ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. is one of just two players in the NFL to score on a kick-return touchdown this season after breaking off a 99-yard return in Week 3 against Miami, but the roots of the score extend back to Week 1.
After Thursday's practice, Mims revealed that the return call was similar to one of the Broncos' plays from Week 1 that almost broke for a long gain. While the Raiders stopped Mims after 30 yards, the rookie identified a different coverage look from Miami on a kick return, cut across the field and took it the distance for the score. The return is the longest play this season in total distance according to NFL Next Gen Stats, coming in at 126.3 yards.
"It's kind of like a feel thing," Mims said. "I saw the defense on that left side kind of playing over the top, so I knew if I cut back I had to just outrun the kicker with speed. I was able to do that."
Along with leading the NFL in kick-return average among players with multiple returns, Mims has emerged as a big-play threat in the Broncos' passing attack. Mims leads Denver in receiving yardage and has recorded receptions of 60, 53, 30 and 38 yards.
"[I'm] just taking the opportunities as they come," Mims said. "Especially in certain plays when they're drawn up, if they're a specific coverage or multiple or different plays, you have no idea if you're getting the ball or not, so [it's about] going out there and doing it and making the play at the end of the day."
Already a two-time finalist for Rookie of the Week honors, Mims sees more room for growth in the weeks ahead, especially on the offensive side of the ball. He said that fellow wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy have helped develop his study habits.
"A lot of it is, it's kind of like artwork, just creating routes as you go — not really creating them, but putting your own little touch on them," Mims said. "[It has helped] being in the room with Courtland and Jeudy, guys who are known for doing that stuff and have been doing it for a while. … That's where my growth goes, more and more film and studying."
Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi highlighted the consistency he's seen from Denver's second-rounder.
"He's been pretty consistent when he's been healthy," Lombardi said . "He plays hard, he's smart, runs fast, tracks the ball well. Everything's been real positive from the start. You just see him getting the opportunity, and he's putting on film what we've been seeing in practice."
Three games into his NFL career, Mims said he feels comfortable with his roles on offense and special teams. On Sunday, he'll look to continue his momentum in Denver's matchup against the Chicago Bears, whom Mims described as having a physical defense that isn't afraid to make big tackles.
"I feel great," Mims said. "There are going to be a lot of different personnel groups, so every personnel group that's on the field, that's who's on the field. [With] the offense and also with the return game, I feel great with where I'm at right now."
LOMBARDI AIMING TO ESTABLISH RUN GAME AGAINST THE BEARS
Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi has seen plenty of positives from his running backs, from Javonte Williams' successful return from knee injury after missing most of last season to newcomer Samaje Perine's integration into the passing and running attacks.
Williams currently leads Denver with 138 rushing yards, while Perine has averaged 4.5 yards per carry and ranks second on the Broncos in receptions.
Still, late-game situations have prevented the Broncos' offense from establishing a rhythm and relying on the run game in its first three games. That's a trend Lombardi hopes to reverse against the Bears, who are tied for 29th in the league in total yards allowed but have not allowed any opposing rusher to run for more than 75 yards.
"I think it's key for us to run the ball efficiently," Lombardi said. "… I've been really impressed with how hard [Williams] runs through contact [and his] balance. He gets yards when he gets the football, so hopefully we can establish that more and more consistently and later into the game."