The word slot may conjure images of a narrow opening, like one found in the back of a door or in an airplane window. Alternatively, it can refer to a position or time on a calendar. It can also refer to a piece of metal or plastic in a machine that holds or secures other pieces. Lastly, it can refer to a slot on a computer or video game screen.
As the NFL continues to evolve and offenses become more and more spread out, teams rely on slot receivers more and more. These players are shorter and quicker than traditional wide receivers, and they often line up closer to the line of scrimmage than other wide receivers do. The NFL has several top-notch slot receivers who have excelled this season, including Tyreek Hill, Cole Beasley, and Keenan Allen.
The Slot receiver’s role on running plays is more important than that of other wide receivers. This is because he’ll often be called into pre-snap motion near the line of scrimmage, and then will be positioned between the last defensive player on the line of scrimmage (usually either a tight end or an offensive tackle) and the outside receivers. He’ll block (or at least chip) nickelbacks, outside linebackers, safeties, and sometimes even defensive ends.
In addition to blocking, Slot receivers must be able to get open quickly and make great receptions on passing plays. This requires route running ability that’s advanced, as well as good awareness of where the defenders are on the field. They must also be able to run routes at different speeds and work well with quarterbacks on timing.
Many Slot receivers can also act as a ball carrier on pitch plays and reverses, as they’ll often be called into pre-snap movement by the quarterback and then carry the ball in the direction of their initial pre-snap path. This requires them to be extremely fast and nimble in order to get open against the defense’s best pursuit players.
Unlike classic three-reel mechanical slot machines, modern digital slots allow the player to insert cash or, in “ticket-in, ticket-out” machines, a paper ticket with a barcode into a designated slot on the machine. The player then activates the machine by pushing a lever or button (either physical or on a touchscreen), which spins the reels and arranges the symbols. If the symbols match a winning combination listed on the pay table, the player receives credits based on the payout schedule. Typical symbols include fruit, bells, and stylized lucky sevens.