A slot is a narrow notch, groove, or opening. It can be found in a variety of things, such as a keyway in a piece of machinery or a slit for a coin in a vending machine. Slots can also be used to refer to positions in a series, sequence, or group.
The Slot receiver is an important cog in the offensive wheel, especially on running plays. These players are generally shorter and faster than outside wide receivers, and they need to be able to run precise routes. They also need to be very good at blocking, as their pre-snap alignment typically puts them near the line of scrimmage.
In addition to their blocking skills, Slot receivers are often asked to carry the ball on pitch plays, reverses, and end-arounds. They must be able to get the ball from the quarterback quickly and then outrun defenders. They are also expected to block (or chip) nickelbacks and outside linebackers when they are not the ball carrier, and may need to perform a crack back block on defensive ends.
When they aren’t carrying the ball or blocking, Slot receivers will often act as a decoy for running plays. They will occupy the defense’s best tackler, allowing the running back behind them to cut free and gain valuable yards. They also help to provide protection on outside run plays by picking up blitzes from linebackers and secondary players.
Many Slot receivers have excellent route-running skills, which is not surprising considering their position in the passing game. They need to be able to run every type of route possible, including inside and outside, deep, and short. They will need to master all of these routes, while also being able to read defenses and anticipate which defenders are closing in on them.
In addition to their outstanding route-running abilities, Slot receivers must be very fast and have exceptional hand-eye coordination. They must also be able to make adjustments on the fly. This requires them to be very attentive and quick to react to the defense’s coverage, while also being able to read the quarterback’s eyes. This combination makes Slot receivers very difficult to defend, and it is why they are so sought after by NFL teams.