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In American football, the specific role that a player takes on the field is referred to as their "position." Under the modern rules of American football, both teams are allowed 11 players on the field at one time and have "unlimited free substitutions," meaning that they may change any number of players during any "dead ball" situation.This has resulted in the development of three task-specific "platoons" of players within any single team: the offense (the team with possession of the ball, which is trying to score), the defense (the team trying to prevent the other team from scoring, and to take the ball from them), and the so-called 'special teams' (who play in all kicking situations). Within these three separate "platoons", various positions exist depending on the jobs that the players are doing.
In American football, the offense is the term used to describe the team that has possession of the ball and is advancing toward the opponent's end zone to score points. The eleven players of the offense can be separated into two main groups: the five offensive linemen, whose primary job is to block opponents and protect their quarterback, and the six backs and receivers, whose primary job is to move the ball down the field by either running with it or passing it.
The organization of the offense is strictly mandated by the rules of the sport: there must be at least seven players on the line of scrimmage and no more than four players (known collectively as "backs") behind it. The only players eligible to handle the ball during a normal play are the backs and the two players on the end of the line (the "ends"). These players make up the "skill positions" and are also referred to as "eligible receivers" or "eligible ball carriers." The remaining players (known as "interior linemen") are "ineligible" to catch forward passes. Within these strictures, however, creative coaches have developed a wide array of offensive formations to take advantage of different player skills and game situations.
The following positions are standard in nearly every game, though different teams will use different arrangements of them, dependent on their individual game plans.
The offensive line is primarily responsible for blocking the defensive line of the opposition, in order to protect their own quarterback. During normal play, offensive linemen do not handle the ball (aside from the snap from center), unless the ball is fumbled by a ball carrier, a pass is deflected, or a player who is normally an offensive lineman takes a different position on the field. The offensive line consists of:
Four backs line up behind the line of scrimmage. Additionally, there are two receivers, one on each end of the line of scrimmage, who line up outside of the interior linemen. There are four main positions in this set of players:
Depending on the style of offense the coaches have designed, the game situation, and the relative skill sets of the players, teams may run formations that contain any number of running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, so long as the mandated "four backs and seven on the line" rule is followed. For many years, the standard set consisted of the quarterback, two running backs (a tailback/halfback and a fullback), two wide receivers (a flanker and a split end) and a tight end. Modern teams show a wide variety of formations, from a "full house" formation with three running backs, two tight ends, and no wide receivers, to "spread" formations featuring four or five wide receivers and either one or no running backs.
The defensive team, simply known as the "defense," is the team that begins a play from scrimmage without possession of the ball. The objective of the defensive team is to prevent the other team from scoring and win possession of the ball for their side. The defense accomplishes this by forcing the offense to turn the ball over by either preventing them from achieving a first down and forcing them to punt, forcing and recovering an offensive fumble, intercepting a pass, or, more rarely, forcing a turnover on downs.
Unlike the offensive team, the rules of the sport do not restrict the defensive team into certain positions. A defensive player may line up anywhere on his side of the line of scrimmage and perform any legal action. Over time, however, defensive roles have become defined into three main sets of players that encompass several individual positions.
Like their offensive counterparts, defensive linemen (also called rushers) line up directly on the line of scrimmage. There are two positions usually considered part of the defensive line:
Defensive linemen will often take a stance with one or both of their hands on the ground before the ball is snapped. These are known as a "three-point stance" and "four-point stance" respectively, and this helps distinguish a defensive lineman from a linebacker, who begins in a two-point stance (i.e. without a hand touching the ground).
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.
Defensive backs, also known as the "secondary", play either behind the linebackers or outside near the sidelines and are primarily used to defend against pass plays. They also act as the last line of defense on running plays and need to be able to make open field tackles, especially when the ball carrier has gotten past the other defenders. A normal defensive line-up includes two cornerbacks and two safeties, though specialty defensive backs (nickelbacks and dime backs) can be brought in in place of linebackers and defensive linemen when there is a need to cover additional receivers.
Defensive formations are often known by a numerical code indicating the number of players at each position. The two most common formations are the 3–4 defense and the 4–3 defense, where the first number refers to the number of defensive linemen, and the second number refers to the number of linebackers (the number of defensive backs can be inferred, since there must be eleven players on the field). Thus, a 3–4 defense consists of three defensive linemen (usually a nose tackle and two defensive ends), four linebackers, and four defensive backs (two cornerbacks, a strong safety, and a free safety)
Special teams are units that are on the field during kicking plays. While many players who appear on offensive or defensive squads also play similar roles on special teams (offensive linemen to block or defensive players to tackle), there are some specialist roles that are unique to the kicking game.
Kicking specialists are in charge of kicking the football. Depending on the type of specialist and the play that was called, the responsibilities of these positions vary.
Canadian football is a sport played in Canada in which two teams of 12 players each compete for territorial control of a field of play 110 yards (101 m) long and 65 yards (59 m) wide attempting to advance a pointed oval-shaped ball into the opposing team's scoring area.
A running back (RB) is a member of the offensive backfield in gridiron football. The primary roles of a running back are to receive handoffs from the quarterback to rush the ball, to line up as a receiver to catch the ball, and block. There are usually one or two running backs on the field for a given play, depending on the offensive formation. A running back may be a halfback, a wingback or a fullback. A running back will sometimes be called a "feature back" if he is the team's starting running back.
In gridiron football, a lineman is a player who specializes in play at the line of scrimmage. The linemen of the team currently in possession of the ball are the offensive line, while linemen on the opposing team are the defensive line. A number of NFL rules specifically address restrictions and requirements for the offensive line, whose job is to help protect the quarterback from getting sacked for a loss, or worse, fumbling. The defensive line is covered by the same rules that apply to all defensive players. Linemen are usually the largest players on the field in both height and weight, since their positions usually require less running and more strength than skill positions.
A linebacker is a playing position in gridiron football. Linebackers are members of the defensive team, and line up approximately three to five yards behind the line of scrimmage and behind the defensive linemen. They represent the "middle ground" of defenders, playing closer to the line of scrimmage than do the defensive backs, but further back than do the defensive linemen. As such, linebackers play a hybrid role and are often the most versatile players on the defensive side of the ball; they can be asked to play roles similar to either a defensive lineman or a defensive back. How a linebacker plays their position depends greatly on the defensive alignment, the philosophy of the coaching staff, and the particular play the offense may call.
A wide receiver (WR), also referred to as a wideout, formerly a split end, is an eligible receiver in gridiron football. A key skill position of the offense, it gets its name from the player being split out "wide", farthest away from the rest of the offensive formation.
The tight end (TE) is a position in American football, arena football, and formerly Canadian football, on the offense. The tight end is often a hybrid position with the characteristics and roles of both an offensive lineman and a wide receiver. Like offensive linemen, they are usually lined up on the offensive line and are large enough to be effective blockers. On the other hand, unlike offensive linemen, they are eligible receivers adept enough to warrant a defense's attention when running pass patterns.
A screen pass is a play in gridiron football consisting of a short pass to a receiver who is protected by a screen of blockers. During a screen pass, a number of things happen concurrently in order to fool the defense into thinking a long pass is being thrown, when in fact the pass is merely a short one, just beyond the defensive linemen. Screens are usually deployed against aggressive defenses that rush the passer. Because screens invite the defense to rush the quarterback, they are designed to leave fewer defensemen behind the rushers to stop the play.
In gridiron football, blitzing is a tactic used by the defense to disrupt pass attempts by the offense. During a blitz, a higher than usual number of defensive players will rush the opposing quarterback, in an attempt either to tackle him or force him to hurry his pass attempt.
This is a glossary of terms used in Canadian football. The Glossary of American football article also covers many terms that are also used in the Canadian version of the game.
Strategy forms a major part of American football. Both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player are given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmaneuver or overpower their opponent in order to win the game.
American football positions have slowly evolved over the history of the sport. From its origins in early rugby football to the modern game, the names and roles of various positions have changed greatly, some positions no longer exist, and others have been created to fill new roles.
The 46 defense is an American football defensive formation, an eight men in the box defense, with six players along the line of scrimmage. There are two players at linebacker depth playing linebacker technique, and then three defensive backs. The 46 defense was originally developed and popularized with the Chicago Bears by their defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who later became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.
A formation in football refers to the position players line up in before the start of a down. There are both offensive and defensive formations and there are many formations in both categories. Sometimes, formations are referred to as packages.
In sports, a starting lineup is an official list of the set of players who will participate in the event when the game begins. The players in the starting lineup are commonly referred to as starters, whereas the others are substitutes or bench players.
A trick play, also known as a gadget play, gimmick play or trickeration, is a play in gridiron football that uses deception and unorthodox tactics to fool the opposing team. A trick play is often risky, offering the potential for a large gain or a touchdown if it is successful, but with the chance of a significant loss of yards or a turnover if not. Trick plays are rarely used not only because of the riskiness, but also to maintain the element of surprise for when they are used.
The flexbone formation It is an offensive formation in American football that includes a quarterback, five offensive linemen, three running backs, and varying numbers of tight ends and wide receivers. The flexbone formation is a predominant turnover formation derived from the wishbone formation and it features a quarterback under center with a fullback lined up directly behind the quarterback. There are two smaller running backs called slotbacks aligned behind the line of scrimmage on each side of the offensive line. The slotbacks are sometimes incorrectly referred to as wingbacks. But in order to be a wingback, there must be a guard, tackle and tight end all on one side of the center on the line of scrimmage and then the wingback off the line of scrimmage.
In American football a play is a close to the ground "plan of action" or "strategy" used to move the ball down the field. A play begins at either the snap from the center or at kickoff. Most commonly plays occur at the snap during a down. These plays range from basic to very intricate. Football players keep a record of these plays in their playbook.
The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.
In American football, a back is a player who plays off of the line of scrimmage. Historically, the term "back" was used to describe multiple positions on offense and defense, although more descriptive and specific position naming is now common. Thus, "back" can refer to positions including:
|Positions in American football and Canadian football|
|Offense (Skill position)||Defense||Special teams|
|Linemen||Guard, Tackle, Center||Linemen||Tackle, End, Edge rusher||Kicking||Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist|
|Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System)||Linebacker||Snapping||Long snapper, Holder|
|Running backs||Halfback/Tailback (Triple-threat, Change of pace), Fullback, H-back, Wingback||Backs||Cornerback, Safety, Halfback, Nickelback, Dimeback||Returning||Punt returner, Kick returner, Jammer, Upman|
|Receivers||Wide receiver (Eligible), Tight end, Slotback, End||Tackling||Gunner, Upback, Utility|
|Formations (List) — Nomenclature — Strategy|