Jets WR Crowder to miss opener due to COVID

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson will make his NFL debut Sunday without one of his top receivers.

Slot receiver Jamison Crowder, who tested positive last week for COVID-19, was ruled out Friday for the season opener against the Carolina Panthers. He remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

The Jets’ improved depth at wide receiver will be tested because Keelan Cole, who suffered a knee injury Thursday, will be a game-time decision, according to coach Robert Saleh.

It leaves the Jets with five healthy receivers, including starters Corey Davis and rookie Elijah Moore. Braxton Berrios could replace Crowder in the slot, with Denzel Mims and Jeff Smith also in line for expanded roles.

It’s hardly an ideal situation for Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick, but he still has Davis, who developed a quick rapport with the rookie quarterback in the preseason.

“I know I’m a No. 1 receiver in this league,” said Davis, who left the Tennessee Titans in free agency. “It’s great that [the Jets] saw that in free agency.”

The Jets may have to lean on Mims, a 2020 second-round pick who slipped down the depth chart and worked primarily with the backups in the preseason.

“He’s going through learning curves, working out of a phone booth and working out of those tight splits — the details of route running,” Saleh said. “He continues to get better every day.”

Crowder, the team’s leading receiver in 2019 and 2020, was added to the COVID-19 list last Friday. He was initially eligible to play in the opener because he is vaccinated, but he needed two negative tests 24 hours apart after being asymptomatic for 48 hours.

In other injury news, left tackle Mekhi Becton returns after missing nearly two weeks due to a concussion. The 2020 first-round pick, who had an uneven training camp, practiced all week and was cleared to play.

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