Jets Players with Most to Prove Ahead of 2021 Season
There's going to be a ton of focus on the New York Jets' latest draft class during the 2021 season, and for good reason. They selected some players who could be franchise cornerstones for years to come, such as quarterback Zach Wilson, offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker and more.
However, there were already some talented players on the Jets roster heading into the offseason. Even though New York went 2-14 in 2020, that doesn't mean there weren't some players on the team who could end up being part of a turnaround for the franchise.
With the free-agent additions and their rookies, some returning Jets players will have more competition for playing time during training camp and the preseason. In order to secure jobs, they'll have to impress and put themselves in positions to have big seasons.
Here's a look at three New York players who have the most to prove heading into the 2021 season.
Denzel Mims, WR
The Jets' wide receiver room has gotten a lot more crowded this offseason. New York signed Corey Davis and Keelan Cole during free agency and took Elijah Moore in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft. Plus, it still has some holdovers from last season, including Jamison Crowder, its leading receiver in 2020.
So, where does that leave Mims? The 23-year-old was a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft, but he played only nine games last season, hauling in 23 passes for 357 yards. Mims didn't get into the end zone, but he flashed his potential, such as when he had three catches for 71 yards in a Week 10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
But if Mims is going to become a bigger contributor for the Jets moving forward, he's going to have to earn playing time and prove that he's more deserving of being on the field than some of the other receivers on New York's roster. And it's a sure thing that Davis and Crowder will get plenty of snaps, so Mims will be battling with some of the other playmakers for opportunities.
Mims has the size (6'3", 207 pounds) and skills to become a strong NFL wide receiver. Now, he'll have to prove that he can take a big step forward in 2021 and show that he can be a valuable target for Wilson in the Jets offense for years to come.
Chris Herndon, TE
Herndon was the Jets' starting tight end last season, and he's the favorite to be in that role again in 2021. However, the 25-year-old didn't get too involved in the passing game, instead being used primarily in a blocking role. He had 31 receptions for 287 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games.
Mike LaFleur, New York's new offensive coordinator, spent the past four seasons on the San Francisco 49ers' staff. The tight end served an important role in their passing offense, as George Kittle emerged as one of the top playmakers in the NFL during that time.
So the Jets may want to utilize their tight ends more in the passing game than they did last year, which could also help Wilson get comfortable in the offense. Herndon has the skills to potentially fill that role, but he'll need to prove it having never put up huge receiving numbers.
However, Herndon was more involved in the passing game during his rookie season in 2018, when he had 39 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games. Perhaps a new offense could lead to Herndon putting up numbers like that (or even bigger) in the upcoming season.
Bryce Hall, CB
Although the Jets drafted three cornerbacks this year (fifth-round selections Michael Carter II and Jason Pinnock, as well as sixth-round pick Brandin Echols), those additions are unlikely to impact the top two spots on the depth chart. New York will likely be starting Bless Austin and Hall, unless it makes any late free-agent signings.
For Hall, it'll be an opportunity to show he can carry over the success he had in the second half of the 2020 season. After missing the first eight weeks of his rookie campaign due to an ankle injury he suffered during his final college season at Virginia, Hall played in New York's last eight games and started the final seven.
Hall had 36 tackles, one interception and three pass deflections in his first NFL season. But new Jets head coach Robert Saleh has made it known that players will be battling for playing time heading into 2021.
"Competition breeds improvement, and so there's just going to be a great level of competition," Saleh recently said, per Jack Bell of the Jets' official site. "We love the competition."
Hall may have had a strong start to his career, but the 24-year-old will need to prove he can handle a starting role for an entire season. If he can, New York will have at least one young cornerback it can rely on moving forward.