The slot is a position in the wide receiver corps that has grown increasingly important to NFL offenses as defenses use nickel and dime packages. Generally, the slot is shorter and faster than traditional wide receivers. They are also a key component of blocking, particularly on running plays that go outside the field.
Many slot receivers are referred to as “route runners,” because of their ability to run precise routes with ease and consistency. They are often able to run routes that other wide receivers can’t, such as going up or in. They must have excellent hands and good speed to run these routes successfully.
Slot receivers can also play as a decoy or ball carrier on some running plays, such as pitch plays and reverses. On these plays, the slot receiver will line up pre-snap and will be called into motion by the quarterback. Once the ball is snapped, he will either run to his spot or he will act as a big decoy to draw attention from the defense so other players can get open for the catch.
Because of their skill set, slot receivers can create a lot of separation and give the offense a huge advantage. They must have the speed to fly past the secondary and safety on go routes and great hands to catch the ball. They can also be a factor on short passes or passes behind the line of scrimmage.
The slot is a very versatile position for the NFL, and some of the best slot receivers in the league are considered to be among the best running backs as well. Players like Tyler Boyd, Cooper Kupp, and CeeDee Lamb have all been effective in this role. Some even have a combination of skills that make them very effective in both roles, such as Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins, who are both incredibly fast in the slot as well as in the backfield.
In addition to their route running and timing, slot receivers must have an advanced understanding of how to block. They are a critical cog in the offensive line’s blocking game, and they need to know which defenders they are facing and be able to anticipate the defensive alignments. They also need to be able to perform a variety of blocks, from chipping to full-out blocking on outside linebackers and safeties.
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