What Is a Slot Receiver?
The slot is the area of the field between and slightly behind the outside wide receivers and offensive linemen. It’s a crucial position that helps quarterbacks attack all three levels of the defense and create separation for running backs on outside run plays. Without a quality slot receiver, teams will struggle to make big gains on the outside and run the ball effectively.
The slot got its name because of where the receiver lines up pre-snap. The player positions himself between the last defensive player on the line of scrimmage and one of the outside receivers, usually the second wide receiver. This gives him a unique role in the offense and allows him to see all of the action on both sides of the field.
While the slot is primarily a passing player, it’s not impossible for them to be effective blockers as well. In fact, they are responsible for much of the blocking on inside run and screen plays. The slot will block (or at least chip) nickelbacks, outside linebackers, and safeties on those plays. In some instances, he may even need to perform a crack back block on defensive ends.
Most of the time, a slot receiver will catch the ball on short routes and come to the line of scrimmage with the ball in their hand. This is where their route knowledge and precise timing comes into play. They need to be able to break off their routes with ease and get in and out of traffic without making any mistakes.
Slot receivers also need to have excellent hands as they often get hit while catching the ball. They need to be able to hold onto the ball with a lot of contact, especially when running a go route against coverage. They also need to be reliable with their hands when returning punts and kickoffs.
Another important aspect of the slot is its speed. The ability to fly past the secondary, specifically the safety, when running a go route is essential to being a successful slot receiver. This speed is what sets them apart from other wide receivers and is a huge part of their success in the NFL.
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