Nickelback (American football)

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A nickel defense with three cornerbacks, lined up against an offense playing three wide receivers NickelbackFB.svg
A nickel defense with three cornerbacks, lined up against an offense playing three wide receivers

In American football, a nickelback is a cornerback or safety who serves as the additional defensive back in a nickel defense. A base defense consists of two cornerbacks and two safeties, making the nickelback the fifth defensive back on the field, thus tying the name of the position to the name of the North American 5-cent piece.

Usually the nickelback will take the place of a linebacker, so if the team had been in a 4–3 formation, the four defensive linemen would remain, alongside only two linebackers and now-five defensive backs, creating a 4-2-5 formation. However, some teams will replace a lineman rather than a linebacker, creating a three linemen, three linebacker and five defensive back alignment, a 3–3–5 formation. If an offensive team always uses three or more wide receivers, a defense may turn to a nickel defense for their base package on most plays. Usually extra defensive backs, such as a nickelback, are substituted into the defense in situations where the opposing offense is likely to attempt a forward pass, such as 3rd-and-long, or when extra receivers are substituted into the opposing offense.

The nickelback is the third cornerback or safety on the depth chart. The nickelback is generally not considered a starting position because the starting formations for most defenses are either a 3-4 or a 4-3, in which only two cornerbacks and two safeties are utilized. Defensive formations with three or more cornerbacks (or three safeties) are used often enough that a nickelback will usually see moderate playing time (particularly in the modern, pass-oriented NFL) as well as subbing in for the starting corners. In certain packages (or if injuries depleted the depth chart), smaller free safeties or strong safeties can fill the spot of nickelback, as well. Their role may become that of a pass rusher from outside the box.

In Canadian football, where five defensive backs are considered the norm, the position is known as a defensive halfback.

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)NomenclatureStrategy


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Linebacker Defensive position in American football

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46 defense American football defensive formation

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Dimeback

In American football, a dimeback is a cornerback or safety who serves as the sixth defensive back on defense. The third cornerback or safety on defense is known as a nickelback. The dimeback position is essentially relegated to backup cornerbacks and safeties who do not play starting cornerback or safety positions. Dimebacks are usually fast players because they must be able to keep up on passing plays with 3+ wide receivers.

American football positions Positions in American football

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Nickel defense American football defensive formation

In American football, a nickel defense is any defensive alignment that uses five defensive backs, of whom the fifth is known as a nickelback. The original and most common form of the nickel defense features four down linemen and two linebackers. Because the traditional 4–2 form preserves the defense's ability to stop an opponent's running game, it has remained more popular than its variants, to the extent that even when another formation technically falls within the "nickel" definition, coaches and analysts will refer to it by a more specific designation that conveys more information with equal or greater conciseness.

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3–4 defense American football defensive formation

In American football, the 3–4 defense is a common defensive alignment consisting of three down linemen and four linebackers. It is a called a "base defense" because it is the default defensive alignment used on "base downs". However, defenses will readily switch to other defensive alignments as circumstances change. Alternatively, some defenses use a 4–3 defense.

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In American football, the dime defense is a defensive alignment that uses six defensive backs. It is usually employed in obvious passing situations. The formation usually consists of six defensive backs, usually two safeties, and four cornerbacks, and has either four down linemen and one linebacker, or three down linemen and two linebackers. This formation is used to prevent the offense from completing a medium- to long-range pass play. This may be because the offense's running game is inefficient, time is an issue, or they need a long pass for a first down. It is also used against teams whose pass-to-run ratio predominantly favors pass. The formation, however, is vulnerable to running plays as the formation is missing two linebackers, or a linebacker and a down lineman.