Even a decade ago, your average slot defender was just that — average. A smaller guy without the speed to take outside receivers up the post routes and down the sideline. But as NFL offenses have defaulted to three- and four-receiver sets, the nickel and dime defender has not only become a de facto starter, but also as important as any other defensive back on the field.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws a pass on the run during an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, December 13, 2020 in Inglewood, Calif. Slot corner will remain a revolving door after Desmond King was traded to Tennessee. Tevaughn Campbell had a strong first half against Denver but drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone on the final drive of the game.
Imagine you’re a slot cornerback in today’s NFL. One week, you have to deal with Minnesota’s Adam Thielen and his array of precise routes — not to mention his ability to streak downfield for a huge play if you make any hint of a mistake. The next week, you’re up against the Eagles’ Zach Ertz, getting bodied out by a 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end in devilish route combinations. The next week, you may have to face Antonio Brown in a week when his coaches decide to make him a primary slot receiver. Good luck with that.
But hey, at least Rob Gronkowski retired, so that’s one slot nightmare out of the way.
The point is, slot defenders are tested in new and vicious ways in the modern league, and their skill sets to defend speed, option routes and increased uses of receiver space are unique. Most great outside cornerbacks want to stay outside for those exact reasons. As Richard Sherman once told me, the boundary is your friend, and if you have open space on both sides of your coverage, it isn’t a lot of fun.
So, here are the best slot defenders in the business coming into the 2019 season, and what makes each one of them special.
Chargers Slot Corner Protectors
Losing Bryce Callahan to the Broncos in free agency was a blow for Chicago’s defense, but it would have been far worse had McManis not established himself as an estimable slot cornerback in his own right. The 31-year-old veteran doesn’t have top-end speed, but he understands defensive spacing and placement — he’s one of those guys who always seems to be around the ball. Michelle e richardson casino. In 2018, McManis allowed just 12 receptions on 22 slot targets for 80 yards, 42 yards after the catch, no touchdowns and an opponent passer rating of 62.7. You want to see a larger sample size of targets before moving him up this list, but 2018 was a step in the right direction.