Broncos rookie WR Marvin Mims Jr. off to fast start in NFL

Late in the first half Sunday against the Dolphins, the Broncos needed points. Badly.

What looked like a promising sequence turned to disaster when Denver failed to capitalize on taking over at the Miami 33-yard line after a fourth-down stop. The Dolphins scored to make it 28-10, then scored again 22 seconds later after the first of two Courtland Sutton fumbles.

Turns out, Miami wasn’t done scoring. Not by a long shot.

In this moment, though, in need a big play to at least try to get back in the game, Denver and quarterback Russell Wilson turned to rookie wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr.

Wilson forced a ball into double coverage toward Mims, who ran a double move toward the goal line. It got knocked down, but Mims has made more than one contested catch so far already in his young career. He did it on a 38-yard post route earlier in the game, in fact.

The next play, head coach Sean Payton ratcheted down the degree of difficulty. Mims and Jerry Jeudy ran crossing routes past each other and Mims came wide open, taking a pass from Wilson 30 yards to the Miami 6-yard line.

The Broncos ultimately settled for a field goal, but the back-to-back targets for Mims represented Denver learning what the viewing public figured out simultaneously: Get the ball in the rookie’s hands, and good things tend to follow.

“I see a very mature rookie,” right guard Quinn Meinerz told reporters Monday. “He’s been doing a lot of things really well. He’s really fast. We’ve all seen how fast that guy is. He came into this offense and has found his role and his job and he’s been executing at a really high level.

“I’m really happy for him because it’s hard as a rookie to find success and find your place, so I’m happy and excited for him that he’s been able to do that so early.”

Mims’ role so far has been to play limited snaps on offense but make big plays when he’s on the field.

Mims had two short catches in the opener against Las Vegas. In two games since, his five catches have gone for 60, 53, 38, 30 and five yards. The two passes targeted to him that didn’t end in completions in that span: The double-move late in the first half and another deep post on which he’d run clean past the Dolphins secondary two possessions earlier.

Mims, who missed part of the offseason program and the early part of training camp due to separate hamstring injuries, said he’s getting more comfortable every time he’s on the field in a game.

“It’s kind of weird, especially from my perspective as a rookie,” he said. “You go through rookie camp, you go through OTAs and training camp. You’re playing the same people almost every day. The defense starts to pick up on routes, starts to pick up on concepts and you’re like, ‘It’s not really working like this,’ or it’s not as clean as you want it.

“When you get into games, it’s kind of a fresh start.”

Despite just seven catches and nine targets through three games, he’s leading the Broncos with 195 receiving yards.

“Even growing up, they say games are going to be easier than practice,” Mims said. “My thing is really just seeing those deep routes come open and then also getting the ability to really go up and make plays. In the NFL, in practice and stuff, you’re not going to risk your body around too much just because there are fewer people on the team and all that. That’s been a good thing for me just getting used to the NFL game, the NFL schedule, all of the position groupings. We added more this week so we’re just going to keep growing. With new plays will come different routes.

“Basically just waiting on the game-to-game, week-to-week game plan and go on from there.”

Making big plays on offense is nothing new to Mims. He averaged 22 and 20.1 yards per catch in his final two seasons at Oklahoma.

One thing he didn’t do at OU: Run a kickoff back for a touchdown. He checked that off the list in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins, adding a 99-yard return touchdown to the 45-yard punt return he generated against Washington the week earlier.

That’s enough to put him third in the NFL in all-purpose yards through three weeks at 429, trailing only Minnesota star receiver Justin Jefferson (458) and New Orleans’ Rashid Shaheed (450). He’s done it on 15 total touches (seven catches, three rushes, one punt return, four kick returns) compared to 25 for Shaheed (also a receiver/return man) and 27 for Jefferson (all catches).

So, will Mims play more than 15-17 offensive snaps Sunday against the Bears? He’s not sweating it either way.

“It’s kind of with the coaching and different personnel groups,” he said. “We basically work in all of our receivers who suit up, so it’s just personnel groups and the situation of the game, situation of the downs, whether it’s third-and-long, first-and-10. Different plays and different situations.

“It’s really all up to the coaches and what formations and personnel groups they decide to put on the field at certain times.”

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