Why trade for Denzel Mims? Detroit Lions believe his ‘traits’ worthy of taking a chance

Detroit Free Press

Denzel Mims was a draft bust with the New York Jets, but the Detroit Lions believe his “traits” are worth taking a chance on.

“He’s a guy that has tools,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said before the first practice of training camp Sunday. “He’s a big receiver and he has speed. He has length and kind of relative of looking at what do you want to work with, this guy has the ability and let’s see if we can do something.”

A second-round pick in 2020, Mims caught 42 passes for 676 yards in three seasons with the Jets.

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He never appeared in more than 11 games in a season, and asked for a trade last year that New York finally made good on after it decided to release him last week.

The Lions gave up a conditional swap of 2025 draft picks in the deal.

Mims worked on the backup field at the start of practice Sunday and is expected to contend for a backup job this fall.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond and Jameson Williams opened camp as the Lions’ top four receivers. Williams must serve a six-game suspension to start the regular season.

Marvin Jones is on the nonfootball injury list.

“Let’s see if a change in scenery helps this guy,” Campbell said. “It’s the traits. We know the kid will work. We’ve heard that. He has a level of toughness about him, so we’ll see where we can take it.”

One of the last Lions off the field Sunday, Mims spent about 20 minutes after practice working with receivers coach Antwaan Randle El.

As the two walked off the field together, Randle El told a small group of reporters waiting for Mims, “If y’all can get him tomorrow, sorry, cause we got a lot to get to.”

Mims then went for a soak in the cold tub and declined a reporter’s interview request when he finished. He is scheduled to talk to reporters Monday.

“He’s a guy who’s obviously had different things happen throughout his career but lands here, we’re excited about him and I’m certainly excited about him,” Lions quarterback Jared Goff said. “I can’t wait to work with him, I’ve told him that, and know he brings an element to our team we can use and as soon as he gets caught up to speed it’ll be exciting to see him work with us.”

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A different kind of fresh start

Levi Onwuzurike was all smiles talking with reporters Sunday, after his first meaningful football practice in almost a year.

“It feels good to be out on the field and actually feel good,” Onwuzurike said. “I feel good. Real sturdy, real strong. Hell yeah.”

A second-round pick out of Washington in 2021, Onwuzurike missed most of training camp as a rookie and all of last season with back problems he’s dealt with since college.

Onwuzurike aggravated his back injury last Aug. 1 and underwent surgery in October. He practiced on a limited basis this spring and said he was cleared for camp in early July.

Though he hasn’t played a game since Jan. 9, 2022, Onwuzurike said he’s kept his frustration level in check the past 18 months.

“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s tough being hurt, but at the end of the day it’s really just find a way to get better at the end of the day so you can’t — you don’t have time to be frustrated or be mad or be whatever. You got to figure it out somehow.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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