It’s a good thing the New York Jets bulked up on wide receivers this offseason because they’re dropping like flies ahead of Week 1.
First was veteran Jamison Crowder. The slot receiver tested positive for COVID-19 after missing practice with a groin injury. The combination of the two made it unlikely that he would be able to suit up for the season opener in Carolina but the COVID protocols ended up making it impossible, per Robert Saleh via Brian Costello.
This wasn’t the end of the world with players like Keelan Cole and Elijah Moore waiting to take his spot in the starting lineup — until the latest Jets ailment.
Cole picked up a knee injury in practice on September 9 and did not practice on Friday the 10th. Coach Saleh called him a game-time decision during his latest press conference.
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Which Jets Will Benefit From Absences?
When asked who might replace Cole and Crowder, Saleh kept his answer vague. “[That’s] something we’ll talk about here before the day’s up,” he replied.
One answer is relatively obvious, the second-rounder out of Ole Miss. Moore has been nothing short of electric all summer and he has the versatility to line up all over the field. With Corey Davis locking down the ‘Z wide receiver’ role, expect the rookie to play some ‘X’ (outside) and slot (inside) on Sunday.
From there it should be a ‘rotation’ if Cole misses Week 1 — Jets fans’ new favorite word. Many will clamor for Denzel Mims but I wouldn’t be surprised if you get a decent amount of Jeff Smith and Braxton Berrios both on the inside and on designed plays.
Smith is a gadget receiver at heart that can gash a defense off reverse hand-offs and screens. In some ways, he’s a poor man’s Moore, except the rookie can do that and the rest. Having them on the field at the same time could create confusion for the Panthers’ defense.
Berrios on the other hand is a true slot. If Moore is playing ‘X,’ the crafty route-runner may find himself in the lineup alongside the Ole Miss product, just like in OTAs. The two played on the field together with Cole for the majority of the voluntary workouts being that most of the veterans were sidelined at the time.
Zach Wilson has developed a nice rapport with both Berrios and Smith this summer, as well as Moore and Davis of course. The fifth peg is the 2020 second-rounder, Mims, who hasn’t received much time with the rookie quarterback.
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Can Mims Seize the Moment?
The Baylor wide-out has a ton of vertical skill but many don’t see him as a scheme fit in Mike LaFleur’s offense. Remember, Mims was drafted to excel in Adam Gase’s over-the-top system, and we all know how that turned out.
Now the sophomore is finally healthy and he’s ready to prove himself in 2021, scheme fit or not.
Saleh spoke on the wide receiver: “[Mims] had a really nice practice yesterday so again, hopefully [he can] stack it up today. It’s the same process [as Mekhi Becton], he’s going through some learning curves and working out of a phone booth, working out of those tight splits and the details of route-running and all that stuff, so he’s gotten a lot better and he continues to get better every day and I love his intent and the way he’s going about his business to find versatility in knowing every single spot instead of being stagnant on one, which is difficult for a wide receiver. He’s been good, his mind is in the right spot.”
This is the opportunity that Mims has been waiting for. After a couple of big plays in the initial preseason game against backups and third-stringers, he missed the second and third preseason bouts with a hip injury.
Mims’ natural position is probably Davis’ at ‘Z-WR’ but as Saleh said, he’s been working hard to adapt and turn himself into a versatile piece like Moore or Cole. At the very least, he should be able to line up on the outside opposite the WR1, with Moore shifting back into the slot.
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