A slot is a narrow opening or groove in something, such as a keyway in a piece of machinery or a slit for a coin in a vending machine. A slot can also be an area in a plane’s wing or tail surface that is open to airflow.

The name “slot” comes from the position of a slot receiver on a football team, a player who lines up between the outside wide receiver and the offensive linemen on the field. The position has been gaining popularity in recent years as offenses continue to run alignments that include at least three wide receivers on the field more frequently.

Players at the slot receiver position are typically shorter and faster than traditional wide receivers. They’re often used as a third option on passing plays and as an important blocker for the ball carrier on running plays.

Their speed allows them to stretch the defense vertically, and they’re highly effective in route running and timing plays with the quarterback. They’re especially useful for slant and sweep runs, which require them to run the route tree quickly in order to confuse defenders and get a quick read on the ball.

They also need to be aware of the defensive linemen and where they’re positioned on the field, so they can run routes that correspond with the defensive players in the area. This requires a great deal of awareness and practice.

On passing plays, slot receivers are called into pre-snap motion by the quarterback, and they’re often able to quickly move to the sideline and find a wide open spot. This is a valuable asset on pitch plays, reverses and end-arounds, because the quarterback is able to get the ball to the receiver in the right place at the right time.

These players also need to be able to block well enough to seal off the opposing defensive players. They’ll block nickelbacks and other outside linebackers, and they may even need to chip a defensive end if the defense is stacked against them.

They’re also important on running plays, averaging about 5.5 rushing attempts per game in the NFL. The majority of these runs involve a slant or a sweep, and a good slot receiver can make those plays easier to run by sealing off defenders in the backfield.

In the NFL, a slot receiver will usually have two or three catches per game. He’ll also usually average more than 40 yards per catch.

He’s often the fastest wide receiver on the team, and he can make big plays with his speed. His pre-snap motion, ability to get a big read on the quarterback, and speed allow him to stretch the defense on running plays, too.

The slot receiver will also typically perform a crack back block on defensive ends. This is an important part of their blocking game, as they need to be able to protect the quarterback and keep him safe on running plays designed to the outside of the field.