That’s the name Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur used when asked Thursday what he sees in the physical skill set of 24-year-old receiver Denzel Mims, whose career has been a series of stops and starts — but mostly stuck on stops.
Mims, a second-round draft pick in 2020, has scuffled for the majority of his brief career. Despite looking like a prototypical NFL receiver at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, Mims has been as much of an enigma as any player on the team in recent memory.
“He’s like Kevin Durant in terms of his size,’’ LaFleur said. “He’s a really big guy with a big wingspan and can run. It’s about taking those tools that he has in his body and being able to put them out there on the field.’’
Mims, who has just eight receptions for 133 yards on 15 targets in eight games this season, is coming off a game — Sunday’s loss to the Saints — in which he had perhaps his best chance to seize opportunity.
With top receivers Elijah Moore and Corey Davis out with injuries, Mims started — but was benched after committing penalties — illegal hands to the face and an illegal formation — on back-to-back plays that pushed the team out of field-goal range at the end of the first half.
He was replaced by D.J. Montgomery, who’d never played an NFL game.
So much for seizing the moment.
“We challenged him,’’ LaFleur said. “When you’re a receiver, you can’t commit three penalties in two games (Mims had a penalty in the previous game, too). You just can’t. And he knows that.’’
This brings us to Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in South Florida, where Mims will have another chance to shine with Moore and Davis still out.
These final four games represent a come-to-Jesus moment for Mims’ career. Because if he doesn’t show this coaching staff, which already is short on trust for him, some potential as a consistent playmaker there’s a good chance these will be the final four games of his Jets career.
“I can’t worry about the future,’’ Mims said Thursday. “My focus is right now. I’ve got to do what I can right now. I’ve got to just stay hungry. This is an opportunity for myself to go out there and show what I can do, show the world, show myself, show the coaches.’’
How good does he think he can be?
“I think I’m a very good player,’’ Mims said. “I don’t think there are too many people that are like me.’’
To be fair, Mims’ journey has been interrupted by some elements out of his control.
A hamstring injury at the start of training camp in 2020 stunted his development. Food poisoning this offseason set him back. Then he missed time last month after contracting COVID-19.
“It’s been very difficult,’’ Mims said. “Of course, you want things to go your way right away. But, unfortunately it [hasn’t] gone my way. It’s been a tough week, but God don’t put you through something you can’t get through. That’s how I look at it.’’
LaFleur said Mims was “really taking a lot of strides until he got COVID and he missed all that time.’’
“He’s going to have another opportunity,’’ LaFleur went on. “It’s a fresh week and I’m excited to see what he’s going to do.’’
Jets head coach Robert Saleh has had a close eye on Mims this week to see how he responds to his latest adversity.
“He came back from a couple weeks of illness [and] it wasn’t the cleanest week and it wasn’t a good, clean first half [Sunday],’’ Saleh said. “No one’s lost faith in him.’’
That’s a difficult argument to make considering he was benched. Offensive linemen aren’t usually benched after being called for two penalties. Nor are defensive players.
There clearly appears to be something going on behind the scenes that neither Saleh nor LaFleur are willing to talk about that has left Mims’ leash shorter than it is for other players.
Understandably, Mims looked uncomfortable while speaking to reporters Thursday, largely because the theme to the questions were about all the good things he hasn’t done and all bad things he has done.
It would be nice for Mims to stand before reporters after a breakout game Sunday talking about a multiple-catch game and scoring his first NFL touchdown.
That, of course, won’t come easy considering how good the Dolphins defense is — particularly at cornerback with Xavien Howard (four INTs, 14 passes defensed) and Byron Jones.
LaFleur’s “message’’ to Mims: “You’re capable of this. We all know that from a talent perspective.’’
Wouldn’t it be some story if Mims was able to channel his inner Kevin Durant, deliver a breakout game at Hard Rock Stadium like a Durant double-double on the hardwood?
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