After making a noticeable initial splash, Arthur Maulet needs his last impression in preseason to be his lasting one.
The undrafted rookie cornerback, and New Orleans native, could be among the eight or nine players to whom Saints Coach Sean Payton referred as bubble players entering Thursday’s preseason finale against the Ravens in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
And since Maulet hasn’t been available for the entirety of training camp, missing some practice time and the preseason opener against Cleveland because of an injury, he has had less time to show his value in competition against opposing teams than has many of his teammates.
“Losing that time is very valuable for me because I was an undrafted free agent,” Maulet said. “Me being on the field is big, and being available is big in the NFL. It set me back a little bit but it’s a big game for me, and I’m ready to play.”
“He missed some time early on but overall, fairly positive,” Payton said of impression of Maulet. “He’s got something to him – I like the stature, his build (5 feet 10, 190 pounds). He’s learning a lot.
“I think his natural position is inside as a nickel (cornerback). He’ll get a lot of work again this game Thursday night.”
Maulet understands that, and is ready for the challenge. He drew high praise early on with aggressive coverage and ball skills.
“I like the pressure,” he said. “That’s how I grew up, coming from here – the tough mentality. I like the pressure and I’m going to work hard and show them that I can make this team.”
An express route to the roster could be an eye-catching performance on special teams. Payton said there may be a few spots reserved specifically for players who excel in that phase.
“I’m waiting for a player just to make it in the kicking game,” he said. “Every year I’ve been in this league, I’ve seen a guy return a punt for a touchdown, or block a punt, or just really jump out at you. So, we’re looking for that. Hopefully you see it. The more opportunities they have, the more chances you have of maybe getting your decision right.
“Courtney Roby (a Saint from 2008-12) was an exceptional special team player, and he went to the wide receiver meeting room and he played some receiver. But we absolutely have (had a player on the roster primarily as a special teamer).”
Maulet said if that’s what it takes, then that’s what he’s willing to do.
“Special teams, nickel, wherever they want me to be,” he said. “I’m just going to play my butt off and just run to the ball.
“Hopefully every one (of the special team units) – gunner, punt return, jammer, kickoff, kickoff return. Wherever they need me, that’s where I want to be. On the field, that’s my favorite.”
It’s a position that Maulet hasn’t lately had to occupy, but the Saints’ depth at cornerback has him looking to make an impact wherever possible.
“My goal is to make the 53-man roster, get on special teams and affect the games,” he said.
A golden opportunity to do so will present itself Thursday night, a game in which the film closely will be evaluated.
“It’s the No. 1 thing that we’re thinking about right now each night,” Payton said. “It’s not as much scheme, it’s making the right decisions and making sure that you’re getting enough of these opportunities to evaluate them and hopefully, those can become more clear when it comes to the final cut down.”