Polarizing Jets Bubble Candidate’s Roster Spot ‘as Safe as Anybody’

Jeff Smith

Getty New York Jets wide receiver Jeff Smith congratulates a teammate in 2020.

From the outside perspective, there is an ongoing wide receiver battle at New York Jets training camp that’s gotten pretty intense over the past couple of weeks.

Every day it feels like someone new grabs the spotlight and with very few roles available — Elijah Moore, Corey Davis, Garrett Wilson and Braxton Berrios are occupying the first four jobs — that makes for an exciting competition.

Having said that, one long-time NYJ reporter is extremely confident in a certain fifth wideout making the roster. If he’s right, that would create a scenario where six players could be fighting for one final spot.

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Jeff Smith Gets Strong Vote of Confidence

During the 2022 Green & White Scrimmage on August 6, Jets X-Factor co-founder and media member Robby Sabo highlighted a special teams effort from wide receiver Jeff Smith.

“Jeff Smith then makes a play as a gunner, stopping [the] ball at [the] 3-5-yard line,” Sabo relayed. “His spot is as safe as anybody’s.”

Although it was somewhat of a passing comment from the reporter, it hit on a popular theory within the NYJ media — and an unpopular one among fans — Smith leading a pack that includes Denzel Mims and a crop of promising rookies.

The Athletic’s Zack Rosenblatt named Smith as one of six Jets that have “helped themselves” so far in camp on August 4. He explained:

Last year, the Jets kept seven wide receivers on their initial 53-man roster, but with the depth they have at other positions, it seems unlikely they’ll keep that many again. On that note, Smith and Denzel Mims are locked in a battle for the fifth receiver spot. It’s certainly possible both will make the team (if Mims isn’t traded) but if they’re fighting for a role, Smith is still ahead of him… Mims’ work has been almost exclusively with Mike White at quarterback, while Smith — a standout in the spring — has been getting his reps with Zach Wilson and Joe Flacco, making plays with both of them. On Wilson’s perfect 8-for-8 day in team drills on Wednesday [Aug. 3], Smith caught one of the passes. He caught a touchdown in red zone drills from Flacco on Monday [Aug. 1]. Smith also played quarterback in college so he adds some intriguing skills as a potential gadget player and most importantly (for a fifth receiver) Smith can contribute as a returner and gunner, too.

Later on August 8, Rosenblatt concluded that “Smith feels like a safe bet to be the fifth receiver.”

SNY’s Connor Hughes has shared a similar opinion in the past, as has ESPN’s Rich Cimini. It appears Smith isn’t just a “staff favorite,” but a media darling as well.

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Mims Finally Receives First-Team Reps

Speaking of the WR battle, Mims is a huge part of it and the former second-round selection had an encouraging practice on August 9. As Rosenblatt noted above, the Baylor product had been working exclusively with backup quarterbacks White and Flacco — until yesterday.

“Denzel Mims caught a pass from Zach Wilson,” Rosenblatt reported. “I believe that’s his first target/catch from Wilson in camp.”

The fallen draft pick also battled for some praise from Sabo. “Great job by Denzel Mims,” he voiced, “showing some serious fight against [Isaiah] Dunn, who was all over him (could have been [defensive pass interference]). Showcased serious attitude there. Things you live to see as a coach.”

Unfortunately, Mims was also involved in a scuffle or two later in the practice — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing except that punches were reportedly thrown. Head coach Robert Saleh’s only rule in a training camp scrum is no punching.

If Mims wants to avoid becoming trade bait in 2022, he’ll have to prove himself in more ways than one — as a wide receiver, special teamer, teammate, and irreplaceable asset. So far, it looks like this coaching staff is still assessing whether or not he’s done that.

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