So the undrafted rookie cornerback admitted his eyes got wide in the third quarter of Thursday night’s preseason finale, when he was crashing down on Baltimore Ravens punt returner Keenan Reynolds ... and Reynolds didn’t call for the fair catch.
“I was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me right now,’" Maulet said of his reaction when he hit Reynolds, jarred the ball loose, then made the fumble recovery. "I was like, ‘Get the ball,’ got it and made a play."
It’s actually pretty rare for a team to base its roster decisions on just one big game or one big play in the preseason finale. It’s more about the long-term body of work over months of OTAs, minicamp, training camp and four exhibition games, not to mention the initial scouting projections.
But if anyone has the chance to go from just outside of the bubble to safely inside of it based on a convincing closing argument, it's either Maulet or former Canadian Football League star linebacker Adam Bighill, who led New Orleans with 11 tackles and broke up a pass in Thursday’s 14-13 loss to the Ravens.
I decided to move Maulet onto my projected 53-man roster while Bighill stayed just outside of it, but both are too close to call. Teams must trim down by 4 p.m. ET Saturday.
Saints coach Sean Payton suggested after Thursday’s game that both players had already earned strong consideration before their big moments.
“I don’t know that it’s just one play, but obviously it’s a good play. And that’s what you’re hoping to see,” Payton said of Maulet, a New Orleans native who drew a lot of praise early this summer for his aggressive and physical play.
Maulet also had an impressive pass breakup on a third-down play Thursday to help his cause.
“I’m feeling pretty good. I made some plays out there, [but] still got a lot of plays to clean up,” said Maulet, who was asked if he thinks he did enough.
“I hope so,” Maulet said. “I'll just have to wait and see what the coaches think about it."
Bighill also refused to predict what the coaches will do, but he has always maintained the ultimate confidence that he has what it takes to play on the NFL level, even though it took him six years of starring in the CFL before he finally got a real opportunity with the Saints.
“Guys who have been around me and know what I’m about, they told me, ‘Hey, flat-out, you can play.’ And I believed in me. I believed in my work ethic and my ability,” said Bighill, whose wife and two young children haven’t moved to New Orleans yet, and who says he has been living “way too long” in the team hotel.
“It’s one of those things that you come down here and you make it worth it,” the 28-year-old said. “Let’s make all this time count down here.”
Bighill, like countless others on the Saints and around the NFL, admitted the next two days will be “a little stressful, right?”
“You’re sitting, waiting, hoping, thinking, ‘Did I do enough?’” Bighill said. “But at the end of the day, the thing I can rest my hat on is that I gave it everything I had. I think that shows on tape, and I’m sure other teams around the league can see it as well. It’s been a good ride here with this organization, and I hope I can keep it going.”
Payton joked about Bighill’s biggest shortcoming: his size, at 5-foot-10, 230 pounds.
“From where I was standing [on the sideline], it’s kind of hard to see Adam from where he’s standing,” said Payton, explaining that he’ll need to review the tape.
But Payton agreed with Bighill’s assessment that his heart and work ethic have been noticed.
“Adam is one of those guys that moves around, and I’m sure he’s gonna be one of those decisions we weigh heavily on his involvement in special teams,” Payton said. “But you know this, every day he’s coming to work and he’s playing hard, and you appreciate that.”