Slot receivers are a vital cog in the offensive wheel, but they don’t get much credit for their role. These versatile receivers aren’t as fast or elusive as outside receivers, but they make up for that with their ability to run routes and block defenders. They’re not a position that every quarterback can use, but they’re increasingly becoming a necessity in today’s NFL. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this crucial player, including what they do, how they differ from outside wide receivers, and more!
Slot Receiver Skills
The slot receiver is a great receiver because of his ability to stretch out the field and attack the defense’s three levels. This makes him a reliable target for the quarterback, and his versatility means he can line up on both sides of the offense or in the middle.
He’s also good at blocking, so he can keep the ball away from the running back or tackler. This is especially important on pitch plays and reverses, where the quarterback can often hand off to the slot receiver before he snaps the ball.
They Can Carry the Ball
Because of their speed and pre-snap motion, Slot receivers can carry the ball from time to time. These plays include pitch plays, reverses, and end-arounds. On these plays, the quarterback will call the Slot receiver into pre-snap motion, and the Slot receiver will then run to the opposite side of the field to catch the ball.
They can also help out as blocking backs on running plays, too. This is especially helpful for teams that have a weak running game or run a lot of short, quick passes in their playbook.
In addition to their route-running skills, Slot receivers have excellent awareness of the field. They need to know which defenders are where, and they need to know how to use that information to run precise routes.
If they have strong hands and a good speed, they can make big gains on passing plays. They can catch the ball in traffic, or they can make a spectacular, quick catch in the flats.
A slot receiver will usually be a little shorter than an outside receiver, but they’ll still have good speed and the same skill sets. They may be a bit tougher and stockier, too.
Slot receivers are usually good at blocking, too, but they don’t have to deal crushing blows like their more imposing peers do. They can just get in front of a tackler, putting him off balance.
When they do catch the ball, they typically have to make a contested reception. This can be tricky, but it’s something that all receivers need to master.
Because they’re a bit smaller and shorter than outside receivers, Slot receivers need to be able to use their speed to run specific routes. Whether it’s an inside or outside, deep or short route, the Slot receiver needs to be able to run it effectively and accurately.