Zach Wilson and Morgan Moses of the Jets look on...

Zach Wilson and Morgan Moses of the Jets look on in the first half against the Saints at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

With COVID-19 running rampant through the team and on the sideline, it’s been a week like no other for the Jets.

Coach Robert Saleh spent the week quarantined in a hotel room after testing positive on Wednesday. At one point, the Jets had 19 players on the COVID-19 list plus their coach. They’ve gotten a few back, but Saleh and the others players affected were not cleared to rejoin the Jets for Sunday’s game against Jacksonville.

Tight ends coach Ron Middleton, who has never been a head coach before, will be the acting head coach against the Jaguars. Some players who weren’t with the Jets until this week could play important roles.

"This whole season has been filled with adversity," Saleh said. "Why not finish it with a little bit more?"

Only three games are left in a season that opened with such high hopes for the Jets and the belief that they are not far away from making a jump in the AFC. They are 3-11 and will finish last in the AFC East for the sixth time in seven years. The rebuild continues.

The most important piece, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, will get another opportunity to lead the offense and show his growth within the system. His development, understanding of the offense and comfort level running it are the focal points over these final weeks.

This game — the first meeting between No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and No. 2 selection Wilson — will be one of Wilson’s biggest challenges to date. Because of illness and injury, the Jets’ offense will be without its two starting guards and likely the three first-team receivers. Saleh isn’t worried about Wilson, though.

"He is in such a great place mentally," he said. "He’s in such a great head space. I think he’s really understanding the concept of keeping the main thing the main thing. The main thing is doing his job to the best of his ability, having great tempo, great footwork, great eye placement and getting the ball where it needs to go. Whatever the result is, it is."

Left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif have COVID-19. Dan Feeney is expected to slide in for Vera-Tucker and Greg Van Roten for Duvernay-Tardif.

The Jets won’t have receivers Corey Davis (injured reserve) and Elijah Moore (COVID-19/IR). Jamison Crowder didn’t practice all week because of a calf injury and is doubtful for Sunday. That leaves Braxton Berrios, Keelan Cole, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith and D.J. Montgomery as receivers.

"Is it difficult because of the lack of continuity, because of all the different pieces coming in and out of the lineup?" Saleh asked. "Yeah, it’s difficult. At the same time, his job is to do his best because I promise the guys that are getting the opportunity to play are going to give him everything they got.

"If he’s worried about anything other than doing his job and getting the ball where it needs to go, then it could be a problem. I think he’s in such a great space mentally, he’ll thrive from this."

On the other side of the football, the Jets will be without defensive end John Franklin-Myers, defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi, nickel cornerback Michael Carter II and safeties Ashtyn Davis and Sharrod Neasman because of COVID. Safety Elijah Riley has been ruled out with a concussion.

This will be a big moment for Middleton and one he’s been waiting for since he got into coaching after his playing career ended in 1995. Middleton has played for Joe Gibbs and coached with Nick Saban. He said it’s "scary" how "smooth" everything went this week and added that everyone has adjusted well to the sudden changes.

He and Saleh were scheduled to talk Saturday to discuss how to handle fourth-down situations and whether to go for it or not as well as challenging calls.

In addition to all the uncertainty involving the Jets, the Jaguars are playing their second game under interim coach Darrell Bevell, who replaced Urban Meyer. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is calling plays for the first time.

"The unknown," Middleton said. "It just fits right in with how this week is going with the people popping, players popping, coaches popping with COVID. It just fits right in with the week. We are going to adjust and go in with our plan, and if we have to adjust, we will."

Notes & quotes: Jets quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese, a Long Island native, also won’t be at the game because of COVID. Senior offensive assistant Matt Cavanaugh will handle Calabrese’s duties . . . The Jets elevated offensive lineman Isaiah Williams, tight end Dan Brown, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, defensive end Ronnie Blair and safety Elijah Benton from the practice squad.

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