Cadet carving niche as Saints utility player
At first glance, running back Travaris Cadet would seem like a long shot to make a New Orleans roster that already includes Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, and Chris Ivory.
The undrafted rookie does have his versatility in his favor, though.
While he has yet to do much in the running game in two preseason contests, his 14 catches lead the team and his 109 yards receiving, highlighted by a 24-yard gain against Arizona in the Hall of Fame game, ranks third on the team.
Cadet scored a touchdown on a four-yard reception against the Cardinals. He also has returned both punts and kickoffs, and hopes he can continue to carve out a niche as a utility player when the Saints (No. 9 in the AP Pro32) play their first home game of the preseason against Jacksonville on Friday night.
''You can bring one guy in to catch kickoffs. You can bring one guy in to catch punts. You can bring one guy in to be a running back and you can bring one guy in to be a receiver. I feel like I have all those talents and that I can do all of those things at once,'' Cadet said. ''I really think it gives me a chance to make this football team.''
Cadet played two seasons at Appalachian State after a stint at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College.
At Pearl River, he played seemingly every skill position on offense including quarterback. At Appalachian State, he was a running back in some formations and a slot receiver in others.
Although he is not quite built the same as Sproles, his skill set is similar to the all-purpose back.
''He's a great fit for this offense,'' Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt said of Cadet after Wednesday's practice. ''He's a guy that can line up on the outside lanes, create mismatches against the linebacker, and potentially create mismatches against the safety. I know we saw some of his receiving skills coming out of the backfield. You couple that with the fact that he can be a factor in the return game and he's an interesting prospect.''
Quarterback Drew Brees said Cadet seemed to get comfortable in the Saints' complex offense rather quickly.
''It never feels like it's too much for him, he is always in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing and you can count on him,'' Brees said. ''That's really what you want out of that position.''
Brees and Thomas have taken an interest in Cadet, and he could not ask for much better mentors. Brees can tutor him on the offense, while Thomas can share his experience of making the Saints' roster as an undrafted rookie in 2007.
With the potential he has shown, Cadet could be a strong candidate for the practice squad if there's no room for him on the active roster, but he's aiming a little higher than that right now.
''I shoot for the stars,'' Cadet said. ''I will just go out there and continue to work, not complaining, because you know I never complain about anything in life. I just take advantage of every opportunity that has been given to me. If I'm put on the practice squad, maybe I'm doing something I'm not supposed to be doing right at the time. But right now, I'm just trying to take it a day at a time and at the end of the day hopefully I'll be on the active roster.''
In any event, Cadet's emergence early in preseason has been a pleasant surprise, even for a coaching staff and scouting department that has had success mining NFL talent from the ranks of the undrafted.
''It surprised all of us a little bit or else he would've been a drafted player,'' Vitt said. ''This is a kid who's really taken full advantage of the opportunity he has right now. He's shown us his versatility. He really is grasping the offense. You don't see the kid making a lot of mental mistakes. He gets lined up and plays at a high level. I guess he really can create some mismatches.''
NOTES: A plane flew over Wednesday's practice towing a banner reading, ''FREE PAYTON,'' a reference to the season-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton in connection with the bounty scandal. ''It's creative. I want to know who did it,'' Brees said, adding that he would be on board with helping sponsor more such public protest messages. ''If there's a team something that we want to do, yes, I will always chip in - not what people would probably try to twist that to. If it's a legal and funny thing like that, then yeah, I'd do it.'' ... Brees said he hopes replacement officials are not still working when the regular season opens. ''I would be concerned,'' Brees said. ''You just don't have the same level of trust and confidence. There is always that possibility (it might cost the Saints a game), but we are going to worry about things that we can control and that's playing football and try not to give them a reason to make it close.'' ... CB Marquis Johnson, who has an interception in the preseason, missed Wednesday's practice with a sore left knee, but Vitt said he is still expected to play Friday night.
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