A slot is a narrow opening in a machine or container, for example, a hole you put coins into to make a slot machine work. A slot can also refer to a position within a schedule or program, for example, a time slot when you visit someone. It can also mean the space you put a car seat belt into. Lastly, a slot can also be a piece of information that gets used in a computer or other device.
Slot receivers are fast and agile wide receivers who run a variety of routes. They typically line up pre-snap between the last man on the line of scrimmage (either the tight end or offensive tackle) and the outside receiver. They can line up in other spots, as well, but they often do so near the center.
Regardless of where they line up on the field, slot receivers must be fast and agile to beat coverage and run routes that require lots of elusion and evasion. They must be strong enough to block and catch passes, too, but they aren’t usually as big or powerful as other wide receivers.
They are sometimes called into pre-snap motion by the quarterback and may act as a ball carrier on running plays like reverses or end-arounds. On these types of plays, they are often expected to perform a crack back block on defensive ends and/or safeties. Depending on the play, they might also be asked to act as a decoy by blocking (or at least chipping) nickelbacks.
The slot is a crucial position on offense because it allows the quarterback to target more than one level of the defense. Without quality slot receivers, it can be difficult for an offense to be successful. They aren’t always easy to find, though.
In addition to being able to run many different routes, slot receivers must be able to read the defense and adjust their route accordingly. They must also be able to catch the ball in traffic and have good hands. Finally, they must be able to block and break through tackles.
Although the NFL doesn’t have a specific height or weight requirement for slot receivers, they do need to be small and stocky enough to absorb contact in the middle of the field, as well as fast enough to blow past defenders. In addition to these traits, they must be able to get open against press coverage and run precise routes.
Despite their importance, there aren’t a lot of players that specialize in the slot. This is because most teams prefer to use their top wide receivers in the outside positions. However, there are a few elite players who spend significant amounts of time in the slot. Some examples include Julio Jones, Stefon Diggs, and Odell Beckham Jr.