The New Orleans Saints have a very crowded backfield, with four players capable of starting at running back for many NFL teams. Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas are proven veterans, while Mark Ingram had a good rookie season in 2011, before an injury shut him down early. Furthermore, Chris Ivory has struggled to stay healthy, yet he led the team in rushing in 2010 despite starting only four games. Coming into the 2012 preseason, most fans assumed the running back position was settled. Then we saw Travaris Cadet.
Since 2006 the Saints have done a great job of finding talented players who are drafted late or not drafted at all after attending smaller colleges. For example, Ivory played at Tiffin, while receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore attended Hofstra and Toledo respectively. Other receivers in camp who currently seem to be on the roster bubble include Midwestern State's Andy Tanner and Walsh's Joseph Morgan. Cadet played at Appalachian State, not exactly a football powerhouse.
Cadet rushed for 1,271 yards and 12 touchdowns in his last two seasons at Appalachian State, adding 53 catches, 551 yards and two scores as a receiver. These numbers do not exactly stand out, but the Saints have found a way to utilize his talents so far.
In the first two preseason games, Cadet has led New Orleans with 14 receptions, totaling 109 receiving yards and a touchdown. He has not been as effective running the ball, with only 23 yards in 15 carries. But more importantly, he has shown that he can play in the Saints' complex offense and be productive. His ability to return kickoffs and punts further increases his potential value to an NFL team.
If the Saints keep Cadet, he likely will not be given many carries as a running back. But he can provide a great target for quarterback Drew Brees as another offensive weapon coming off of the bench, while also contributing on special teams. As a Saints fan, I believe the team needs to find a spot for him. If not, we could soon see Cadet in a different uniform, making plays for another team.
Mike Patton is a sports fan who grew up in New Orleans cheering for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Cubs, and LSU Tigers. As a kid in 1987, he made his first trip to Wrigley Field and also slept outside of the Louisiana Superdome to purchase playoff tickets for the Saints' first postseason appearance. Follow Mike on twitter @MikePattonGBS.