After a week of speculation, it is now official: the New England Patriots will not have starting cornerback Jalen Mills available for their wild card playoff game against the Buffalo Bills. The deadline to activate him from the Coronavirus reserve list came and went with no move being made by the Patriots, as first pointed out by Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed.
Mills, 27, tested positive for Covid-19 and was sent to the appropriate reserve list on Tuesday. He subsequently missed both practices this week but under the NFL’s revised quarantine protocols would have been eligible for activation in time for the Saturday night game versus Buffalo.
Such a move never happened, however, and Mills will miss the contest. Losing him is a tough break for New England.
Not only is the Bills’ offense one of the most explosive in the league, Mills has also been playing some quality football this year. Starting all 16 of his appearances opposite CB1 J.C. Jackson, the free agency acquisition and former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back ended the regular season with 913 snaps played on this side of the ball; third on the team behind only Jackson and safety Devin McCourty.
With Mills out, the Patriots’ cornerback depth chart looks suspect. Besides second-team All-Pro Jackson, New England has Myles Bryant — himself an injury replacement for starting slot cornerback Jonathan Jones — available as well as Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel, D’Angelo Ross and De’Vante Bausby. Ross and Bausby were elevated from the practice squad on Friday.
The expectation is that the Patriots will face Buffalo’s preferred three-receiver looks with Jackson, Bryant and Williams as its top three cornerbacks with Mills out. New England could also use give versatile safeties McCourty, Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger more coverage responsibilities.
Mills is not the only starting member of the team out for the playoff game in Buffalo. Offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn will be inactive as well after missing the entire week due to hip and ankle injuries; he was downgraded on Friday.
The Patriots’ playoff opener at Highmark Stadium is set for a 8:15 p.m. ET kickoff.