager in the second round, not seeing the field has been strange. A speedy and tall receiver watching from the sidelines as a rookie quarterback surveys his weapons has been peculiar.

What’s the adjective he would use?

“Well, it’s been different,” Mims said Thursday in his first public comments of a season that has less been sidetracked and more never got going.

In the two games he has been on the active roster this season, Mims has seen the field for a total of 13 plays, during which he has caught one pass. That completion came Week 1 — and was for 40 yards, as he flashed being a vertical threat. But then the kind of talent a team should want to get a good look at was a healthy scratch for two weeks.

He returned last week but was not targeted once while stepping on the field for just 10 plays.

“Of course it’s frustrating. I’m a competitive player,” said Mims, a former Baylor star who is not used to sitting the bench. “Every player wants to start, wants to be a starter. But everything don’t go your way.”

Jets
Denzel Mims
Bill Kostroun

The Jets have offered a litany of reasons to the public for his disappearance, and Mims said the coaches have done “a great job” communicating with him what they need to see for him to play.

He did not want to share what that entails.

“I know what they want,” Mims said. “I’m doing everything I can to get everything right and give them what they want.”

The next step in the saga will be a telling one, as the expectation is 2021 second-round pick Elijah Moore will return from a concussion Sunday, and Corey Davis and Keelan Cole will start. Braxton Berrios has been a productive receiver but more importantly returns kicks, which is his route to playing on Sundays. Even receiver Jeff Smith, who is out with a concussion but will be back at some point, has played ahead of Mims this season because of his special teams role.

The Jets found a way to dress Mims last week, but that avenue might not be available this week or for the foreseeable future.

Could Mims, whose big-play ability has value, be going somewhere else by the Nov. 2 trade deadline?

“I’m not worried about that,” Mims said.

The Jets have not indicated his benching is punitive, and Mims also rejected the notion. Instead, he points back to his offseason bout with food poisoning that cost him time at OTAs and cost him 20 pounds that he says he has gained back.

Jets
Denzel Mims
AP

The time away from the field and a new offensive playbook took a toll.

“I wasn’t physically able to do anything. Every day, all day, I was just throwing up constantly,” the 23-year-old said. “I was just trying to survive.”

He says he is close to being all the way back before he corrects himself: “I think I’m there.”

The Jets apparently have disagreed and issued several reasons for his lack of play, starting with the sickness and being behind the rest of the receiving room. There also have been explanations that Mims was not fully comfortable at each receiver position — perhaps because of that missed time — and the fact that he does not play special teams and thus was squeezed out.

Coach Robert Saleh has praised his receiver corps and said it is a credit to Joe Douglas for compiling the depth and the talent. It is curious, though, that the second player Douglas drafted during his regime cannot find the field on a team that has targeted progress and not playoffs as a goal this campaign.

After a hamstring injury cost him six games, Mims had a fine rookie season (23 catches for 357 yards in nine games) in Adam Gase’s offense while showing the athleticism that translates to the NFL level. It is possible it has not translated to offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur’s system.

Mims said he has focused on learning the playbook and having good practices (which Saleh recently has praised) and has tried to support his team from the sideline.

He hopes he won’t have that role this week, but there is uncertainty and a numbers game that is not looking favorable. He could again be the odd man out in the oddest situation surrounding the Jets.

Has he heard whether he will be part of the game in London against the Falcons on Sunday?

“I haven’t,” Mims said. “As of right now, I should be playing.”

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