Offenses cashing in with inside targets
Welker, Austin, Harvin's success spurs more investment in the slot WR position
Originally Published: July 29, 2010By John Clayton | ESPN.com
For the next two weeks, I'm going to hit the slots.No, I'm not heading to a casino with a bag full of coins. As part of my three-week training camp tour, I'm going to pay particular attention to how the slot receivers are evolving in this pass-happy league. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and so many of today's elite quarterbacks changed the NFL from a league of running and defense into a passing game. These quarterbacks mastered the shotgun and the no-huddle. With those tools, they mastered the fourth-quarter comeback, making it harder for teams with good running games and defenses to win. Out of this passing fancy comes the development of the slot receiver. The slot was once a haven for receivers who were declining in speed but were good at running routes. Brandon Stokley mastered the position for Manning. Bobby Engram became Matt Hasselbeck's go-to receiver out of the slot. One of the hottest trends in this scorching hot summer is the talent resources now going into the slot. Wes Welker might have taken the New England Patriots' slot to new levels for Brady, but more teams seem to be investing in the slot position as a result.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.