A slot is a narrow notch, groove, or opening, as in a keyway in a piece of machinery or a slit for a coin in a vending machine. It can also refer to a position in a group, series, or sequence, such as a berth on an airplane or a position in a queue or line.
In football, a slot receiver is a wide receiver who lines up close to the middle of the field and often carries the ball like a running back from time to time. They are normally shorter, stockier, and tougher than a typical wide receiver, and they need to be precise with their routes and timing in order to succeed in the role.
Many of the best NFL receivers – including Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and Stefon Diggs – spend some time in the slot. In fact, the more versatile a slot receiver is, the better off a team will be, as they will be able to fill multiple roles and create matchup problems for opposing defenses.
Besides acting as a receiving weapon, a good slot receiver can also block for the team’s running backs and outside wide receivers. They are usually called into pre-snap motion by the quarterback and can often help protect running plays designed to the outside of the field by blocking blitzes from linebackers or safeties. They can even provide a crack back block on defensive ends on outside run plays.
Slot receivers also need to be able to catch the ball out of the slot, as they may need to make receptions in tight coverage or on quick out routes. They must have very fast hands and be able to adjust to the ball quickly in traffic, especially when playing in the slot, where they are often matched up with cornerbacks.
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