Rookie RB Travaris Cadet began Saints training camp as the longest of long shots to make the roster. Three strong preseason games later, those odds have gotten much shorter.
Cadet, an undrafted free agent who was only a part-time running back for Appalachian State, has put up big numbers in extended playing time. His 19 catches are almost double the total of No. 2 receiver Courtney Roby's 10. His 171 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns are team highs, too.
His rushing numbers (18 carries, 51 yards) are pedestrian, but his ability to catch out of the backfield is very attractive to a team that prizes versatility in running backs. His 24-yard TD reception against Jacksonville on Friday night gave the Saints a late 24-20 lead they could not hold in a 27-24 loss.
“He is doing a great job of catching the ball outside of the framework of his body,” interim coach Joe Vitt said after the game. “You saw tonight, he can do some things after he catches the ball and makes some guys miss.”
The Saints already have a dynamic receiving running back in Darren Sproles. With the high injury rate at the position, though, Cadet could be good insurance.
The Saints decision likely will come down to Cadet or physical Chris Ivory as their fourth RB.
“I'm not never satisfied,” Cadet said. “There were some plays out there (against Jacksonville) that I could have done better that could have put us in a better situation. Those are the plays I need to make to be a part of this team.”
Cadet's background won't hurt him. Ivory made the team as an undrafted rookie and led the Saints in rushing two years ago. Pierre Thomas made the team as an undrafted rookie and has 3,864 combined rushing and receiving yards in five years.
“Cadet is magnificent,” Thomas said. “He's got some moves out there. He's shifty. He's almost like Darren Sproles. He can make a defender miss. He's an all-around player.”
Cadet's ability belied his numbers at Appalachian State, where we began his career at QB and rushed for 651 yards as a senior.
“He (Cadet) is a pretty naturally gifted athlete, and I love his mindset and approach,” Saints QB Drew Brees said. “There are certain guys where you can just see a competitive fire and relentlessness, and he has that.”
Follow Saints reporter Guerry Smith on twitter@CBSSportsNFLNO.