A narrow opening, typically in a machine or container that allows something to pass through. Also known as a slit or notch.
In football, a slot receiver is a team’s third wide receiver and plays in the area between the tight end or offensive tackle and the outside wide receiver. This position was once considered an afterthought to most teams, but in the past decade or so it has become a more important part of many offenses as they shift toward more three-receiver formations.
Aside from their catching responsibilities, a slot receiver is an important blocking player. Because of where they line up pre-snap (in the middle of the field between the last defensive lineman and the outside cornerback), a slot receiver’s initial blocking is often more important than that of the wideouts. They must be tough enough to break through blitzes and quick enough to avoid safeties and secondary players.
They also help protect running backs on outside run plays by blocking (or at least chipping) nickelbacks and linebackers. They may even need to perform a crack back block on defensive ends.
Besides their receiving responsibilities, slots can also carry the ball like a running back from time to time. This usually occurs on pitch plays or reverses where they are called in motion as the ball is snapped and can make a play after the ball is handed off.
In terms of catching the ball, a slot receiver can run routes up, in, or out and must have good chemistry with the quarterback in order to be successful. They tend to catch a lot of short passes and those behind the line of scrimmage, which is why it is critical that they are able to get open quickly.
Because they are positioned so close to the line of scrimmage, a slot receiver must be able to read defenses quickly and adjust their routes accordingly. This is why they must have a good understanding of the defense as well as be able to quickly pick up the nuances of the game and the tendencies of opposing teams’ defenses.
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