A slot is a narrow notch, groove, or opening in something. It can be a keyway in machinery or a slit for a coin in a vending machine. It can also refer to a slot card in a video poker game or a slot machine in a casino.
In the context of the NFL, slot receivers are considered a part of the offense and they can be called on when the team wants to stretch the field and attack all three levels of the defense. The slot receiver is a key player in this type of offensive package and plays a major role in the passing game as well as being a blocker for the ball carrier.
During the passing game, slot receivers can catch passes to the side or back of the formation. They can also receive short passes and passes behind the line of scrimmage. In addition, slot receivers can be asked to run the ball.
They are not required to be small and stocky, but they must be tough enough to absorb contact in the middle of the field and fast enough to beat defenders on their routes. In addition, slot receivers must be able to catch passes on the fly and have good hands.
The slot receiver is usually a little shorter than the outside wide receivers, but he should be very quick and strong. He should also have excellent route-running skills, as he will need to master every passing route available to him due to the position in which he lines up on the field.
He will be the first receiver to line up on an inside running play because he will need to seal off the nickelback or outside linebackers that will come in from behind. He will also need to perform a crack back block on defensive ends on running plays designed to the outside portion of the field, as well as protect the ball carrier with a deep slant or sweep run.
When slot receivers aren’t running or catching the ball, they will be blocking for the running back or wideout. This is especially important on slant runs or sweeps.
A slot receiver may be assigned to a single running back or wideout, or they may be asked to split with two of them. They will then work hand-in-hand with the RB or wideout on a pass play, as they need to know their routes and read the defenders’ defenses to make an accurate catch.
Slot receivers are a staple in most NFL teams’ wide receiver groups, and they’re expected to play a significant role on the majority of passing plays. Traditionally, they were a third option on offensive sets, but in recent seasons they’ve become more prominent as an integral part of the passing game. They’re now a necessary part of the offensive gameplan because they give quarterbacks a versatile option on throws, as well as a blocker when a running back or wideout isn’t running.