The Saints are down to 53 players and made some surprising choices along the way. The best story is the exciting undrafted rookie Travaris Cadet, who is now the latest in a line of undrafted runningback prospects to make the team, as the Appalachian State product was too productive in preseason for the Saints to risk losing on the open market.
Cadet, 6'1, 210, 23, led the NFL in receiving yardage this preseason, recording 30 catches for 246 yards and two touchdowns, plus another 39 rushes for 132 yards. He had a big impact from the start - the preseason opener Hall of Fame game saw Cadet catch 8 passes for 80 yards and a score. He has fumbled twice, losing one in 69 offensive touches, and there was some doubt after he lost a fumble early in the preseason finale. Cadet also saw action on special teams, though he wasn't credited with an official tackle.
Early on, Cadet wearing #39 was mistaken for Chris Ivory, wearing #29 and similar dreadlocks. But the difference became clear soon - Cadet is far shiftier and quicker while Ivory prefers to bullrush his way into tacklers. Ivory's recent penchant for fumbles had him in firmly behind the Saints' top three runningbacks of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram, and found himself in competition with Cadet. Most surprising than Cadet is the presence of five runningback and two fullbacks on the roster, as both Jed Collins and Korey Hall are on the 53 man roster right now.
Another undrafted rookie making the team is DT Tyrunn Walker, who showed consistent pass rush late in preseason games. The native of New Iberia, Louisiana, Walker was a standout at Tulsa and helped the Saints have the confidence to jettison veteran Remi Ayodele from the roster in the first round of cuts. Walker will team with third round pick Akiem Hicks and veteran Tom Johnson behind starters Brodrick Bunkley and Sedrick Ellis, as the Saints chose to keep five defensive tackles.
Also making the team is former seventh round pick and perennial "bubble" player Adrian Arrington, who will apparently be healthy enough following minor training camp knee surgery to contribute soon. Arrington may have backed into the spot - no other receiver truly emerged while he missed time with injury, and the one who did, Andy Tanner, went down with a knee injury. WR Joe Morgan was next up, the lanky second year undrafted prospect showing great potential and great inconsistency through five preseason games in 2012. Courtney Roby also made the team as the Saints kept six wide receivers.
Fourth round pick Nick Toon didn't have enough opportunity in preseason to win a job over Morgan or Arrington, so the Saints have hidden him for the first season on injured reserve with a convenient foot injury that kept him out of all but the last preseason game. They took a similar approach with Morgan last year, hiding him on injured reserve after a stellar preseason.
One surprise who didn't make the team was former fifth round pick Matt Tennant, once thought to be the heir apparent to Jonathan Goodwin at center. That didn't work out, obviously, as the Saints passed over Tennant when they tried to pull Olin Kreutz from retirement. When that didn't work, they went with journeyman nobody Brian de la Puente instead of Tennant in 2011. Now, Tennant has been bumped off the roster altogether by Eric Olsen, who the Saints plucked off the Redskins' practice squad last December. The former Notre Dame center was a sixth round pick of the Broncos in 2010.
Overall the Saints kept eight offensive linemen, including rookie seventh round pick T Marcel Jones. Olsen looks to be the backup center behind de la Puente.
Winning the placekicker competition was Garrett Hartley, beating out 42-year old veteran John Kasay. Veteran blocking tight end Daniel Graham won a job over young tight ends Michael Higgins and Derek Schouman as the third tight end behind Jimmy Graham and David Thomas.
So, to wrap up our top three position battles of training camp, Hartley beat Kasay for the placekicker job. At outside linebacker, Scott Shanle and David Hawthorne (when healthy) have apparently beaten Jonathan Casillas, Nate Bussey and Will Herring. At the wide receiver depth chart Roby, Arrington and Morgan beat Tanner, Toon and Camarillo at the wide receiver depth chart.
The complete list of cuts is here:
LB Kadarron Anderson
DE Braylon Broughton
LB Ezra Butler
WR Greg Camarillo
QB Sean Canfield
DE Alex Daniels
TE Michael Higgins
CB Nick Hixson
K John Kasay
S Jerico Nelson
G DeOnt’ae Pannell
TE Derek Schouman
T Aderious Simmons
WR Andy Tanner
C/G Matt Tennant
LB Lawrence Wilson
The Saints retained these players by placing them on season-ending injured reserve: RB Joe Banyard, undrafted rookie S Jose Gumbs, CB Marquis Johnson and fourth-round pick WR Nick Toon.
The following players were placed on the reserve/suspended list, as they are suspended for the first game: LB Ramon Humber and DE Will Smith. Smith is suspended for the first four games.
The Saints already have a total of nine players on injured reserve, including two 2012 draft picks: RB Joe Banyard, LB Chris Chamberlain, WR Chris Givens, S Jose Gumbs, DE Greg Romeus, G Andrew Tiller, WR Nick Toon and T Fenuki Tupou.