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Here's a look at how the Patriots' first-year players are faring through six games:
CB Devin McCourty (first round): McCourty had his first career interception in the Pats' win over the Chargers. Following WR Richard Goodman down the right sideline, McCourty timed his jump perfectly to pick off the pass. He continues to be the Pats' most consistent corner, and teams are finding more success against the Patriots on the left sideline as opposed to McCourty's side.
TE Rob Gronkowski (second round): Gronk continues to be a top red zone target for Tom Brady. He caught another TD pass on Sunday and now has three touchdowns among his nine overall catches this season. Gronkowski had been quiet in the red zone since catching two TD passes in the first three games.
OLB Jermaine Cunningham (second round): Cunningham is now consistently starting on the outside and is the top pass rusher of the 'backers in the Pats' base package. Cunningham had three tackles on Sunday, so he was not as much of a force as he was in his big game against the Ravens. Cunningham did set the edge beautifully on a run play, stopping Chargers RB Darren Sproles dead in his tracks in the second quarter.
ILB Brandon Spikes (second round): Spikes had a quiet game on the stat sheet with just one tackle, but he helped a Pats front-seven that held the Chargers to just 38 yards on 19 carries. Spikes, like Cunningham, is now consistently starting in a linebacking corps that has played very well the past few games.
TE Aaron Hernandez (fourth round): Through six games, no defense has found a way to take Hernandez out of the game. He led the Pats with five catches for 54 yards on eight targets, averaging 10.8 yards a catch. He leads the team with 355 yards receiving and will remain one of Brady's top targets between the 20s until someone stops him.
P Zoltan Mesko (fifth round): Thanks to a couple bad snaps from Jake Ingram, Mesko had to work on Sunday on his first couple punts. He was also penalized for a delay of game. It was certainly not the Patriots' best special-teams performance. Mesko had four punts for 153 yards, dropping two in the 20. The Patriots are third in net punting average, a huge improvement from last season.
DE Brandon Deaderick (seventh round): Where did this guy come from? After being inactive the first three games, Deaderick got his second career start and recorded his second career sack. He added another tackle and helped the Patriots' stout run defense with his mammoth size (6-4, 305).
LB Dane Fletcher (undrafted free agent): The Montana State grad is now a firm member of the Patriots' sub package, using his speed to spy opposing team's running backs. Fletcher was tagged for a false start on a Patriots punt in the first quarter. He had three tackles and a forced fumble.
Notes: WR Taylor Price (third round) was inactive for the sixth straight game ... DL Kyle Love (UFA) was also held inactive.