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The NFL has seen a surge in the popularity of slot receivers in recent years, but the position has been around for decades. Some players have excelled in the role, racking up huge numbers in their careers: Wayne Chrebet (more than 6,000 receptions and over 70,000 yards) Wes Welker (805 catches for 9,146 yards and 50 touchdowns), Charlie Joiner (743 catches for 10,205 yards), and Julian Edelman (580 receptions for 11,059 yards and 84 scores).
Slot receivers typically start behind the line of scrimmage, which opens the door for easy motions and shifts in formation. They run routes that can go up, in, or out of the pattern and must have good chemistry with their quarterback. They are also a vital blocking component on running plays, such as sweeps and slants.
They’re often shorter than traditional wide receivers, and their speed and precision are crucial for successful offenses. They also face more danger in the open field, as they’re closer to the ball carrier and susceptible to big hits from different angles. Despite these challenges, slot receivers are becoming increasingly important in the modern game.
In 1963, Sid Gillman became the Raiders’ head coach and pioneered a new strategy that placed two wide receivers in the slot area, with a running back acting as a third receiver. This allowed the offense to attack all three levels of defense and was a key part of the team’s success during the 1970s.
Today, almost every team has at least one receiver who specializes in the slot. But some have more than one, and those teams are extremely difficult to defend. Tyreek Hill, Cole Beasley, and Juju Smith-Schuster are just a few of the league’s most proficient slot receivers. This position is quickly becoming a must-have for teams.