Slot Receivers in the NFL
A slot is a narrow notch, groove or opening in something, such as a keyway in a machine or a slit for a coin in a vending machine. A slot can also refer to a position in a group, series or sequence of things.
In the past decade or so, NFL teams have come to rely heavily on their slot receivers. Typically shorter and faster than traditional wide receivers, slot receivers excel at running precise routes and catching the ball with good hands while avoiding contact. They are also known to have a strong ability to block, which is critical on running plays where they aren’t the ball carrier.
They’re often referred to as the ‘slot’ because they line up slightly in-field, a few steps off of the line of scrimmage. This positioning gives them unique responsibilities and strengths, as they’re able to make catches in areas that outside receivers can’t, such as in the middle of the field. Slot receivers are also often used in passing situations to help the team gain an advantage against a defense, such as on a screen pass or a short-yardage run.
In addition to route running skills, a good slot receiver will have advanced blocking abilities, as they’ll be tasked with helping to block inside and outside linebackers as well as safeties. Slot receivers can also be called on to carry the ball as a ball carrier on certain running plays, such as pitch plays and reverses.
Despite their relatively light frames, slot receivers must be physically tough to block defensive backs who can run and jump very quickly. This is especially true on running plays that require them to chip or crack back blocks against defensive ends.
Because of their unique responsibilities and skill sets, a good slot receiver should have great awareness of the defensive formations around them, which will allow them to know what type of coverage is coming their way. They should be able to read a defense and anticipate which defenders are likely to be open, so they can run the correct route to beat them.
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