The Slot in Football - Definition and Explanation

slotback
Slotback Bobby Doyle #33 of Navy throws aside safety Andrew Sendejo #30 of Navy at Rice Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Houston, Texas. Bob Levey/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

The slot is a gap in the line between the outside offensive linemen (tackle) and the player positioned closest to the sideline (wide receiver). The area is usually taken up by a wide receiver, running back, or a tight end. Players that line up in the slot are referred to as slotbacks, or slot receivers. The position is similar to that of a wide receiver, but also shares many similar traits to that of a running back.

A slot receiver lines up close to the offensive line, and usually slightly behind the line of scrimmage.

The area known as the slot is most commonly utilized to create offensive formations that employ multiple potential ball receivers on the same side of the field.

Difficult on Defenses

Formations utilizing a slot receiver can be difficult for defenses to cover, as it forces them to adjust their established defense to guard an additional player. This could force the defense to shift their personnel by bringing in extra defensive backs, or by just switching their current formation in order to account for the slot receiver. The slot receiver can create mismatches downfield and thus possess big play potential. Having multiple receivers on the same side of the field can also be confusing for a defense, as cornerbacks and safeties have to communicate further regarding assignments.  

Size and Speed

Traditionally, slot receivers are smaller, quicker, and more nimble than traditional wide receivers who line up on the outside of the formation.

They usually run quick, short routes to the middle of the field and look to generate mismatches against linebackers who may not be quick enough to keep up with them in the open field.

Role

A slot receiver has several different potential responsibilities. The main responsibility of a slot receiver is to serve as an outlet receiver for the quarterback.

Some plays are specifically drawn out for slot receivers to catch the ball and make something happen with it in the open field. Other times, slot receivers serve as a check-down for the quarterback, if other, deeper routes are well-covered by the defense. Passes to slot receivers are usually short. In some situations, the player in the slot will be the recipient of a handoff.

Other times, slot receivers are utilized to block defenders and protect the quarterback. It is often the job of a slot player to pick up and block defensive linemen who have broken through the line of scrimmage in order to prevent them from sacking the quarterback.

When an offense utilizes a slotback, it is often in place of a tight end or fullback, as a team can only have eleven players on the field at a time, and seven of the players have to be on the line of scrimmage. Slotbacks are considered wide receivers on team depth charts and can be utilized as a wide receiver in certain situations.