A slot is a narrow opening, such as a keyway in machinery or a slit for coins in a vending machine. In computer technology, a slot is an area in which expansion boards can be installed. It is not to be confused with bays, which are locations within a computer where disk drives can be installed.
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In football, a slot receiver is a wide receiver who lines up inside the 20-yard line. He typically takes a few steps behind the line of scrimmage, in between and slightly behind the outside wide receivers and the offensive linemen. This positioning allows him to do a lot of different things, including running routes and blocking. He is a very important cog in the offensive wheel, and needs to have good speed to catch passes as well as solid blocking skills.
He must be able to run precise route patterns, since he is usually shorter and faster than outside wide receivers. He also needs to have excellent awareness of the field, and to know where defenders are located. He will likely need to block nickelbacks, and sometimes safeties, as well. On running plays, he will need to be able to perform a crack back block on defensive ends.
Because of the way they are used in the offense, slot receivers must be very dependable and have an extremely strong work ethic. They need to practice constantly, and be able to make adjustments in the game. They also need to be able to handle the pressure from defenses, especially in coverage, because they are exposed much more than outside wide receivers are. A good slot receiver can be a major weapon for any offense, and is often the primary target of opposing defenses. This is why he must be able to block very well and have great hands. If he does not, he will be quickly beaten by good coverage from defenders who are skilled at reading route combinations. He will not get many chances to score if he cannot secure the ball. He is therefore an essential part of any successful offense. He is also a good option on short, quick running plays, such as pitch plays and end-arounds. On these runs, he will often pre-snap motion in the direction of his route before the quarterback snaps the ball. This will give him a head of steam and make it difficult for defenders to tackle him.