Some film-study notes on running back Travaris Cadet, who was signed by the New England Patriots on Tuesday:
Film reviewed: The 2013 Saints-Patriots game when Cadet played three offensive snaps and had a receiving touchdown. The 2014 Saints-Cowboys game when Cadet played 18 offensive snaps (six catches, 59 yards, one fumble). The 2014 Saints-Lions game when Cadet played 20 offensive snaps (six catches, 51 yards). The 2014 games seemed best to analyze because they featured more of the Saints' five-receiver package, which appeared to be the niche Cadet had with the offense.
More receiver than running back: The biggest takeaway from film study is that Cadet might as well have been listed as a wide receiver on the roster, not a running back. He often aligned wide in empty formations and released down the field. When the ball is thrown in his direction, he catches it well, and he runs a wide variety of routes -- hitch, go, seam, and wheel when detached from the line, in addition to the more traditional flare out of the backfield and option-type routes underneath.
Alignment: Cadet is a wild card in the sense that he aligns in a variety of spots -- wide in empty formations, stacked with other receivers in more compact formations (8:29, second quarter vs. Lions, 25-yard reception up seam), in the slot, and also in the backfield where he often motioned out before the snap. He was not involved in many traditional running plays. On a wheel route against the Cowboys (31-yard catch), he aligned in the left slot and the Saints capitalized when the safety took a poor angle.
Blocking game a bit of an unknown: Cadet wasn't asked to block much in the passing game from what was watched. He might be capable of doing so, but that isn't something that consistently showed up, as Pierre Thomas was the Saints running back most asked to carry out that role. There was one play in which Cadet seemed to show the potential to excel in this area -- a 46-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills (13:50, third quarter vs. Lions) when Cadet aligned to the left of quarterback Drew Brees in the shotgun, came underneath him to pick up blitzing safety Don Carey from the opposite side and gave Brees enough time to find Stills. Nicely done. If Cadet shows the ability to do that in the Patriots' offense, he has a chance to be a leading candidate as Shane Vereen's replacement. But there was another play later in the game when Cadet struggled on a blitz pickup against Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy, with Levy's pressure up the middle contributing to an incomplete pass (13:49, fourth quarter).
Physical makeup: Cadet is listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds. That is a bit bigger than a traditional change-of-pace passing back, but there is an element of quickness to his game that aligns more with a smaller back. He shows the ability to stick his foot in the ground and make one decisive cut up the field after catching the ball. Yards after contact were limited. It was a surprise to learn he ran a 4.67 time in the 40 at his Appalachian State pro day in 2012 because he seems to play faster than that speed.
Ball security could warrant attention: Cadet had the football jarred from his grasp from behind at the end of the game against the Cowboys. He also had two fumbles in the 2013 preseason when undrafted running back Khiry Robinson caught the Saints' attention and added another layer to the depth chart (similar to Cadet the year before). If Cadet is given an extended workload, ball security could be an area to monitor. As for his body of work with the Saints, Cadet played 209 offensive snaps last season, which is an average of 13 per game. The Saints had good depth in the backfield with Mark Ingram, Robinson and Pierre Thomas, so his opportunities weren't plentiful, and he was a healthy scratch at one point. It was also notable that his playing time didn't increase significantly when both Robinson and Thomas sustained injuries in the middle of the season.
Shows up on special teams: In addition to kickoff returns, he covered punts as a gunner. It's a bit unusual to see a pass-catching running back in that role, but Cadet is bigger than the prototype.
History vs. Patriots: In signing Cadet, the Patriots had some joint-practice film to analyze from 2012 when the Saints were in town in the preseason, as well as three snaps in the regular-season game between the teams that year. On Cadet's 3-yard touchdown catch against the Patriots, he was on the field at the same time as fellow running backs Thomas and Darren Sproles and aligned to the left of the left tackle. A three-running back package? If Cadet sticks on the roster (which we think is likely), offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels might have the opportunity to get creative with multiple-running back groupings, similar to the Saints.