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Rookie Meter: 'Gronk' responds with three TDs

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Posted Nov. 16, 2010 @ 5:44 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

In Week Nine, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski had a rookie-esque game to forget in the Pats' 34-14 loss to the Browns. Already being overshadowed by fellow rookie TE Aaron Hernandez the first two months of the season, Gronkowski got the spotlight in the loss for the wrong reasons.

He called for a fair catch on a kickoff, only to have the ball hit the turf and the Browns recover. He fumbled near the goal line with an opportunity to chip into the Browns' lead before the half and he had a couple of drops on a woeful afternoon.

With a Week 10 bout against the Steelers coming up next, it seemed safe to assume Gronkowski's snaps would decrease, especially considering that Hernandez caught two TD passes against the Browns in the red zone — an area where Gronkowski is normally targeted.

Instead of getting less playing time, however, the Arizona alum had the game of his life in a statement win for the Patriots.

Gronkowski had five catches for 72 yards and three touchdowns in the 39-26 win. He became the first rookie tight end in 20 years with three TD receptions in one game. He also was on the field for most of the offensive snaps, while Hernandez barely played.

In redeeming himself after a nightmare Week Nine, "Gronk" showed the weapon that he can be and now has the rookie lead with six TD receptions this season. Gronkowski's talent, combined with what we have seen from Hernandez, further shows how good the Pats' scouting department is, and how scary-good the offense will be in the future.

Another note before this week's Meter — the Bucs became the first team since the Cowboys in 2002 to start seven rookies and win a game.

1. Rams QB Sam Bradford (first round, first overall)
Last week's ranking: 1

Bradford's throwing accuracy eclipsed 70 percent for the second consecutive game in one of his best performances this season. The No. 1 pick completed 30-of-42 passes for 251 yards and a TD. He has now gone four consecutive games and 138 pass attempts without throwing a pick. His leadership and moxie continue to impress. On the Rams' 15-yard line with 2:10 to go and down three, Bradford marched the team down the field, going 7-of-9 for 69 yards, setting up a Josh Brown game-tying 33-yard field goal.

2. Bucs WR Mike Williams (4, 101)
Last week's ranking: 2

In the Bucs' 31-16 win over the Panthers, Williams had four catches for 68 yards and continues to have the rookie lead with 627 receiving yards. QB Josh Freeman's deep threat averages 15.7 yards a catch, which is third-best in the league among all receivers with at least 40 receptions.

3. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (1, 24)
Last week's ranking: 5

Bryant is inching closer to Williams as the top rookie receiver in the league after catching three balls for 104 yards and a TD. It was Bryant's first career 100-yard game and he is averaging 91.3 yards receiving in the last three games — the three games in which QB Jon Kitna has started. Bryant hasn't been able to break off a big punt return lately, but he is turning into a big-play NFL receiver.

4. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh (1, 2)
Last week's ranking: 3

Suh had another solid game from the DT position, recording three tackles, including a tackle for loss. He also had a QB hit. However, the Lions' defense allowed the Bills to gain 151 yards on the ground. Suh's drop in the Meter is more because of Bryant's big game — Suh still has Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in his grasp.

5. Chiefs FS Eric Berry (1, 5)
Last week's ranking: 7

Berry benefits from poor games out of RB Jahvid Best and TE Aaron Hernandez. Berry added five tackles in the Chiefs' loss to the Broncos, good for second on the team. However, not many Chiefs were making tackles as the Broncos rattled off 49 points. An injury to Nate Allen and a slowing in production from Earl Thomas make Berry one of the top rookie safeties. He has 49 tackles on the season.

6. Lions RB Jahvid Best (1, 30)
Last week's ranking: 5

Best continued to struggle, even against an awful Bills run defense in Week 10. Best had just 35 yards on 17 carries (2.1 average) and four receptions for only four yards. With QB Shaun Hill starting, Best will find it harder to get running room. He still leads all rookies in yards from scrimmage, but Williams is closing in on him. Best could use another solid game, or at least find the endzone for the first time since Week Two, if he wants to get back to the top of the Meter.

7. Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez (4, 113)
Last week's ranking: 6

Looking at the box score (Tom Brady throws for 350 yards, Patriots score 39 points), you would have expected Hernandez to have a big game — especially considering he has been solid even when the Patriots' offense struggles. But Hernandez had his first game without recording a reception and was rarely on the field, deferring to Gronkowski. After catching two TD passes against the Browns, it was expected that Hernandez touches in the red zone would continue, but instead he vanished from the Pats' offense. If this is a recurring theme, he will have no chance at the rookie honors.

8. Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey (1, 18)
Last week's ranking: 8

Pouncey had the tall task of facing Patriots NT Vince Wilfork on Sunday night, and the Steelers were unable to get things going on the ground. Rashard Mendenhall had just 50 rushing yards, and Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times. Most of those sacks came from the edges, with the Steelers having to start backups at both OT positions. Pouncey remains the most consistent (and healthiest) player on the Steelers' front line.

9. Buccaneers RB LeGarrette Blount (undrafted)
Last week's ranking: NR

With Best's numbers steadily decreasing and Saints RB Chris Ivory likely to start losing carries with Pierre Thomas' return, Blount could finish this season in a battle with Best for the best rookie running back, especially with the Bucs' surge. In Sunday's win, Blount ran for 91 yards on 19 carries and a TD. He now leads all rookie backs with 59.8 rushing yards a game, averaging 4.8 yards a carry.

10. Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki (3, 93)
Last week's ranking: 9

Moeaki hauled in one catch, but it went for 34 yards. QB Matt Cassel targeted him just three times. The Chiefs were playing from behind all game, so you'd expect better production from Moeaki, who was the team's leading receiver at the beginning of the season. The Chiefs' run game was nonexistent on Sunday, and Moeaki is key in paving the way for RBs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones.

On the cusp (listed alphabetically)

Eagles FS Nate Allen (2, 37)
Jaguars DT Tyson Alualu (1, 10)
Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham (1, 21)
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (2, 42)
Browns CB Joe Haden (1, 7)
Patriots CB Devin McCourty (1, 27)
Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy (1, 3)
Seahawks FS Earl Thomas (1, 14)
Titans CB Alterraun Verner (4, 104)
Browns FS T.J. Ward (2, 38)

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