A slot is a narrow depression, perforation, or opening; especially one for the reception of a piece fitting or sliding in it.
A slot receiver is a wide receiver who specializes in catching passes in the slot of the field, a position that is often overlooked but is an essential part of many offenses. It is an excellent pass-catching spot because of its close alignment to the middle of the field, and it can also be used as a blocking position.
Generally, slot receivers are smaller and faster than traditional wide receivers. They are also able to run different routes than traditional wideouts, including go routes and slants.
They also have great hands and can make big plays on the ball when they receive it. They are a popular target in modern spread offenses, and are becoming a valuable part of the game.
The term “slot” comes from the name of the slot formation in which they are often positioned. It was first utilized by coach Jerry Davis of the Raiders in the 1960s. He hoped that slot receivers would have more speed, be reliable, and be precise with their routes and timing.
When a slot receiver receives the ball, they are typically lined up just inside of the outside linebackers, but they might be on an edge or inside position. This allows them to quickly absorb contact and break through the defense when they are open, allowing the quarterback to throw the ball downfield.
Slot receivers are a vital part of the running game, as well. On running plays designed to the outside, they are often matched up against nickelbacks and other outside linebackers, so they must be able to block them effectively. They can also chip a safety and give the running back more room, giving him the time he needs to escape the coverage and gain yards.
On passing plays, slot receivers often run routes that are similar to other wideouts, as a way to confuse the defense. They can also be a target for a slant or sweep, and will often line up near the middle of the field to ensure they are in a position to catch the ball when it’s snapped.
Most slot receivers are 5-8 to 5-10 in height, 170-190 in weight, and more quick than fast. They are a good fit for modern spread offenses, and have seen a significant increase in targets over the past decade or so.
A slot receiver’s main responsibility is to pick up passes in the slot and slants, and they will also be expected to block on the ball carrier’s outside runs. They may also be asked to chip a safety or outside linebacker in order to provide additional protection for the run.
Some slot receivers are also paired with running backs, and they are sometimes asked to block on a slant or sweep. The quarterback can throw the ball to them after the snap, and they can then run with it if they are given the opportunity.