FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots will face the NFL’s top receiving duo Sunday — and they’ll do so with an extremely thin cornerback group.
Jalen Mills (groin), Marcus Jones (concussion) and Shaun Wade (healthy scratch) all are inactive for New England’s Week 17 matchup with the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Jack Jones (knee) is inactive as well after landing on injured reserve Saturday.
Those losses leave the Patriots with just four available cornerbacks to defend dangerous Miami wideouts Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle: Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, Tae Hayes and Quandre Mosely.
Jones and Bryant have been New England’s top options at outside and slot cornerback all season, respectively, but Hayes and Mosely both are making their Patriots debuts.
Hayes has been with the team for less than a week, joining the practice squad Tuesday before being promoted to the 53-man roster on Saturday. The 25-year-old played 38 defensive snaps across five appearances for the Carolina Panthers earlier this season and participated in joint practices against the Patriots this past summer.
Mosely is an undrafted rookie who never has appeared in a regular-season game. The Kentucky product logged stints with the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before signing to the Patriots’ practice squad Dec. 5. He was elevated for Sunday’s game along with tight end Matt Sokol.
That Hayes and Mosely both are active over Wade is a scathing indictment on the 2021 fifth-round draft pick. Wade has played just 18 snaps this season and 29 in his career, and he allowed a touchdown on the lone snap he played in last week’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Whoever we’ve got, that’s who you’ve got to use,” Pro Bowl edge rusher Matthew Judon said Thursday. “It would be great if we were at 100% and everybody was out there, but right now we aren’t, and you’ve got to play with what you have. I think the guys that are coming out there and practicing, playing, they’re going to do well.”
Here is the Patriots’ full inactive list for Sunday:
CB Jalen Mills
CB Marcus Jones
CB Shaun Wade
TE Jonnu Smith
WR DeVante Parker
RB Kevin Harris
DT Sam Roberts
— Smith, Parker and Marcus Jones were ruled out Friday as they recover from concussions. Mills had been listed as questionable. Wade, Harris and Roberts are healthy inactives.
— Running back Damien Harris and tight end Hunter Henry both are active after being listed as questionable with thigh and knee injuries, respectively. Harris has not played since Thanksgiving, and Henry left the Cincinnati game after just three snaps. Lead back Rhamondre Stevenson (questionable, ankle) also is active.
— The Patriots will dress five safeties, with Joshuah Bledsoe — typically a healthy scratch when his veteran position mates are healthy — joining Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips and Jabrill Peppers. Special teamer Brenden Schooler also can play safety in a pinch.
It will be interesting to see how New England uses its depth there to offset its injuries at cornerback.
— With Marcus Jones unavailable, the Patriots also lose their top kick/punt returner and an offensive spark plug. Bryant, who handled punt-return duties early in the season, is the most likely candidate to replace Jones there, with rookie running back Pierre Strong taking over kickoff returns.
— The Dolphins will be missing several key pieces, as well. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, left tackle Terron Armstead, edge rusher Bradley Chubb and cornerback Xavien Howard all are out with injuries.
The Patriots must win Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET.