Another kicker drafted in the sixth round, Zuerlein — "Greg the Leg," to some — is 7 for 7 from 40-49 yards, 5 for 7 from 50 and beyond. He's the first player in NFL history to connect on field goals of at least 60 yards and 50 yards (his went 58) in the same game.
Brandt noted that one meaningful indication of how much more likely coaches are to have faith in rookies is what's happening with the Patriots.
Jones leads NFL rookies with six sacks. Wilson leads AFC rookies with three interceptions. Hightower started five games. They were joined by safety Nate Ebner and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard against the Rams in New England's most recent game, giving the Patriots five rookies on the field at once.
"Ten years ago, if you would have said, 'They are going to have (that many) rookies, with Bill Belichik coaching, on a very, very good team that will compete for the Super Bowl,' I would have said, 'It's not going to happen,'" Brant said. "But ... it's people being more prepared today than ever before. Coaches can trust them."
AP Sports Writers Tim Booth, R.B. Fallstrom, Fred Goodall, Stephen Hawkins, Joe Kay, Michael Marot, Howard Ulman, Teresa Walker, Joseph White, Steven Wine, Tom Withers, and AP Pro Football Writers Dave Campbell, Arnie Stapleton and Barry Wilner contributed to this report.
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