As offenses across the league have increasingly leaned on three wide receivers in recent seasons, teams are using their slot receivers more frequently. Physically, these receivers tend to be shorter and quicker than traditional wide receivers, but their skill set makes them invaluable weapons on the field. To be a successful slot receiver, a player needs to excel at a variety of skills.
The first thing that a slot receiver needs to master is route running, which requires quick feet and precise evasion. These players must also have excellent awareness of the defensive backs around them, so they can read the coverage and make adjustments on the fly. Since they typically line up in the backfield, a few steps off the line of scrimmage, slot receivers have to be able to block on run plays, too.
Besides blocking, slot receivers must be able to run a variety of routes on passing plays, including the inside and outside, deep, and slant. They must be able to work with other receivers to create mismatches against defenses, or they’ll be easy pickings for the opposing team’s best defenders.
Slot receivers may also act as running backs on certain plays, such as pitch plays and end-arounds. On these types of plays, they need to get a head of steam going with their pre-snap motion so that the quarterback can time the snap right. They’ll also be important blockers for slant runs and sweeps.