A Slot is a position on an offense where a wide receiver lines up a few steps off the line of scrimmage. The Slot is an important part of any team’s attack and requires specific skill sets from its players. It’s not uncommon for a team to have one or two Slot receivers who excel in the role and help the offense be more successful on a regular basis.
The concept of a Slot receiver first came about in the NFL when Sid Gillman, the legendary head coach of the Oakland Raiders, introduced the idea to his teams in 1963. Gillman believed that a third receiver was needed to help stretch the field and attack all three levels of defense. In a 3-receiver offensive set, Gillman would put two wide receivers on the outside and the running back in the middle of the field. He would then place a speedy wide receiver in the slot, where he could be covered by the nickelback or safety depending on the defensive scheme employed by the opposing team.
A good Slot receiver must be able to run all kinds of routes, both short and long, inside and outside. He must be able to catch passes over the middle or in the deep part of the field, and he must also be able to make adjustments based on what the quarterback is trying to accomplish on any given play.
In addition to route-running and timing, Slot receivers must be able to block as well. They are not as big or as physical as outside wide receivers, but they need to be able to hold their own and block for running plays in which they are not the ball carrier. They must also be able to adjust their blocking based on what the defense is doing on any given play, whether it’s playing man or zone coverage.
Slot receivers are typically faster and smaller than outside wide receivers. They are often able to get open with ease because they’re closer to the line of scrimmage, but they still need top-notch route running skills. They must be able to break off quick and cut when necessary, as well as be precise in their footwork to avoid getting hit by defenders.
The Slot is a position in the offense that allows the receiver to work more closely with the quarterback, a benefit that leads to improved chemistry and, eventually, more success for the team. It takes a special type of player to thrive in this role, but when it’s done correctly, the results can be spectacular. Some of the most prolific receiving threats in the league are Slot receivers, including Tyreek Hill, Cole Beasley, and Juju Smith-Schuster. A team that has a strong Slot receiver can be extremely difficult to defend, which is why many coaches look for this type of player when drafting in the early rounds.