The slot receiver is one of the most versatile and important players in the NFL. They allow quarterbacks to stretch out the field and attack all three levels of the defense. Without a quality slot receiver, teams often struggle to get the ball to their wideouts in space.
The word “slot” is derived from the Spanish term for “short”, meaning “narrow”. The word “slot” can also be used to describe a narrow opening, as in the keyway of a piece of machinery or a slit in a vending machine.
Historically, the slot was the area between the last offensive lineman and the wide receiver that is split out to the end of the formation. During the 1950s and 1960s, NFL coaches like John Madden and Jack Pardee utilized the slot position as a way to maximize their passing game.
Today, teams rely on slot receivers more than ever before. They are usually shorter and quicker than outside wide receivers, which makes them difficult to cover. Despite their physical advantage, slot receivers must still be accurate and reliable with their routes and timing.
Slot receivers run a variety of different routes, including go and stop routes. They also have the ability to run vertical routes, which is helpful when a quarterback is trying to throw the ball down the middle of the field.
Speed and agility are important for slot receivers because they need to be quick to catch short passes, as well as break past defenders when running a deep go route. They must also have excellent hands because they receive a lot of targets and will be catching the ball more frequently than a traditional wideout.
A strong slot receiver will also be able to tuck their arms when they catch the ball and take a few steps back to protect themselves from defenders. They should be able to read the defense and anticipate the direction they need to run before they make their move, as this can help them get open faster.
The slot has become a staple of the offense in recent years, as teams like the Buccaneers, Chiefs, Raiders, and Falcons have relied on this type of play to be successful. In fact, slot receivers have been targeted on nearly 40 percent of all passing attempts in the past decade.
In addition to lining up in the slot area, slot receivers can also be asked to carry the ball from time to time. They are called into pre-snap motion by the quarterback and are often tasked with carrying the ball for pitch plays, reverses, and end-arounds.
They can be a threat when they run with the ball, too. They can pick up blitzes from linebackers and secondary players, as well as provide protection on outside run plays.
While they cannot do everything a wideout can, slot receivers are very good at what they do. They have great speed, a great route-running ability, and incredible hands.