A slot is a narrow opening, as in a keyway in machinery or a slit for coins in a vending machine. The phrase can also refer to a position in a group, series, or sequence; for example, a slot in a schedule or program allows people to sign up for an activity. It can even mean the space on a computer motherboard that accepts expansion cards such as an ISA, PCI, or AGP slot.
NFL offenses are increasingly relying on the Slot receiver, a wide receiver who lines up in the area between and slightly behind the outer wide receivers and offensive linemen. Physically, they’re shorter and faster than traditional wide receivers. This makes them more difficult to defend against quick defenders, and defenses are starting to focus more attention on these players.
In addition to their speedy skills, Slot receivers must have advanced blocking abilities. They need to be able to seal off outside linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks on running plays designed to the outside part of the field. In some cases, they may need to execute a crack back block on defensive ends, too.
Slot receivers also act as ball carriers on some running plays, including pitch plays, reverses, and end-arounds. On these plays, they’re often called into pre-snap motion by the quarterback, and then they quickly run their routes to find open space. This requires great timing, and it’s critical that the Slot receiver can get open against the coverage quickly.