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Patriots’ current cornerback shortage comes at the worst possible time

Related: Patriots vs. Dolphins Thursday injury report: New England’s list of absences lengthens with Damien Harris, Adrian Phillips

Buffalo Bills (24) Vs. New England Patriots (10) At Gillette Stadium Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

When the New England Patriots took the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium on Thursday, they had only five cornerbacks present. Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade are all on the active roster and were joined by practice squad members Quandre Mosley and Tae Hayes.

The rest of the team’s cornerback group, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen. Jalen Mills (groin), Jack Jones (knee) and Marcus Jones (concussion) were all absent just like they were the previous day.

Missing three of your top five cornerbacks is never ideal, but New England’s current shortage at the position comes at the worst possible time.

For starters, the Patriots need to win their remaining two games of the regular season if they want to control their own playoff destiny. Los on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, and they are officially eliminated; win on Sunday but get beaten the following week versus the Buffalo Bills and their chances depend on several other games going their way.

Heading into the first game of this pivotal strange potentially down Mills and the Joneses would be bad enough. To make matters worse, the Patriots will be going up against two of the most potent offenses in football in Weeks 17 and 18.

First up are the aforementioned Dolphins. While starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is not expected to play in the game — he was moved into concussion protocol on Monday for a second time this season and will be replaced by backup Teddy Bridgewater — the team is still quite talented on the offensive side of the ball.

That is especially true at wide receiver: Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are one of the most productive receiving duos in football, and have combined to catch 180 passes this season for 2,892 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Covering them is a tall task for any secondary, let alone one that might be severely decimated. While Jonathan Jones is still around to take on the speedy Hill, Waddle against Myles Bryant looks like a mismatch in Miami’s favor. And that is before even looking further down the New England depth chart.

The next man up for New England would be Shaun Wade, who has played only 18 defensive snaps this season — including one against Cincinnati last week where he immediately gave up a touchdown. Additionally, the team has emergency options Quandre Mosley (zero career snaps) and Tae Hayes (137 career snaps in four seasons) on the practice squad.

The challenges will not get any easier the following week against Buffalo: Josh Allen is among the best quarterbacks in the NFL and his connection with his Stefon Diggs-led receiving corps is well-documented.

Before focusing on the Bills, however, the Patriots will need to find a way to defeat the Dolphins. Doing so will be a lot harder if even one of the Mills/Jones/Jones trio is out.

Missing all three would put considerable pressure on the other cornerbacks on the roster, and the New England defense as a whole.