A team isn’t complete without a versatile wide receiver who can line up in the slot. These players are the heart and soul of an offense, and their contributions can go unnoticed to the average fan. The best slot receivers can do everything from run precise routes to block, and their versatility makes them a key member of any offense.
In the NFL, a slot receiver is a wide receiver who lines up in the slot, which is the area between and slightly behind the outer wide receivers and the offensive linemen. Slot receivers are often referred to as “slotbacks,” though this term can also refer to any wide receiver who lines up in the slot.
The earliest examples of the slot receiver position date back to the 1960s, when Sid Gillman’s wide receiver concepts were popularized. Gillman’s “slot” concept was designed to allow a wide receiver to work in both a deep and short pattern at the same time, while keeping him closer to the quarterback. Slot receivers today continue to be a vital part of any offense, and the more versatile they are, the better off the team is.
There are many types of slots, but they all share some common traits. First and foremost, they’re usually very fast. In fact, they’re often faster than outside wide receivers. They also have excellent route running skills, because they need to be able to run just about every type of passing route possible. They’re also typically a little shorter and stockier than outside wide receivers, so they need to be able to deal with physical coverage well.
Besides being speedy and having great route-running skills, slot receivers must also be good at blocking. They’ll need to chip and/or block nickelbacks, outside linebackers, safeties, and sometimes even defensive ends. They’ll also need to block well on running plays that target the inside, such as end-arounds and pitch plays.
Some slot receivers are more versatile than others, but the best ones will be able to excel in any situation. They’ll be able to run multiple routes, block well, and be a reliable safety valve for the quarterback. This can make them invaluable to the offense, and the best slot receivers can be a game-changer for their teams.
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