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A wide receiver, also referred to as wideouts or simply receivers, is an offensive position in gridiron football, and is a key player. They get their name because they are split out "wide" (near the sidelines), farthest away from the rest of the team. Wide receivers are among the fastest players on the field. The wide receiver functions as the pass-catching specialist.
The wide receiver's principal role is to catch passes from the quarterback. On passing plays, the receiver attempts to avoid, outmaneuver, or simply outrun defenders (typically cornerbacks or safeties) in the area of his pass route. If the receiver becomes open, or has an unobstructed path to the destination of a catch, he may then become the quarterback's target. Once a pass is thrown in his direction, the receiver's goal is to first catch the ball and then attempt to run downfield. Some receivers are perceived as a deep threat because of their flat-out speed, while others may be possession receivers known for not dropping passes, running crossing routes across the middle of the field, and generally, converting third down situations. A receiver's height also contributes to their expected role; taller receivers tend to play further to the outside and run deep more often, shorter receivers tend to play inside and run more routes underneath the top of the defense.
A wide receiver has two potential roles during running plays. Particularly in the case of draw plays and other trick plays, he may run a pass route with the intent of drawing off defenders. Alternatively, he may block normally for the running back. Well-rounded receivers are noted for blocking defensive backs in support of teammates in addition to their pass-catching abilities; Hines Ward in particular received praise for his blocking abilities while also becoming the Pittsburgh Steelers all-time leading receiver and one of 13 in NFL history with at least 1,000 receptions.
Sometimes wide receivers are used to run the ball, usually in some form of an end-around or reverse. This can be effective because the defense usually does not expect them to be the ball carrier on running plays. For example, wide receiver Jerry Rice rushed the ball 87 times for 645 yards and 10 touchdowns in his 20 NFL seasons.
In even rarer cases, receivers may pass the ball as part of a trick play. A receiver can legally pass the ball so long as they receive the ball behind the line of scrimmage, in the form of a handoff or backwards lateral. This sort of trick play is often employed with a receiver who has past experience playing quarterback at a lower level, such as high school, or sometimes, college. Antwaan Randle El threw a touchdown pass at the wide receiver position in Super Bowl XL playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks. Antwaan Randle El played quarterback for four years at Indiana University.
Wide receivers often also serve on special teams as kick returners or punt returners, as gunners on kick coverage teams, or as part of the hands team during onside kicks.
Finally, on errant passes, receivers must frequently play a defensive role by attempting to prevent an interception. If a pass is intercepted, receivers must use their speed to chase down and tackle the ball carrier to prevent him from returning the ball for a long gain or a touchdown.
In the NFL, wide receivers can use the numbers 10–19 and 80–89.
The wide receiver grew out of a position known as the end. Originally, the ends played on the offensive line, immediately next to the tackles. By the rules governing the forward pass, ends (positioned at the end of the line of scrimmage) and backs (positioned behind the line of scrimmage) are eligible receivers. Most early football teams used the ends as receivers sparingly, as their position often left them in heavy traffic with many defenders around. By the 1930s, some teams were experimenting with moving one end far out near the sideline, to make them more open to receive passes. These split ends became the prototype for the modern wide receiver. Don Hutson, who played college football at Alabama and professionally with the Green Bay Packers, was the first player to exploit the potentials of the split end position, and is widely credited as inventing the wide receiver position.
As the passing game evolved, a second wide receiver position was added. While it is possible to move the opposite end out wide for a second split end position, most teams preferred to leave that end in close to provide extra blocking protection on the quarterback's blind side. That player was essentially playing the modern day tight end position. Instead of moving the blind side end out, one of the three running backs was split wide instead, creating the flanker position. The flanker lined up off the line of scrimmage like a running back or quarterback, but split outside like a split end. Lining up behind the line of scrimmage gave flankers some advantages. Flankers have more "space" between themselves and a pressing defensive back, so cornerbacks can not as easily "jam" them at the line of scrimmage. This is in addition to being eligible for motion plays, allowing for the flanker to move laterally before and during the snap. Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch is one of the earliest players to successfully exploit the potentials of the flanker position as a member of the Los Angeles Rams during the 1950s.
While some teams did experiment with more than two wide receivers as a gimmick or trick play, most teams used the pro set as the standard set of offensive personnel (a flanker, a split end, a half back, a full back, and a tight end). An early innovator, coach Sid Gillman used 3+ wide receiver sets as early as the 1960s. In sets that have three, four, or five wide receivers, extra receivers are typically called slot receivers, as they play in the "slot" (open space) between the furthest receiver and the offensive line. In most situations, the slot receiver lines up off the line of scrimmage like the flanker position. The first use of a slot receiver is often credited to Al Davis, a Gillman assistant who took the concept with him as a coach of the 1960s Oakland Raiders. Other members of the Gillman coaching tree, including Don Coryell and John Madden, brought these progressive offensive ideas along with them into the 1970s and early 1980s, but it was not until the 1990s that teams began to reliably use three or more wide receivers, notably the "run and shoot" offense popularized by the Houston Cougars of the NCAA and the Houston Oilers of the NFL, and the "K Gun" offense used by the Buffalo Bills. Charlie Joiner, a member of the "Air Coryell" San Diego Chargers teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s, was the first "slot receiver" to be his team's primary receiver.
While the timeline differs for individual each player, wide receivers generally hit their peak between the ages of 23 and 30. A study conducted by Apex Fantasy Leagues concluded that about 80 percent of peak seasons fall within that range.
While the general fan base and most commentators use the generic term wide receiver for all such players, specific names exist for most receiver positions:
In gridiron football, not all players on offense are entitled to receive a forward pass. Only an eligible pass receiver may legally catch a forward pass, and only an eligible receiver may advance beyond the neutral zone if a forward pass crosses into the neutral zone. If the pass is received by a non-eligible receiver, it is "illegal touching". If an ineligible receiver is beyond the neutral zone when a forward pass crossing the neutral zone is thrown, a foul of "ineligible receiver downfield" is called. Each league has slightly different rules regarding who is considered an eligible receiver.
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, 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.
The tight end (TE) is a position in American football, arena football, and formerly Canadian football, on the offense. The tight end is often seen as 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.
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.
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 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.
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".
In American football each team has 11 players on the field at one time. The specific role that a player takes on the field is called their position. Under the modern rules of American football, teams are allowed free substitutions; that is, teams may change any number of players after any play. This has resulted in the development of three "platoons" of players: the offense, the defense, and the special teams. Within those platoons, various specific positions exist depending on what each player's main job is.
Slotback, sometimes referred to as an A-back or, especially in the United States, slot receiver, is a position in gridiron football. The "slot" is the area between the last offensive lineman on either side of the center and the wide receiver on that side. A player who lines up between those two players and behind the line of scrimmage is a slotback. The position is a fixture of Canadian football and indoor football, but is also used in American football. The slotback is similar to the wide receiver but also has many of the same traits as a running back or tight end; a slotback lines up closer to the offensive line and often farther back than a wide receiver.
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.
A fullback (FB) is a position known as the best position in the game of football, in the offensive backfield in gridiron football, and is one of the two running back positions along with the halfback. Typically, fullbacks are larger than halfback and in most offensive schemes their duties are split between 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:
A play calling system in American football is the specific language and methods used to call offensive plays.
|Positions in American football and Canadian football|
|Offense (Skill position)||Defense||Special teams|
|Linemen||Guard, Tackle, Center||Linemen||Tackle, End||Kicking players||Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist|
|Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System)||Linebacker||Snapping||Long snapper, Holder|
|Backs||Halfback/Tailback (Triple-threat), 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|