Running back Cadet: Knowing playbook pivotal for free agents
The gigantic “Do Your Job” poster is gone.
In its place, figuratively, is one of Saints coach Sean Payton saying, “Learn Your Job.”
At least that was the message delivered Tuesday as the team opened its three-day minicamp at its Metairie training facility, especially to the 26 undrafted free agents hopeful of finding a place on the 53-man roster come September.
“The mental aspect of what we’re doing is something we emphasize,” Payton said after the Tuesday morning session. “And it’s a process we’ve started already, even though roster spot decisions won’t be made until we get into pads.
“That goes not only on the field, but in meetings and the weight room, too.”
Running back Travaris Cadet can attest to that.
A year ago, he was an undrafted free agent out of Appalachian State, just another face in a crowded backfield.
And while to the outside world, he gained attention early on with his speed during the portions of the minicamp open to the public, the real impressions he was making was to the coaching staff with his grasp of the playbook. By the final cuts, it was no surprise Cadet had made the team.
“I made the practice facility my home,” Cadet said. “The time you put in is what you’ll get out of it.
“It’s extra film study, keeping your eyes in the playbook, constantly pushing yourself because all kinds of curveballs will be thrown at you. You have to do that to separate yourself from everybody else.”
So far, no free agent has made an impression like Cadet did a year ago.
Tuesday, when asked which, if any, of them had caught his eye, Payton named only wide receiver Jarred Fayson, who’s actually a third-year man, having spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons on the Saints, Colts and Patriots practice squads.
“I guess I’m just lucky,” said Fayson, who had a pair of impressive grabs Tuesday and also showed his spunk by getting in the face of linebacker Ramon Humber when things got a little too physical. “You come to learn that any time the film is on, somebody’s watching you.
“I’m taking care of my body better, and I feel like I’m in the right system at the right time. My total focus is on going out and making the club.”
Given his history, Fayson is likely to make it until at least the final cut.
Rookie tight end Keavon Milton from Louisiana-Monroe said he might not have that longevity, especially if he blows many assignments.
“Coming from college, you think you know your playbook,” Milton said. “Then you get here, and it’s all new.
“You’ve got to be levelheaded and do your best on every assignment. “I’ve been struggling here and there, but I had some good catches today, too.”
Cadet stresses the importance of acing every opportunity, especially when you’re a free agent.
“The veteran guys may get 30 reps to your one,” he said. “So you’ve to make the most of that one.
“And then once you’ve shown that you’ve got the mental part down, then you can let your natural ability take over.”
If history is any indicator, some of the players now on the team will be cut after the OTAs conclude next week, even though Payton pointed out it’s hard to get a full evaluation until the pads are put on.
“I think you try and stay away from trying to instantly evaluate,” he said. “But you are able to see, assignment wise, are they on the right guys, do they go into the right spot and are they on the right person?
“I don’t get really caught up as to whether the defensive lineman or the offensive lineman blocked him or didn’t block him because really it’s kind of a
Catch-22 out here without pads on. But you do get a feel of how they are transitioning with the assignment elements.
That’s why, Cadet noted, players without much of a margin for error have to minimize mistakes at this stage.
“Everything is about building trust,” he said. “You build trust from the coaches, and you build trust from the guys playing next to you that you can make the plays.
“I’m still in rookie mode about that.”
Cadet wound up primarily as a special teams player last season with only five receptions and one rush in 13 games. He was considered the backup to third-down specialist Darren Sproles.
The Saints didn’t draft any running backs and with the trade of Chris Ivory, it makes the position less competitive than it was a year ago.
But Cadet said he considers himself no cinch to make the team.
“When you’re not drafted, they’re not afraid to cut you because they’re not paying much money to begin with,” he said. “I’m still on the bubble. If you ever get complacent in this league, that’s when they show you the door.”