The Saints kicked the tires on some new and old faces to fill the void at running back created by Khiry Robinson’s season-ending leg injury.
After working out Trent Richardson, Travaris Cadet and Tim Hightower earlier Monday, the Saints reached an agreement to bring Hightower back to town, according to a source.
Cadet previously played with the Saints before signing with the New England Patriots during the offseason.
Hightower spent training camp with the Saints and made the initial 53-man roster, but was cut before the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
He was signed back to the roster the Monday after the game and was then let go again the next day with an injury designation.
Hightower’s career was derailed by a knee injury, and he has not played in a regular-season game since 2011. He had 29 carries for 96 yards during the preseason.
He’ll likely serve behind Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller on the depth chart. Coach Sean Payton also said Monday that he wouldn’t be opposed to giving rookie Marcus Murphy, who has served primarily as a return man, more opportunities on offense.
Robinson underwent surgery after suffering a tibia fracture during Sunday’s 52-49 win over the New York Giants. Immediately after becoming injured, his teammates surrounded him on the turf to offer support and prayers as an air cast was placed on Robinson’s leg and he was placed on a motorized cart.
“When an injury like that occurs and the players see that, the first thought is the amount of work a guy like Khiry’s put in,” Payton said. “And all of a sudden, knowing his season’s come to an end.”
Robinson will be a restricted free agent after the season.
While the team has struggled to replicate the success the New Orleans rushing attack enjoyed last season, when the offense averaged 4.5 yards per carry, there have been some positives despite that figure falling to 3.8 yards.
Robinson has provided good depth as both a runner (3.2 yards per carry) and receiver (17 receptions for 115 yards), and his loss will create a void for the offense.
Ingram will likely carry more of the load on the ground. The veteran running back is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, up from 4.3 last season, and has emerged as a threat in the passing game, catching 33 passes for 274 yards.
This could also lead to New Orleans finding a bigger role for Spiller. Signed this offseason, he missed the end of training camp and the start of the regular season because of a knee injury, and he was slow to get going once he returned to the field.
Spiller has 20 carries for 78 yards and 23 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
He’s averaged 18 snaps per game the past six weeks after playing seven against Tampa Bay in his first game back. He had four carries for 21 yards and two catches for another 15 against the Giants.
If he doesn’t pick up some of Robinson’s carries, it seems possible that Spiller’s targets could ramp up in the passing game.