Patriots Superior Rookie Class Give Them Youthful Edge Over Jets

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Patriots Superior Rookie Class Give Them Youthful Edge Over Jets FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots will have one undoubted edge when they meet the Jets on Monday.

Their rookie class is far superior to the Jets' first-year players, and with the New England rookies contributing so significantly, it's obvious their growth has helped the Patriots improve since the two teams initially met in Week 2.

Cornerback Devin McCourty, who has five interceptions, 12 pass defenses and ranks second on the Patriots with 51 solo tackles, will be in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Inside linebacker Brandon Spikes, who is third on the team with 64 total tackles, has earned starting-caliber playing time, and he's been Jerod Mayo's primary counterpart on running downs. Outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham doesn?t register any eye-opening stats, but his presence on the edge has helped the Patriots' run defense.

And offensively, tight ends Aaron Hernandez (36 receptions, 462 yards, three touchdowns) and Rob Gronkowski (25 receptions, 310 yards, six touchdowns) have been mighty contributors in the passing game. Gronkowski has also been an elite blocker in passing and running situations, so his impact is felt even when he's not catching the ball.

The Jets, on the other hand, have drafted some developmental prospects. First-round cornerback Kyle Wilson has been buried on the depth chart behind Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie — not that there's anything wrong with that — but head coach Rex Ryan has caught a little heat for Wilson's slim production. Second-rounder Vladimir Ducasse couldn?t win the starting job at left guard, and running back Joe McKnight has never seemed to have been in favor with the coaching staff. The Jets' most productive pick might have been fifth-round fullback John Connor, and even he is splitting reps with Tony Richardson.

Obviously, both the Patriots and Jets have improved in the last three months, but New England's rookie talent has exponentially more upside than that of New York's.

If either rookie class makes a difference Monday, the Patriots will have a resounding advantage.

This was the eighth installment of a 10-day series that will highlight 10 reasons to get excited for the Patriots-Jets matchup next Monday night.

Friday: Jets test: Have their wins really been all about luck?
Sunday: What new defensive wrinkle will the Patriots have in store for the Jets?

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