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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain
Here's a look at how the Patriots' first-year players are faring through 13 games:
CB Devin McCourty (first round): He left the game with a rib injury, but McCourty made the most of his time on the field. He single-handedly stopped the Bears' first three drives with a tackle for loss, a pass defensed and a forced fumble. McCourty's injury is something to keep an eye on, but he is definitely one of the top candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
TE Rob Gronkowski (second round): Gronkowski hauled in five passes for 43 yards, including his seventh touchdown catch of the season. He is tied with Bucs WR Mike Williams for the rookie lead in touchdown catches.
OLB Jermaine Cunningham (second round): Cunningham's playing time has increased, and he has started the last 11 games. He did not record a tackle in the win over the Bears despite being on the field often in the snow.
ILB Brandon Spikes (second round): Spikes was suspended by the NFL for the last four games of the regular season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Spikes reportedly tested positive for the amphetamines contained in Adderall, a drug for ADHD. He will be back for the playoffs and will be replaced by Gary Guyton.
TE Aaron Hernandez (fourth round): Hernandez is a far cry from looking like a candidate to be the first tight end ever to win Rookie of the Year award, but he's still having a solid season. He had two catches for 19 yards on four targets on Sunday.
P Zoltan Mesko (fifth round): Battling the elements, Mesko had two punts for 71 yards and one went for a touchback. The Patriots fell to 14th in the league in net punting average.
LB Dane Fletcher (undrafted): Fletcher did not record a tackle on Sunday playing on special teams and defense. With Spikes out, he could see more defensive snaps in the team's sub package.
Notes: DE Brandon Deaderick (seventh round), S Sergio Brown (undrafted) and DL Kyle Love (undrafted) were active but did not record a tackle ... WR Taylor Price (third round) was inactive.