NEWARK, N.J. — Baker Mayfield is going to wake up on Sunday morning and hope it was all a bad dream.
His entire starting wide receiving corps has been wiped out for Sunday’s game against the 1-13 Jets game as high-risk close contacts of B.J. Goodson, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.
Jarvis Landry, who’s fought through injuries to never miss a game in his career, will miss his first one as a close contact. So will Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, KhaDarel Hodge and linebacker Jacob Phillips.
Goodson will sit out the final two regular season games because a player who tests positive must miss at least 10 days.
The game will still be played, and the Browns have a chance to clinch the division for the first time in 18 years with a victory.
The Browns were heading to New Jersey Saturday for the game when they got the news that Goodson tested positive. They closed their facility and their flight was delayed as they worked through the contact tracing.
The only thing that would’ve been worse is if Mayfield had been a close contact.
Goodson will be replaced by Tae Davis, Malcolm Smith or Mack Wilson, who was benched last week because of a coach’s decision. It’s a chance for Wilson to redeem himself from subpar play and whatever else earned caused him to be a healthy scratch last week.
“B.J. does a good job,’’ Stefanski said on Dec. 7th, a day after Goodson helped the Browns beat the Titans 41-35. “He’s definitely the emotional leader of the defense. You hear him before you see him. He rallies the guys at practice and during the games. He’s making big plays in these ball games to help us win.’’
On a brighter note for the Browns, left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr.’s excellent rookie season will continue uninterrupted.
Wills was activated off the COVID-19 reserve list on Saturday and is set to face the 1-13 Jets.
The Browns also elevated center Javon Patterson from the practice squad as a COVID-19 replacement.
It’s an important game for the 10-4 Browns, who can clinch their first playoff spot in 18 years with some help from their AFC rivals. A victory by the Browns and a loss or tie by Ravens, Dolphins or Colts gets them in for the first time since 2002.
Wills was placed on the COVID-19 list Thursday as a close contact of a person outside the Browns organization who tested positive for the virus. The person was not associated with Wills’ charity event on Tuesday, in which he donated $50,000 worth of gifts and cash to six families in need, in conjuction with the Urban League of Greater Cleveland.
If Wills hadn’t been activated, sixth-year tackle Kendall Lamm would have started in his place. But the Browns were confident all along that Wills would make his 15th start of the season because he’s been testing negative for the virus.
“[Wills] played well in that last game,’’ coach Kevin Stefanski said Thursday. “He continues to improve. He’s a young player. You see with young players there are some great moments and some moments that he wants to get better. The good news is he does want to get better and he works extremely hard with (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan before, during and after practice.”
Left guard Joel Bitonio was surprised and dismayed Thursday to hear that Wills was on the list.
“That’s a big one,’’ he said. “Talk about a rookie coming in, starting every game and just being focused. Has it been perfect? No, but the way he competes and some of the things he has done in pass pro… a lot of the stuff he’s done has been on an island one on one. It’s been impressive.
“We have a good rapport now. Me, him and JC (Tretter) are kind of working together on the left side, and you get used to a guy like that playing well. Obviously, he is a big piece of our offense and a big piece of why we’ve kind of started to turn the corner here.”
Wills is 14th in the NFL in pass-blocking, according to profootballfocus.com
“He just keeps getting better every game,’’ receiver Jarvis Landry said. “He is one of the guys that’s been holding down that left side of the line this entire season. We’re definitely going to need him.”’