After a week of speculation, it’s now official: the New England Patriots will not have starting cornerback Jalen Mills available for their wildcard playoff game against the Buffalo Bills. The deadline to activate him from the Coronavirus reserve list came and went without the patriots doing anything like first noticed by Doug Kyed. from Pro Football Focus.
Mills, 27, tested positive for Covid-19 and was sent to appropriate reserve list on Tuesday. He then missed both practices this week, but under the NFL’s revised quarantine protocols, he would qualify for activation in time for Saturday night’s game against Buffalo.
However, such a move never happened and Mills will miss the match. Losing him is a major breakthrough for New England.
Not only is the Bills offense one of the most explosive in the league, Mills has played some good football this year. He began all of his 16 appearances opposite CB1 JC Jackson, the free agency acquisition and the former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back finished the regular season with 913 snaps played this side of the ball; third on the team behind only Jackson and safety Devin McCourty.
Now that Mills is out, the Patriots cornerback depth map looks suspicious. In addition to second-team All-Pro Jackson, New England has Myles Bryant – herself an injury replacement for starting cornerback Jonathan Jones – available as well as Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel, D’Angelo Ross and De’Vante Bausby. Ross and Bausby were withdrawn from the practice squad on Friday.
The Patriots are expected to face Buffalo’s favorite three receiver looks with Jackson, Bryant and Williams as the top three cornerbacks with Mills out. New England could also give multi-faceted protections McCourty, Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger more coverage responsibilities.
Mills isn’t the only starting member of the team out for the playoff game in Buffalo. Offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn will also be inactive after missing all week due to hip and ankle injuries; he was relegated on Friday.
The Patriots’ playoffs at Highmark Stadium are set to start for an ET kick-off at 8:15 PM.