Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were pretty even in their distribution of targets. At least if we look at players in the slot vs players out wide. Football Outsiders did just that and found that Winston targeted slot players about 1.5 times as often as wideouts, which was slightly above average.
That’s not that much given the fact that two of his best three targets (Cameron Brate and Adam Humphries) played almost exclusively in the slot, and he had no reliable wide target other than Mike Evans—and even Evans spent some time in the slot. Another part of that: there are always at most two players lined up outside, while up to three can line up in the slot on any given play.
It’ll be interesting to see if that distribution changes with the addition of DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. There’s a chance the Bucs will mostly move Jackson to the slot and try to get him deep from there, he’s actually pretty good in that role. There’s also a chance the Bucs will try to use Howard’s size and athleticism on the outside to get him matched up on much smaller cornerbacks.
Whatever happens, it is clear that slot players—whether tight ends or receivers—have become incredibly important in the NFL. And it’s heartening that the Bucs have several players who can line up there and do a good job.