OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE POSITIONS
This is the football player that starts the majority of the plays on offense. He takes the snap from the Center and directs the play by giving it to another player, passing it or running with it himself. Quarterbacks need to have a strong understanding of the game, including the play that is being called and recognizing and understanding how it is affected by different defensive schemes. It is important that he quickly reads the defense to know what to do with the ball as oftentimes the play is organic and set to develop based on what the defense does. The Quarterback is the only player on a team who has wins and losses attributed to him.
These players must begin each play on the Offensive Line and include:
(a) the Center (in the middle)
(b) two Offensive Guards (one on either side of the Center)
(c) and two Offensive Tackles on the ends
These football players include the Running Backs and all of the different names for them, including halfback, tailback, etc. Their primary function is to run with the ball but they will also catch passes. The fullback will run with the ball also, but more importantly, he has a major role in blocking.
These include the Wide Receivers, whose primary function is to catch forward passes and the Tight End, whose role in the passing game can vary depending on the office and who also has a major role in blocking (he lines up on the offensive line as an extension of the other lineman). They may run the ball as well, but not typically.
These are the players who start the play on the Line of Scrimmage with either one (3-point stance) or two (4-point stance) hands on the ground. They are the first line of defense. There are many different formations and depending on which scheme a defensive coordinator chooses to use (the 3-4 and 4-3 are the most popular) there will be different numbers of defensive linemen (usually 3 or 4) with different positions. These positions consist of two Defensive Ends (DE) (on the outside of the formation) and if one player in the middle, one Nose Tackle (NT) or if two players in the middle, two Defensive Tackles (DT). The primary goal of the Defensive Linemen is to protect against the run on running plays or rushing the passer (attempting to sack/disrupt the quarterback) on passing plays.
These are the players behind the Defensive Linemen in an upright position. They line up about three to five yards behind the line of scrimmage and are the second line of defense. There are many different formations and depending on which scheme a defensive coordinator chooses to use, there will be different numbers of Linebackers with different positions. These positions consist of two Outside Linebackers (OLB) and either one Middle linebacker (MLB) or two Inside Linebackers (ILB), depending on whether there are 3 or 4 linebackers. They are responsible for protecting against the run, rushing the passer and defending against the pass (Coverage). Within each position, these can be further broken down into specifics such as the Sam (strong-side OLB), the Will (weak-side OLB) and the Mike (MLB).
This unit is ultimately held accountable for defending against the pass, but will also have run defense duties. Their exact position on the field varies tremendously, especially for the Cornerbacks and the Free Safety. There are typically four different Defensive Backs on the defense at a time and these include two Cornerbacks (CB), a Strong Safety (SS) and Free Safety (FS). If a fifth player is added for concentrated purposes of preventing pass completions, he is called the Nickel Back. The Cornerbacks’ primary job is to cover wide receivers and they are typically the fastest players on the field. Depending on the scheme, the Free Safety will be the deepest in Coverage (farthest away from the Line of Scrimmage) and will be the last line of defense. The Strong Safety will often play up closer to the Line of Scrimmage in order to match up against the offense’s Tight End and/or become more involved in defending the run. The Strong Safety’s job is to help Cornerbacks cover receivers as well as help the Defensive Line and Linebackers defend against the run.
For more on the individuals who play these positions, See Players by Position.