The slant is a short quick passing route with the receiver making a 45° cut to his right or left heading towards the center of the field. His cut occurs right off the line of scrimmage or on some plays, he could run a few feet before making his turn, it’s all up to the play and what’s in front of him. The goal is to find the sweet spot behind the DL and in front of the linebackers. This is usually three to five yards out. It’s often a bang, bang play. The QB tosses the ball quickly and the WR gets hits right as he catches it.
These short, easy little passes are like the passing version of a rush. Try to get 3.5 or more yards a play and keep creeping down the field. Nothing fancy, but can be very effective against Cover 2. Like a rush, they eat up the clock because they aren’t taking place close to the sideline where the WR can get out of bounds. They’re good for a hurry up, too because the offense can get back to the LOS quickly and move on to the next play.
The beauty of the slant is every QB and WR can do them. They’re also great for time management. As above, you can use them to run a hurry up or to drag the time out. They can dictate the pace of the game. The bad part is unless a defense is poor at tackling, WRs are getting pummeled every catch and usually by more than one defender because these are happening right in front of linebackers with a safety coming in for an extra hit, too. Even with the expected contact the routes are worth it because they can be be used to strike for big/quick plays.
Because of this, typically the slot, who is a shorter, sturdier and quicker off the blocks receiver, runs them more often. Not to mention, slots are a lot quicker off the line than a wideout. Slants work well in the redzone, too. While the linebackers are much closer to the line, it can result in more confusion allowing the receiver to get that quick 3 yarder.
Some offensive schemes incorporate a slightly longer version which has the same 45° cut 7-8 yards down the field. Another concept that the a few offenses have in their arsenal is called a “D-slant” .It’s nearly an inverse of the typical slant route with the cut being made out at a diagonal and at a 30° angle. New England with Wes Welker and Julian Edelman among others have made a number of plays with this concept and when Welker came to Denver, it was used as times as well, but seemed to vanish to when Adam Gase left the team.
Often, a wide out will do a ‘double move’. The primary one off of the slant is the ‘Slant & Go’. The receiver runs the slant and hopes the corner bites on it (thinks he’s getting the ball at the end of the slant). If he does, the receiver doesn’t turn for the ball, he keeps going for a deeper pass downfield. As long as the QB isn’t getting extreme pressure it should be easy to hit for a big play, but can be dependent on the DB being overly aggressive and jumping the route (trying to move in front of the WR to make an interception). A ‘slant & corner’ is another double move off of the slant where he runs the normal slant and then with another 45° and gets depth upfield.
There are all sorts of combos and uses for them, but the key is, the WR is making a quick 45° (or 30°) turn towards the middle.