Travaris Cadet may need big game against Texans

Advocate staff photo by Scott Threlkeld -- New Orleans Saints running back Travaris Cadet (39) runs in the third quarter as the New Orleans Saints faced the Oakland Raiders in pre-season action in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Friday, August 16, 2013. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by Scott Threlkeld -- New Orleans Saints running back Travaris Cadet (39) runs in the third quarter as the New Orleans Saints faced the Oakland Raiders in pre-season action in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Friday, August 16, 2013.

After two fumbles against Raiders, RB in tight battle with free agent Robinson

Travaris Cadet listened patiently as a gaggle of reporters questioned him about the two fumbles he had Aug. 16 against the Oakland Raiders.

Cadet could have used the Raiders game to boost his standing with the Saints after he had been outgained in the team’s preseason debut against the Kansas City Chiefs by undrafted rookie running back Khiry Robinson, his main competition for a roster spot in New Orleans.

Instead, Cadet saw Robinson outgain him again — badly, this time. He topped it all off in the worst way by losing one of the balls he fumbled.

Asked repeatedly to explain what went wrong or how he hoped to react, Cadet calmly answered that he didn’t want to dwell on it, had no excuses and would learn from his miscues.

“Things like that happen,” Cadet said. “You can’t keep thinking about it through practices because if you keep thinking about it’s going to keep happening.”

The Saints would not use Cadet in the regular season the way they’ve used him in the preseason so far: as an every-down back. But his fumbles against the Raiders no doubt raised his coaches’ eyebrows, and he could repair the damage he did to himself if he handles himself against the Houston Texans on Sunday in the same measured fashion that he did facing the media after Oakland.

However, another night that even resembles the one he experienced against the Raiders might swing the favor of the Saints’ coaching staff toward Robinson.

Signed by New Orleans in 2012 as an undrafted rookie out of Appalachian State, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Cadet wowed the Saints when he led them in rushing yards, receiving yards and receptions last preseason.

He was rewarded with a spot on the 53-man roster as one of just two undrafted rookies and the fifth running back on the team.

Cadet subsequently appeared in 13 regular-season games for the Saints, returning many more kickoffs and catching many more passes than taking handoffs. It was believed his role could expand when running back Chris Ivory, who was behind regulars Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas in the pecking order in New Orleans, left for the New York Jets.

The first indication that this preseason would not be the same as the last one for Cadet came when he rushed for 40 yards on 13 carries with the second-team offense in the 17-13 win against the Chiefs on Aug. 9.

Robinson, with the third team, rushed for 52 yards on a dozen tries.

Cadet was in for even more frustration when he lined up with the second team in the 28-20 win versus the Raiders.

He ran five times for minus-5 yards.

Cadet reached that ignominious total after fumbling a handoff on New Orleans’ 12-yard line, which backup guard Tim Lelito recovered on the 3. He also fumbled a ball that Oakland defensive end Jack Crawford scooped up around midfield.

“Really, no excuses that it happened,” Cadet said during a practice after the Raiders game. “Ball security is the number one thing you need to have in this league to win because when you lose the turnover battle you put yourself and your team in a bad hole.”

Meanwhile, Robinson carried 10 times for 50 yards with the third team. He finished the Oakland game with the most rushing yardage on the Saints and tied for the most in the NFL through two weeks of the preseason.

Speculation about whether Robinson would become the next Cadet on the Saints — at the expense of Cadet himself — intensified among some observers after the Oakland game.

Cadet’s offerings as a kick returner and his ability to catch passes out of the backfield support his case to make the team. But to silence the talk about whether his job is in danger, it would help immensely if he stood out against the Texans.

That doesn’t promise to be easy. Houston defended the run well in their first two preseason games, a 27-13 win at Minnesota and a 24-17 win against Miami.

Coach Sean Payton suggested to reporters that he anticipated Cadet would capitalize on his opportunity to redeem himself against the Texans.

“He’s a diligent worker and a very conscientious player,” Payton said. “Those are all good traits, and I think he’ll respond the right way.”

For Cadet’s part, kickoff time against the Texans seemed like it couldn’t arrive any slower as questions about the Raiders game were steadily lobbed at him.

“Last game is last game,” Cadet said. “It’s in the past. The only thing I can do is learn from it, progress from it, move on and put the bad stuff behind me.”