An H-back is an offensive position in American football. The H-back lines up similarly to a tight end, but is "set back" from the line of scrimmage, and is thus counted as one of the four "backs" in the offensive formation. The H-back, while similar in name, should not be confused with "halfback" or "running back", which are used to denote a separate, primary ball-carrying backfield position. The position was made notable in the National Football League (NFL) by the Washington Redskins under head coach Joe Gibbs, who ran a two tight end system. The position was named F-back when used later in Norv Turner's offensive system. The position is similar to that of a slotback.
The name H-back can be confusing, because the H-back rarely carries the ball as running backs do; instead, the H-back plays a position similar to a tight end. The name stems from the playbook notation in use at the time the position was developed. Under the system used by Joe Gibbs – and indeed, by many teams then as now – the standard set of eligible ball carriers consisted of three receivers and three backs. The three receivers, the split end, tight end, and flanker, were labeled "X", "Y", and "Z" on play diagrams. The three backs, quarterback, halfback, and fullback, were labeled "Q", "H", and "F". Gibbs' innovation was to move one of the backs up near the line of scrimmage, to act as an extra tight end. At the time the system was developed, the best running back on the Redskins' roster was John Riggins, a fullback. Since Riggins and quarterback Joe Theismann were vital to the team at the time, the lesser used halfback was removed and replaced with an extra tight end. The standard notation was retained; however, this new tight end was still assigned the "H" symbol on play diagrams, hence the name "H-back" for the position. Like a flanker, the H-back was set back from the line of scrimmage, and the role was often played by an athletic tight end. The H-back often has to be versatile; as a backfield member, they can be lined up to act as a lead blocker on running plays. However, the H-back also fills the roles of a traditional tight end, catching passes over the middle and pass blocking when needed.
In the 1980s–2000s Washington Redskins offensive system, the H-back is asked to block, pass protect, and run receiving routes from multiple sets. This compares to the standard tight end which was used primarily as an extra blocker on Washington offensive line. The H-back can line up in the backfield, on the line, or is put into motion. Because of the complexity of the position, a thorough knowledge of the offense is desirable in an H-back. The position, indeed the entire two tight end offense, was created by Gibbs as a direct response to Lawrence Taylor, the New York Giants' dominant linebacker.As Gibbs stated, "We had to try in some way have a special game plan just for Lawrence Taylor. Now you didn't do that very often in this league but I think he's one person that we learned the lesson the hard way. We lost ball games."
Offensive formations that utilize the H-back are not commonly used in professional football today. The most recent examples of a professional football team employing the H-back are the Cleveland Browns from 2001 to 2004 under head coach Butch Davis, and the Chicago Bears in 2010 under offensive coordinator Mike Martz, where Brandon Manumaleuna was featured in the role. The Cincinnati Bengals, under coach Marvin Lewis, have used Ryan Hewitt, and at times Jake Fisher, as H-backs since 2014. Aaron Hernandez formerly of the New England Patriots, while a nominal tight end, was often featured as an H-back/wide receiver when Rob Gronkowski was also in the game. Chris Cooley also flourished in his role as an H-back in the offense run by the Washington Redskins during the Joe Gibbs era.
Teams at high school and collegiate levels sometimes utilize H-back formations, but usually only if they have exceptional talent and depth at the tight end and fullback positions. For example, Brigham Young University is traditionally strong at the tight end position, and the Cougars frequently use H-back formations to put their most talented players on the field at one time. During their record-breaking 1996 season, BYU used H-back formations almost every down to allow ample playing time for both Chad Lewis and Itula Mili. Even more recently, the Wisconsin Badgers have used the H-back position to great effect with Owen Daniels, Travis Beckum, Garrett Graham, and Lance Kendricks, all of whom have played in the NFL. The 2011 Houston Texans played two of these former Wisconsin Badger H-backs, Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham, as tight ends and converted their former tight end James Casey (Rice University) to an H-back. Additionally, the Oregon Ducks have been experimenting with dual H-back sets as recently as the 2011 BCS Championship game. Charles Clay is a current example of an H-back. Former quarterback Braxton Miller of Ohio State has also been featured in the position recently, running jet sweeps and passing routes out of high-versatility formations.
The quarterback, colloquially known as the "signal caller", is a position in gridiron football. Quarterbacks are members of the offensive platoon and mostly line up directly behind the offensive line. In modern American football, the quarterback is usually considered the leader of the offense, and is often responsible for calling the play in the huddle. The quarterback also touches the ball on almost every offensive play, and is the offensive player that almost always throws forward passes. When the QB is tackled behind the line of scrimmage, it is called a sack.
The shotgun formation is a formation used by the offensive team in gridiron football mainly for passing plays, although some teams use it as their base formation. Instead of the quarterback receiving the snap from center at the line of scrimmage, in the shotgun he stands farther back, often five to seven yards off the line. Sometimes the quarterback will have a back on one or both sides before the snap, while other times he will be the lone player in the backfield with everyone spread out as receivers.
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.
A wide receiver, also referred to as a wideout, formerly a split end, is a ball-receiver in gridiron football. A key position, it gets its name from the player being split out "wide", farthest away from the rest of the offensive formation.
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.
In American football, the pro set or split backs formation is a formation that was commonly used as a "base" set by professional and amateur teams. The "pro set" formation featured an offensive backfield that deployed two running backs aligned side-by-side instead of one in front of the other as in traditional I-formation sets. It was an outgrowth of the three running back T-formation, with the third running back in the T becoming a permanent flanker, now referred to as a wide receiver.
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.
The I formation is one of the most common offensive formations in American football. The I formation draws its name from the vertical alignment of quarterback, fullback, and running back, particularly when contrasted with the same players' alignments in the T formation.
A sweep is a running play in American football where a running back takes a pitch or handoff from the quarterback and starts running parallel to the line of scrimmage, allowing for the offensive linemen and fullback to get in front of him to block defenders before he turns upfield. The play is run farther outside than an off tackle play. Variants of the sweep involve the quarterback or a wide receiver running with the ball, rather than a running back.
Single set back is an offensive base formation in American Football which requires only one running back lined up about five yards behind the quarterback. There are many variations on single back formations including two tight ends and two wide receivers, one tight end/three wide receivers, etc. The running back can line up directly behind the quarterback or offset either the weak side or the strong side.
In American football, a T formation is a formation used by the offensive team in which three running backs line up in a row about five yards behind the quarterback, forming the shape of a "T".
A halfback (HB) is an offensive position in American football, whose duties involve lining up in the backfield and carrying the ball on most rushing plays, i.e. a running back. When the principal ball carrier lines up deep in the backfield, and especially when that player is placed behind another player, as in the I formation, that player is instead referred to as a tailback.
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 defense, and the so-called 'special teams'. Within these three separate "platoons", various positions exist depending on the job that player is doing.
Safety, historically known as a safetyman, is a position in gridiron football played by a member of the defense. The safeties are defensive backs who line up from ten to fifteen yards from the line of scrimmage who can play as linebackers or deep as normal safeties. There are two variations of the position in a typical American formation: the free safety (FS) and the strong safety (SS). Their duties depend on the defensive scheme. The defensive responsibilities of the safety and cornerback usually involve pass coverage towards the middle and sidelines of the field, respectively. While American (11-player) formations generally use two safeties, Canadian (12-player) formations generally have one safety and two defensive halfbacks, a position not used in the American game. As professional and college football have become more focused on the passing game, safeties have become more involved in covering the eligible pass receivers.
The triple option is an American football play used to offer several ways to move the football forward on the field of play. The triple option is based on the option run, but uses three players who might run with the ball instead of the two used in a standard option run.
A fullback (FB) is a position in the offensive backfield in gridiron football, and is one of the two running back positions along with the halfback. Fullbacks are typically larger than halfbacks and in most offensive schemes the fullback's duties are split among power running, pass catching, and blocking for both the quarterback and the other running back.
In American football, Air Coryell is the offensive scheme and philosophy developed by former San Diego Chargers coach Don Coryell. The offensive philosophy has been also called the "Coryell offense" or the "vertical offense".
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 players||Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist|
|Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System)||Linebacker||Snapping||Long snapper, Holder|
|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|