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Slotback, sometimes referred to as an A-back or, especially in the United States, slot receiver, is a position in gridiron football. The "slot" is the area between the last offensive lineman on either side of the center and the wide receiver on that side. A player who lines up between those two players and behind the line of scrimmage is a slotback. The position is a fixture of Canadian football and indoor football, but is also used in American football. The slotback is similar to the wide receiver but also has many of the same traits as a running back or tight end; a slotback lines up closer to the offensive line and often farther back than a wide receiver.
Slotbacks are often as many as five yards behind the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped and, in the Canadian and indoor game, may also make a running start toward the line of scrimmage prior to the snap. In most forms of American football, this would be an illegal motion, although a few professional leagues such as the World Football League and XFL allowed forward motion.
There are a number of different jobs a slotback may take up on the field. Primarily, they are used as hybrid running backs/receivers. However, they are often used to block any player on the defensive team who breaks through the line of scrimmage as a precaution to prevent the sacking of the quarterback. They are preferred over the wide receiver or tight end for receiving short passes or handoffs due to their positioning being closer to the quarterback. When formations containing slotbacks are used in American football the team often has to go without a tight end, a fullback or a running back due to there being only 11 men on the offense and 7 being on the line of scrimmage, one reason they are rarer in the American game. However, as NFL teams have increasingly "defaulted to three- and four-receiver sets" in recent years, the slot receiver has become a fixture of American football formations . In terms of a depth chart, a slotback is typically considered the third wide receiver and may be expected to be a "possession receiver" that can reliably catch a pass when covered by a safety, since they are most commonly used when converting medium-distance third-down conversions.
Slotbacks are used effectively in flexbone formations, in which they are used as extra receivers. Slotbacks are usually smaller and faster than the other positions used. they are also used for short passes and short runs to get extra yards or a first down or a third down drive.
It is important to note that players are not drafted to become slotbacks in the NFL. This position is filled as needed by a wide receiver or running back with the necessary skill-set to effectively play the position. Slotbacks must be able to block, catch, and evade tacklers at a high level to be productive. In 2019, the Navy Midshipmen football team had a highly productive season where their slotbacks gained over 1,500 all-purpose yards.
As the NFL has shifted to a pass heavy league over the last few years there has been an explosion of slot backs. Some prime examples are the recently retired Darren Sproles, and the still active players Christian McCaffrey, and Larry Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald extended his football career by moving from an outside receiving position to going into the slot where he is able to use his veteran savvy and quick change of direction in tandem with his willingness to block to still be considered among the best in the league at what he does.
McCaffrey entered the NFL in 2017 and has never failed to put up over 1,000 yards from scrimmage (as of 2020) in fact, in 2019 he totaled a thousand yards running and a thousand yards receiving, with a lot of those receiving yards coming from the slot back position McCaffrey is a peculiar example, because most slot backs are not expected to get the most touches in an offense, but he was the Carolina Panthers' leading rusher over the last two seasons while also putting up great stats as a receiver as well.
Darren Sproles was never a prolific running back, but he was a great slotback. His 2011 season is the epitome of what a slotback should be. He ran the ball 87 times and he added 86 receptions for over 1,300 Yards from scrimmage and 9 touchdowns
Slotbacks have been very important in the CFL, as marked by the TSN Top 50 CFL Players 4 of the top players in league history were specifically Slotbacks. These players are Allen Pitts, Milt Stegall, Ray Elgaard, and Terry Vaughn. These players were reliable producers every season with a knack for rushing, receiving, and blocking to lead their respective teams to many wins over the years.
Slotback can also mean a running back, just a similar name for it. Slotback are there to serve the quarterback and wide receivers for passes and yards, some plays are meant for the slotbacks and no other positions on the field. If a team wanted to use a slotback, they have to have a tight end on the edge by the tackle and has to be on the line. on the depth charts, slotbacks are labeled as wide receivers.
|Positions in American football and Canadian football|
|Offense (Skill position)||Defense||Special teams|
|Linemen||Guard, Tackle, Center||Linemen||Tackle, End, Edge rusher||Kicking players||Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist|
|Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System)||Linebacker||Snapping||Long snapper, Holder|
|Backs||Halfback/Tailback (Triple-threat, Change of pace), Fullback, H-back, Wingback||Backs||Cornerback, Safety, Halfback, Nickelback, Dimeback||Returning||Punt returner, Kick returner, Jammer, Upman|
|Receivers||Wide receiver (Eligible), Tight end, Slotback, End||Tackling||Gunner, Upback, Utility|
|Formations (List) -- Nomenclature -- Strategy|