A slot is a position in football that allows players to run routes both up and down the field. This allows them to catch passes from the quarterback, and also block for running plays. The slot is a crucial part of any offense, and the best players at the position have excellent footwork and route-running skills. They can run any kind of route, and they are usually a little smaller and faster than outside wide receivers.
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During the 1960s, Sid Gillman revolutionized the way NFL teams used wide receivers by employing the use of the slot position. The position allowed two wide receivers to be set up on the weak side of the defense, and a running back could act as a third receiver. The result was a much more balanced attack that forced defenses to account for three levels of the passing game.
The slot receiver is a special type of wide receiver that lines up in the middle of the formation, a few steps behind the line of scrimmage. Unlike outside wide receivers, who are expected to be able to cover a lot of ground and run many different routes, the slot receiver is a more focused specialist that is expected to be a threat on every play.
A good slot receiver is usually very fast and has outstanding hands. He should be able to run precise routes, as well, because they are typically shorter and slower than outside wide receivers. Additionally, the slot receiver should be able to block well, which is important on running plays like sweeps and slants.
While the slot receiver position has become more popular in recent years, it has been a vital piece of the NFL offense for decades. Several players have excelled at the position, including Wes Welker (who had 5,880 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns over his 12-year career), Julian Edelman (5,004 receptions for 9,816 yards and 65 touchdowns) and Charlie Joiner (7,145 receiving yards and 48 scores in 12 seasons).