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Football 101

Advanced Basics

Now that you understand the basics of the game, we can get into each of the eleven positions that are required for a team. We will start with all of the defensive positions since every team needs a strong defense in order to be successful.

Positions (Defense)

  • Defensive End: There are two defensive ends, one at end of the offensive line. The defensive end's role is to cover the running back on sweeps/end runs to his side or to rush the quarterback in passing situations.
  • Defensive Tackle: In a four-man line, defensive tackles line up inside the defensive ends. their job is to tackle running backs running through the middle of the line/off tackle, rush the quarterback dropping back to pass to either tackle him before he has thrown a pass (called "sacking the quarterback"), block his pass attempt, or make him hurry his throw so that he fails to complete a pass to a receiver, or occupy opposing blockers to allow linebackers to make tackles of running backs or the quarterback.
  • Nose Tackle: In a three-man line (there is no nose tackle in a four-man line: it is comprised of two ends and two tackles), a nose tackles line ups opposite the opposing team's center and blocks the opposing team's offensive interior linemen (usually the center or one of the guards). His job is basically to neutralize the center or guard blocking him so that the running back has no hole up the middle in which to run. Nose tackles are usually the strongest and biggest defensive players on the field. They don't need to be as fast as other defensive players because their position relies more on strength than speed.
  • Linebacker: Linebackers line up between the defensive line and the defensive safeties. There are typically three to four linebackers in a defensive formation and they usually make the majority of the tackles on the team. Linebackers can also drop back in pass coverage (usually covering the tight end) and they can also rush the quarterback ("blitz") to try to sack him or cause him to hurry his pass so it falls incomplete.
  • Linebackers usually have a combination of strength, size, and quickness. A good linebacker is a sure tackler and has the ability to "read" the play to see whether it is a run (in which case they move towards the ball carrier to try to make the tackle) or pass (in which case they either rush the quarterback or drop back to cover receivers going downfield).
  • Safety: There are usually two safeties in the defensive backfield: a "strong" safety, who generally covers the tight end on pass plays (he is called the strong safety because he lines up on the side of the offensive line with the tight end, or the "strong" side of the line) and helps the defensive line and linebackers stop running plays, and a "free" or "weak" safety, who lines up against the "weak" side of the offensive line (the side without the tight end) and is free to roam the field, assisting the cornerbacks and linebackers in pass coverage and providing the last line of defense on running plays.
  • Cornerback: There are usually two cornerbacks, one on each side of the field. Cornerbacks line up opposite the offensive team's wide receivers and cover them on pass players either in man-to-man coverage (covering a single receiver) or zone (staying in a particular area and releasing the wide receiver to coverage by a linebacker or safety when he leaves his zone). On running plays to the outside, the cornerback on that side is responsible for keeping the running back from getting outside of his coverage to run down the sidelines, and turning the play back into the middle so that linebackers and safeties can make the tackle.