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Encyclopedia > American football positions
A diagram showing typical football positions

In American football, each team has 11 players on the field at one time. However, because the rules allow unlimited substitution between plays, the types of players on the field for each team differ depending on the situation. At the college and NFL levels, most play only offense or only defense, with "two-way" players being a thing of the past. Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... United States simply as football, is a competitive team sport that is both fast-paced and strategic. ... A college football game between Colorado State and Air Force. ... NFL redirects here. ... In sport, offense (American English) and offence (British English and Canadian English) is the action of attacking or engaging an opposing team with the objective of scoring points or goals. ... In sport, defense (AmE) and defence (CwE) is the action of preventing an opponent from scoring. ...

Contents

Offense

The offensive team or offense in American football is the team that begins a play from scrimmage in possession of the ball. A play usually begins when the quarterback takes a snap from the center and then either hands off to a back, passes to a receiver or a back, runs the ball himself, spikes the ball, or takes a knee. A football play is the activity of the games of Canadian football and American football during which one team tries to advance the ball or to score, and the other team tries to stop them or take the ball away. ... Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco sets up to throw. ... A snap (colloquially called a hike, snapback, or pass from center) starts each American football and Canadian football play from scrimmage. ...


Usually the sign that their goal is accomplished for the offensive team is the touchdown. However, the offensive team can also help the team score by getting good field position for an attempt at a field goal. Texas Longhorn quarterback Vince Young (center top of picture), now with the Tennessee Titans, rushing for a touchdown vs. ... A field goal (formerly goal from the field) in American football and Canadian football (collectively called gridiron football) is a goal that may be scored during general play (from the field). Execution of a field goal A field goal may be scored by a placekick or the very rare drop...


The offensive unit in American football consists of a quarterback, linemen, backs, tight ends and receivers. The function of most of the linemen is to block. The offensive line consists of a center, two guards, two tackles and one or two tight ends. Backs include running backs (or tailbacks) who frequently carry the ball, and a fullback, who usually blocks, and occasionally carries the ball or receives a pass. The primary function of the wide receivers is to catch passes. A diagram of the linemen, with defensive linemen (in 4-3 formation) in red and offensive linemen in green. ... The wide receiver (WR) position in American and Canadian football is the pass-catching specialist. ...


The ultimate makeup of the offense and how it operates is governed by the head coach or offensive coordinator's offensive philosophy. The head coach in sports coaching is the coach who is in charge of the other coaches. ... An offensive coordinator typically refers to a coach on a football team in the National Football League (or at others levels of American football) who is in charge of the offense. ... The approach to offense in American and Canadian football has splintered and evolved in the 100 years in which the modern form of the sport has existed. ...

  • Center (C)—the center performs the normal blocking functions of all linemen and is the player who puts the ball in play by means of the snap.
  • Offensive guard (OG)—the two guards are the offensive linemen directly on either side of the center and inside the tackles. Like all interior linemen, their function is to block on both running and passing plays. On some plays, rather than blocking straight ahead, a guard will "pull" - moving around behind the other offensive linemen upon the start of the play - in order to block a player on either side of the center, in an inside running play called a "trap" or an outside running play called a "sweep".
  • Offensive tackle (OT)—the offensive tackles play on either side of the guards. Their role is primarily to block on both running and passing plays. The area from one tackle to the other is an area of "close line play" in which some blocks from behind, which are prohibited elsewhere on the field, are allowed. For a right-handed quarterback, the left tackle is charged with protecting the blindside, and is often faster than the other offensive linemen to stop 'speed rushers' at the Defensive End position. Like a guard, the tackle may have to "pull", on a running play, when there is a tight end on his side.

The description above of the guard and tackle positions apply only to a line that is balanced (has equal numbers of players on both sides of the player who is to snap the ball). In an unbalanced line, there may be players designated "guard" or "tackle" next to each other. Center (C) is a position in American football. ... The offensive team or offense in American football or Canadian football, is the team that begins a play from scrimmage in possession of the ball. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...


Offensive linemen cannot catch or run the ball in most circumstances. Except for the snap by the offensive center as each play from scrimmage starts, ordinarily the only way an offensive lineman can get the ball during a play is by picking up a fumble. On rare occasions offensive linemen legally catch passes; they can do so either by reporting as an eligible receiver to the referee prior to the snap or by catching a pass which has first been deflected or otherwise touched by an eligible receiver or a defensive player. Any other touching of the ball by an offensive lineman will result in a penalty. Look up fumble in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

  • Tight end (TE) — Tight ends play on either side of, and roughly next to, the tackles. They are a mix between a blocker and a pass receiver. If an end moves away from the tackle, he is called a split end. Modern formations typically have one end tight and one end split. Many modern formations also forego tight ends and replace them with wide receivers. Sometimes a formation is referred to as having "three tight ends." This means in reality that an additional blocker (a wingback or an eighth lineman) has been substituted for a wide receiver. This would be done as in short-yardage situations where receivers are not needed.
  • Wide receiver (WR) — The wide receivers are speedy pass-catching specialists. Their main job is to run pass routes and get open for a pass, although they are occasionally called on to block. A wide receiver may line up on the line of scrimmage and be counted as one of the necessary 7 players on the line in a legal formation (a split end), or he may line up at least one step behind the line of scrimmage and be counted as being in the backfield (a flanker if he is on the outside, a slot if he is not). There are generally two types of wide receivers, "speed" and "possession". A speed receiver's primary function is to stretch the field, to be a deep threat, and to pull away an eighth defensive man near the line of scrimmage from moves against the quarterback. A possession receiver is generally the more sure-handed of the two types and is used to keep possession of the ball by making catches that gain first down yardage, but he usually lacks the speed to attack a defensive backfield.
  • Fullback (FB) — Positioned behind the middle of the line, a fullback may do some running, some blocking, and some short receiving. A classic fullback is more of a power runner than a running back. Many modern formations do not use a fullback. Most plays utilizing the fullback call for him to block, generally by running up the middle of the line, clearing a path for a running back to use.
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback #14 Anthony Morelli hands the ball off to his tailback #33 Austin Scott in their 2007 season opener.
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback #14 Anthony Morelli hands the ball off to his tailback #33 Austin Scott in their 2007 season opener.
  • Running back (RB) — The modern term for the position formally called "halfback". The running back carries the ball on most running plays and is also frequently used as a short-yardage receiver. Running backs, along with the wide receivers, are generally the fastest players on the offensive team. Most of them tend not to run straight ahead, preferring to make quick cutbacks to try to find holes in the defense. This, however, is a generalization, since some running backs are more power-oriented. "Fullback" is now regarded as a separate position from running back, with a substantially different role (especially in the NFL).
    • Tailback (TB) — A running back that is positioned behind the middle of the line and deepest of all backs.
  • H-back — A position that was popularized by Joe Gibbs during his first tenure with the Washington Redskins, the H-back is a hybrid position that combines the skill sets of fullback, tight end, and even wide receiver. An H-back lines up similarly to a slotback—but deeper and not as wide—and frequently serves as a blocker for a more deeply positioned back.
  • Wingback — A player positioned just outside the outermost tight end, the wingback is slightly offset from the line of scrimmage which designates the position as wingback rather than tight end. The wingback is typically used in extreme blocking situations or unbalanced offensive formations.
  • Slotback — A player positioned just outside the outermost offensive lineman, the slotback is slightly offset from the line of scrimmage which designates the position as a slotback rather than a tight end. The slotback is a typical position in flexbone formations and other Triple Option formations.
  • Quarterback (QB) — Typically the quarterback is positioned to take a snap handed between the center's legs. However, recent usage refers imprecisely to a player who is positioned behind the center at any distance, calls signals, is not the usual punter or place kick holder, and usually takes the snap as "quarterback" regardless of exact position, because those functions have typically been performed by quarterbacks. Typical play from formations where the quarterback takes the snap proceeds by the quarterback either handing the ball off to a running back to run, throwing the ball downfield, or running personally.

Teams can vary the number of wide receivers, tight ends and running backs on the field at one time. Football rules limit the flexibility of offensive formations. Seven players must line up on the line of scrimmage, and only the two at the end are eligible to catch passes. Sometimes, offensive lineman can declare eligibility and become "tackle eligible." Jumbo Ellott and Dan Klecko are two tackles who have caught touchdowns while being tackle eligible. Typical formations include: The tight end (TE) is a position in American football on the offensive team. ... The wide receiver (WR) position in American and Canadian football is the pass-catching specialist. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... In American and Canadian football, a down refers to a period in which a play transpires. ... In American football, a fullback (FB) is a position in the offensive backfield. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 716 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (2123 × 1778 pixel, file size: 2. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 716 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (2123 × 1778 pixel, file size: 2. ... Head Coach Joe Paterno 42nd Year, 363-121-3 Home Stadium Beaver Stadium Capacity 107,282 - Grass Conference Big Ten First Year 1887 Athletic Director Tim Curley Website GoPSUSports. ... Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco sets up to throw. ... Tailback is an offensive backfield position in the sport of American football. ... The 2007 Penn State Nittany Lions football team will represent the Pennsylvania State University in the 2007 college football season. ... P.J. Daniels was a star running back for Georgia Tech from 2002-2005. ... Tailback is an offensive backfield position in the sport of American football. ... An H-Back is an offensive position in American football that is a hybrid between a fullback and a tight end. ... Joe Jackson Gibbs (born November 25, 1940) is a Hall of Fame American football coach and NASCAR Championship team owner. ... For other uses, see Redskins (disambiguation). ... In association football (soccer), a wingback is an attacking player who occupies a wide position, either on the extreme right or extreme left. ... Canadian football is a sport in which two teams of twelve players each compete for territorial control of a field of play 110 yards (100. ... // The Formation The base flexbone formation with two slotbacks (SB), two wide receivers (WR), a quarterback (QB), a fullback (FB), and five down linemen (OL). ... The Triple Option is an American football term for a running or possibly passing play, which involves three different ways to progress the football up the field of play. ... Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco sets up to throw. ... A Formation in American football refers to the position players line up in before the start of a play from scrimmage. ...

  • One running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers.
  • Two running backs, one tight end and two wide receivers.
  • One running back, one tight end and three wide receivers.
  • One running back, no tight end and four wide receivers
  • No running backs, no tight end and five wide receivers.

Defense

The defensive team or defense is the team that begins a play from scrimmage not in possession of the ball. The object of the defensive team is to prevent the other team from scoring. The sign that the defensive goal has been accomplished is a 4th down, which usually involves punting the ball. A football play is the activity of the games of Canadian football and American football during which one team tries to advance the ball or to score, and the other team tries to stop them or take the ball away. ... Josh Miller of the New England Patriots punts the ball. ...


Unlike the offensive team, there are no formally defined defensive positions. A defensive player may line up anywhere on his side of the line of scrimmage and perform any legal action. However, most sets used in American football include a line composed of defensive ends and defensive tackles and (behind the line) linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties.


Defensive ends and tackles are collectively called defensive line, while the cornerbacks and safeties are collectively called the secondary, or defensive backs.

  • Defensive end (DE) — The two defensive ends play on opposite outside edges of the defensive line. Their function is to attack the passer or stop offensive runs to the outer edges of the line of scrimmage (most often referred to as "containment"). The faster of the two is usually placed on the right side of the defensive line (quarterback's left) because that is a right-handed quarterback's blind side.
  • Defensive tackle (DT) — Sometimes called a defensive guard, defensive tackles are side-by-side linemen who are between the defensive ends. Their function is to rush the passer (if they can't get past the offensive linemen blocking them), and stop running plays directed at the middle of the line of scrimmage. A defensive tackle that lines up directly across from the ball (and therefore, is almost nose-to-nose with the offense's center) is often called a nose tackle or nose guard. The nose tackle is most common in the 3-4 defense and the quarter defense. Most defensive sets have from one to two defensive tackles. Sometimes, but not often, a team will employ three defensive tackles.
  • Linebacker (LB) — Linebackers play behind the defensive line and perform various duties depending on the situation, including rushing the passer, covering receivers, and defending against the run. Most defensive sets have between two and three linebackers. Linebackers are usually divided into four types: strongside (left or right outside linebacker: LOLB or ROLB); middle (MLB); and weakside (LOLB or ROLB). The strongside linebacker usually lines up across from the offense's tight end; he is usually the strongest LB because he must be able to shed lead blockers quickly enough to tackle the running back. The middle linebacker must correctly identify the offense's formations and what adjustments the entire defense must make. Because of this, the middle linebacker is nicknamed the "quarterback of the defense". The weakside linebacker is usually the most athletic or fastest linebacker because he usually must defend an open field.
  • Cornerback (CB) — Typically two players that primarily cover the wide receivers. Cornerbacks attempt to prevent successful quarterback passes by either swatting the airborne ball away from the receiver or by catching the pass themselves. In rushing situations, their job is to contain the rusher.
  • Safety (FS or SS) — The safeties are the last line of defense (farthest from the line of scrimmage) and usually help the corners with deep-pass coverage. The strong safety (SS) is usually the larger and stronger of the two, providing extra protection against run plays by standing somewhere between the free safety and the line of scrimmage. The free safety (FS) is usually the smaller and faster of the two, providing variable and extra pass coverage.

Typically, a team will have a safety who also has a reputation of being a hard hitter, as evidenced by Mark Carrier, Rodney Harrison and Bob Sanders, John Lynch, and Sean Taylor to name a slim few. More recently, teams are looking for hybrid safeties who can do both jobs, as in a cover 2 defense, the strong safety has a greater role to play in coverage. Safeties are also used in a variety of blitzes.
Defensive back — It is not a specific position, however, it is any position besides the line, including cornerbacks, safeties, etc., that is behind the line of scrimmage.
Defensive end is the name of a defensive position in the sport of American football. ... Navy quarterback Aaron Polanco sets up to throw. ... Defensive tackle (DT) is a position on the field in American and Canadian football. ... Nose Guard is a position in american football. ... This article relates to sports. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... An interception or intercept is a move in many forms of football, including Canadian and American football football, as well as rugby league, rugby union, Australian rules football and Gaelic football, and involves a pass (either by foot or hand) being cut off by an opposition player who usually gains... In American football and Canadian football, the termsafety can refer to: two positions in the most-common defensive backfield setup, the strong safety and the free safety, or a type of score, worth one or two points. ...

  • Nickelback and Dimeback — In certain formations one extra (a fifth) defensive back (called a nickel defense), two extra (a sixth) DB (called a Dime package), or even three extra (a seventh) DB called a Quarter may be used to augment the backfield or defensive line. Nickelbacks, dimebacks, and Defensive Quarterbacks are usually used to defend pass plays with extra receivers, but they can also be used to rush quarterbacks or running backs more quickly than linemen or most linebackers can. A starting cornerback who is good at blitzing and tackling will sometimes be referred to as a nickelback to distinguish them from cornerbacks.

Typical defensive formations include: In American football, a nickelback is a cornerback who serves as the fifth defensive back on defense. ... In American football, a dimeback is a cornerback who serves as the sixth defensive back on defense. ... The United States five-cent coin, commonly called a nickel, is a unit of currency equaling one-twentieth, or five hundredths, of a United States dollar. ... For other uses, see Dime. ... A quarter is a coin worth one-quarter of a United States dollar, or 25 cents. ... In American football, a blitz is a defensive maneuver in which one or more linebackers or defensive backs, who normally remain behind the line of scrimmage during a play, are instead sent across the line to the opponents side in order to try to tackle the quarterback. ... For other uses, see Tackle. ...

  • Six defensive linemen, two linebackers and three defensive backs (the 6-2 formation)
  • Five defensive linemen, three linebackers and three defensive backs (the 5-3 formation)
  • Four defensive linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs (the 4-3 formation)
  • Four defensive linemen, four linebackers and three defensive backs (the 4-4 formation)
  • Three defensive linemen, four linebackers and four defensive backs (the 3-4 formation)
  • Four defensive linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs (the Nickel formation)
  • Four defensive linemen, one linebacker and six defensive backs.(the Dime formation)
  • One defensive linebacker, three linemen and seven defensive backs (the Quarter defense)

American football strategy takes many forms, and is not always about the strength and size of the two teams. ... American football strategy takes many forms, and is not always about the strength and size of the two teams. ... American football strategy takes many forms, and is not always about the strength and size of the two teams. ... American football strategy takes many forms, and is not always about the strength and size of the two teams. ... American football strategy takes many forms, and is not always about the strength and size of the two teams. ...

Special teams

Special teams are units that are on the field during kickoffs, free kicks, punts, and field goal and extra point attempts. Most special teams players are second- and third-string players from other positions. This article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedias deletion policy. ... Josh Miller of the New England Patriots punts the ball. ... In American football, the extra point, point after touchdown, or PAT is the act of lining up to kick, as in a field goal, immediately following a touchdown. ...


Special teams are unique in that they can serve as offensive or defensive units and that they are only seen sporadically throughout a game. Special teams include a kickoff team, a kick return team, a punting team, a punt blocking/return team, a field goal team and a field goal block team.


There are also specialized players on these teams, including:

  • Kicker (K) — Handles kickoffs and field goal attempts.
  • Holder(H) — Usually positioned 7-8 yards from the line of scrimmage, he holds the ball for the placekicker to kick. The holder is often a backup quarterback or a punter.
  • Long snapper(LS) — A specialized center who snaps the ball directly to the holder or punter. The long snapper is often a backup tight end.
  • Kick returner (KR) — Returns kickoffs.
  • Punter (P) — Kicks punts.
  • Punt returner (PR) — Returns punts.
  • Gunner — A player on kickoffs and punts who specializes in running down the field very quickly in an attempt to tackle the kick returner or the punt returner.
    • Wedge Buster — A player whose goal is to sprint down the middle of the field on kickoffs. While ideally, their goal is to reach the kick returner, their immediate goal is to disrupt the wall of blockers (the wedge) on kickoffs, preventing the returner from having a lane in which to get a substantial return. Being a wedge buster is a very dangerous position since he may often be running at full speed when coming into contact with a blocker.

Because these aspects of the game can be so different from general offensive and defensive play, a specific group of players is drilled in executing them. Though fewer points are scored on special teams than on offense, special teams play determines where the offense will begin each drive, and thus it has a dramatic impact on how easy or difficult it is for the offense to score. An amateur place kicker attempts to kick a field goal Placekicker, or simply Kicker, is the title of the player in American and Canadian football who is responsible for the kicking duties of field goals, extra points, and, in many cases, kickoffs. ... The 2007 Penn State Nittany Lions football team kicks the ball off after scoring a touchdown in their season opening game A kickoff is a method of starting or restarting play in American football. ... A field goal (formerly goal from the field) in American football and Canadian football (collectively called gridiron football) is a goal that may be scored during general play (from the field). Execution of a field goal A field goal may be scored by a placekick or the very rare drop... In American football the holder is the player who receives the snap during field goal and extra point attempts. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... In American football, the term long snapper refers to a player who is a specialized center during punts, field goals, and extra point attempts. ... Special teams are units in American football and Canadian football that are on the field during kickoffs, free kicks, punts, and field goal attempts. ... [[Image:|frame|right|Todd Sauerbrun punts the ball for the Carolina Panthers. ... A punt is a play in Canadian football and American football in which the football is kicked downfield to the opposing team. ... In American football, a gunner is a player on kickoffs and punts who specializes in running down the field very quickly in an attempt to tackle the kick returner or the punt returner. ...


See also

American football strategy takes many forms, and is not always about the strength and size of the two teams. ... The following terms are used in American football and Canadian football. ... A diagram of the linemen, with defensive linemen (in 4-3 formation) in red and offensive linemen in green. ... In American football and Canadian football, the termsafety can refer to: two positions in the most-common defensive backfield setup, the strong safety and the free safety, or a type of score, worth one or two points. ... A normal Rugby union team formation illustrating each of the positions and their respective numbers. ...

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