The slot is the position on a football team’s offense that lines up slightly closer to the middle of the field than wide receivers do. In recent years, teams have relied on this type of receiver more and more as they’ve shifted to spread-type passing schemes that feature multiple receivers and running backs. The physical characteristics of a slot receiver, which are typically shorter and quicker than traditional wide receivers, make them less vulnerable to man coverage. In addition, they have good route running skills and a solid understanding of the playbook.
When it comes to blocking, a slot player is usually more important to the success of a running play than an outside receiver. They’ll often line up a few steps off the line of scrimmage, and they’ll block (or chip) nickelbacks, safeties, and outside linebackers on running plays that are designed to go outside the tackles. In some cases, they’ll even have to perform a crack back block on defensive ends.
It takes a lot of work for a slot receiver to get on the same page with the quarterback and have great awareness of what the defense is doing. They also need to have a good understanding of the field, as their pre-snap alignment will dictate what routes they’re going to run and when. They need to be able to read which defenders are where so they can get open for big plays. They’re a critical cog in the blocking wheel for most offenses, and they need to be as good as their outside counterparts if they want to be successful.