The Tight End (te) is a position in American 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, they are eligible receivers adept enough to warrant a defense's attention when running pass patterns.
Because of the hybrid nature of the position, the tight end's role in any given offense depends on the tactical preferences and philosophy of the head coach. In some systems, the tight end will merely act as a sixth offensive lineman rarely going out for passes. Other systems utilize the tight end primarily as a receiver, frequently taking advantage of the tight end's size to create mismatches in the defensive secondary. Many coaches will often have one tight end who specializes in blocking in running situations while utilizing a better pass catching tight end in obvious passing situations.
Offensive formations may have between zero and three tight ends at one time. If a wide receiver is present in a formation, but outside the tight end, the wide receiver must be positioned behind the line of scrimmage (see picture below). If two tight ends are on the same side of the line of scrimmage, one must be behind the line of scrimmage.
In American football and Canadian football, defensive backs (DBs) are the players on the defensive team who take positions somewhat back from the line of scrimmage; they are distinguished from the defensive line players and linebackers, who take positions directly behind or close to the line of scrimmage.
The defensive backs, in turn, generally are classified into several different specialized positions:
- Free Safety - most often the deepest safety
- Strong Safety - the bigger more physical safety, much like a small, quicker linebacker
- Defensive halfback (Canadian football only)
- Cornerback - which include:
- nickel back - the fifth defensive back in some sets, like the Nickel formation
- dime back - the sixth defensive back in some sets, like the Dime formation
- The seventh defensive back, in the exceedingly rare 'quarter' set
- known as a dollar back or a quarter back (not to be confused with the offensive player who throws the ball)
The group of defensive backs is known collectively as the secondary. They most often defend the wide receiver corps; however, at times they may also line up against a tight end or a split out running back. They are usually the smallest, quickest players on the field.
The offensive tackle (OT, T) is a position of the offensive line, left and right. Like other offensive linemen, their job is to block: to physically keep defenders away from the offensive player who has the football and enable him to score a touchdown. The term "tackle" is a vestige of an earlier era of football in which the same players played both offense and defense.
A tackle is the strong position on the offensive line. They power their blocks with quick steps and maneuverability. The tackles are mostly in charge of the outside protection. If the tight end goes out for a pass, the tackle must cover everyone that his guard does not, plus whoever the tight end is not covering. Usually they defend against defensive ends. In the NFL, offensive tackles often measure over 6 ft 4 in (193 cm) and 300 lb (140 kg).
According to Sports Illustrated football journalist Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman, offensive tackles consistently achieve the highest scores, relative to the other positional groups, on the Wonderlic Test, with an average of 26. The Wonderlic is taken before the draft to assess each player's aptitude for learning and problem solving; a score of 26 is estimated to correspond with an IQ of 112.
The right tackle (RT) is usually the team's best run blocker. Most running plays are towards the strong side (the side with the tight end) of the offensive line. Consequently the right tackle will face the defending team's best run stoppers. He must be able to gain traction in his blocks so that the running back can find a hole to run through.
The left tackle (LT) is usually the team's best pass blocker. Of the two tackles, the left tackles will often have better footwork and agility than the right tackle in order to counteract the pass rush of defensive ends. Most quarterbacks are right-handed and in order to throw, they stand with their left shoulders facing down field, closer to the line of scrimmage. Thus, they turn their backs to defenders coming from the left side, creating a vulnerable "blind side" that the left tackle must protect. (Conversely, teams with left-handed quarterbacks tend to have their better pass blockers at right tackle for the same reason.)
A 2006 book by Michael Lewis, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, sheds much light on the workings of the left tackle position. The book discusses how the annual salary of left tackles in the NFL skyrocketed in the mid-90's. Premier left tackles are now highly sought after commodities, and are often the second highest paid players on a roster after the quarterback; in the 2013 NFL Draft three of the first four picks were left tackles, and usually at least one left tackle is picked in the first five positions. Recent examples include Eric Fisher (2013, 1st overall pick), Luke Joeckel (2013, 2nd overall pick),Lane Johnson (2013,4th overall pick), Matt Kalil (2012, 4th overall pick), Trent Williams (2010, 4th overall pick), Jake Long (2008, 1st overall pick), and Joe Thomas (2007, 3rd overall pick).
A defensive tackle (abbreviated "DT") is typically the largest and strongest of the defensive players. The defensive tackle typically lines up opposite one of the offensive guards. Depending on a team's individual defensive scheme, a defensive tackle may be called upon to fill several different roles. These roles may include merely holding the point of attack by refusing to be moved, or penetrating a certain gap between offensive linemen to break up a play in the opponent's backfield. If a defensive tackle reads a pass play, his primary responsibility is to pursue the quarterback, or simply knock the pass down at the line if it's within arm's reach. Other responsibilities of the defensive tackle may be to pursue the screen pass or drop into coverage in a zone blitz scheme. In a traditional 4–3 defensive set, there is no nose tackle. Instead there is a left and right defensive tackle. Some teams especially in the NFL do have a nose tackle in this scheme, but most of them do not.
Nose tackle A lone nose tackle in the base 3–4 defensive formation
Nose tackle (also nose guard or middle guard) is a defensive alignment position for a defensive lineman. In the 3–4 defensive scheme the sole defensive tackle is referred to as the nose tackle. The nose tackle aligns across the line of scrimmage from the offense's center before the play begins in the "0-technique" position. In this position, frequently taking on the center and at least one if not both of the guards, the nose tackle is considered to be the most physically demanding position in football. In five-linemen situations, such as a goal-line formation, the nose guard is the innermost lineman, flanked on either side by a defensive tackle ordefensive end. According to Pat Kirwan, a traditional 3–4 defense demands "a massive man who can clog up the middle," while a 4–3 defense is looking for "a nose tackle who relies on quickness to penetrate and move along the front."
Typical 3–4 nose tackles are "big wide bodies who can hold the point of attack and force double teams by the guard and center." They are usually the heaviest players on the roster, with weights ranging from 325 to 375 pounds (147 to 170 kg). Also, height is critical, as they are supposed to get "under" the offensive line, which means ideal 3–4 nose tackles are no taller than 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m).] Recent examples of such nose tackles include Jamal Williams, Casey Hampton, andVince Wilfork. Rather uncommon are taller nose tackles, such as Ted Washington and Kris Jenkins, both 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) tall.
In some 4–3 defensive set, the nose tackle is one of two defensive tackles. Some teams especially in the NFL do have a nose tackle in the 4–3 defensive set, which lines up against the opposing center and very likely the weak-side or pulling guard. In a 4–3 defensive set, nose tackles are rather quick and supposed to "shoot the 'A gap' and beat the center and very likely the weak-side or pulling guard into the backfield." Height is not as important, and their weight is closer to 300 pounds (136 kg).
The terms "nose guard" or "middle guard" were more commonly used with the five-man defensive line of the older 5-2 defense. Effective against most plays of the day, but with a weakness to the inside short pass, the 5–2 was phased out of the pro game in the late 1950s. In the 4-3 defense, the upright middle linebacker replaced the middle guard. The nose guard is also used in a 50 read defense. In this defense there is a nose guard, two defensive tackles, and two outside linebackers who can play on the line of scrimmage or off the line of scrimmage in a two point stance. The nose guard lines up head up on the center about six to eighteen inches off the ball. In a reading 50 defense, the nose guard's key is to read the offensive center to the ball. In run away, the nose guard's job is to shed the blocker and pursue down the line of scrimmage, taking an angle of pursuit. The primary responsibility of the nose tackle in this scheme is to absorb multiple blockers so that other players in the defensive front can attack ball carriers and rush the quarterback.
In American and Canadian football, a guard (G) is a player who lines up between the center and the tackles on the offensive line of a football team.
The guard's job is to protect the quarterback from the incoming defensive line and linebackers during pass plays, as well as creating openings (holes) for the running backs to head through. Guards perform speed blocking and "pulling"—sprinting out in front of a running back in order to block for him. Guards are automatically considered ineligible receivers, so they cannot intentionally touch a forward pass, unless it is to recover a fumble or is first touched by a defender or eligible receiver.
Right guards (RG) is the term for the guards on the right of the offensive line, while left guards (LG) are on the left side. Guards are to the right or left of the center.
In American football, each team has eleven 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 unlimited 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 team with the ball, who 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 special teams (who play in kicking situations). Within those platoons, various specific positions exist depending on what the player's main job is
In American football, the offense is the side which is in possession of the ball. It is their job to advance the ball towards the opponent's end zone to score points. Broadly speaking, the eleven players of the offense are broken into two groups: the five offensive linemen, whose primary job is to block, and the six backs and receivers whose primary job is advance the ball by means of either running with the ball or passing it. The backs and receivers are also commonly known as skill position players or as eligible ball carriers (offensive linemen are not normally eligible to advance the ball during each play).
The organization of the offense is strictly mandated by the rules; there must be at least seven players on the line of scrimmage and no more than four players (known collectively as "backs") behind it on every play. 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"). The remaining players (known as "interior linemen") are considered "ineligible", and may only block. 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.
Offensive line.The offensive line (on left, in orange shirts) consists of a center (with ball in hand ready to snap) two guards on either side of him, and two tackles.
The offensive line is primarily responsible for blocking. 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, or when a player who is normally an offensive lineman takes a different position on the field. The offensive line consists of:
Center (C)The center is the player who begins the play from scrimmage by snapping the ball to a back. As the name suggests, the center usually plays in the middle of the offensive line, though some teams may employ an unbalanced line where the center is offset to one side or another. Like all offensive lineman, the center has the responsibility to block defensive players. The center often also has the responsibility to call out blocking assignments and make last second adjustments depending on the defensive alignment.Offensive guard (G)Two guards line up directly on either side of the center. Like all interior linemen, their function is to block on both running and passing plays. On some plays, rather than blocking straight ahead, a guard will "pull", whereby the guard comes out of his position in line to lead block for a ball carrier, on plays known as "traps" (for inside runs), or "sweeps" (for outside runs), or "screens" (for passing plays)Offensive tackle (T)Two tackles play outside of the guards. Their role is primarily to block on both running and passing plays. The area from one tackle to the other is an area of "close line play" in which blocks from behind, which are prohibited elsewhere on the field, are allowed. For a right-handed quarterback, the left tackle is charged with protecting the quarterback from being hit from behind (known as his "blind side"), and this is usually the most skilled player on the offensive line. Like a guard, the tackle may have to "pull," on a running play, when there is a tight end on his side.Backs and receivers Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback #14 Anthony Morelli hands the ball off to his running back #33 Austin Scott in their 2007 season opener.
The six backs and receivers are those that line up outside or behind the offensive line. There are four main positions in this set of players:
Quarterback (QB)The quarterback is the player who receives the ball from the center to start the play. The most important position on the offensive side, the quarterback is usually responsible for receiving the play from the coaches on the sideline and communicating the play to the other offensive players in the huddle. The quarterback may need to make changes to the play at the line of scrimmage (known as an "audible"), depending on the defensive alignment. At the start of the play, the quarterback may be lined up in one of three positions. If he is positioned directly in contact with the center, and receives the ball via direct hand-to-hand pass, he is said to be "under center". If he is lined up some distance behind the center, he is said to be "in the shotgun". He can also be in between. This is called a "pistol" formation. Upon receiving the snap, the quarterback has three basic options to advance the ball. He may run the ball himself, he may hand it to another eligible ball carrier to run with it, or he may execute a forward pass to a player downfield.Running back (RB)Running backs are players who line up behind the offensive line, who are in position to receive the ball from the quarterback and execute a rushing play. Anywhere from one to three running backs may be utilized on a play (or even none, a situation typically known as an "empty backfield"). Depending on where they line up, and what role they have, running backs come in several varieties. The "tailback" (or sometimes the "halfback", though this term is somewhat archaic) is often a team's primary ball carrier on rushing plays. They may also catch passes, often acting as a "checkdown" or "safety valve" when all other receivers on a pass play are covered. The "fullback" is often larger and stronger than the tailback, and acts primarily as a blocker, though the fullback may also be used for catching passes or for rushing as a tailback does. Fullbacks often line up closer to the line of scrimmage than tailbacks do, so they may block for them. A "wingback" or a "slotback" is a term for a running back who lines up behind the line of scrimmage outside the tackle or tight end on the side where positioned. Slotbacks are usually only found in certain offensive alignments, such as the flexbone formation. A similar position, known as the H-back, is actually considered a modification of the normal tight end position (see below).Wide receiver (WR)A wide receiver (#87, in white) begins a play in the flanker positionThe wide receivers are pass-catching specialists. Their main job is to run pass routes and get open for a pass, although they are occasionally called on to block. Wide receivers generally line up split "wide" near the sidelines at the start of the play. Wide receivers, like running backs, come in different varieties depending on exactly where they line up. A wide receiver who is directly on the line of scrimmage is called a "split end", and is counted among the seven required players on the line of scrimmage. A wide receiver who lines up behind the line (and thus counts as one of the four backs) is called the "flanker". A wide receiver who lines up between the outermost wide receiver and the offensive line is said to be "in the slot" and is called the "slot receiver".Tight end (TE)Tight ends play on either side of, and directly next to, the tackles. Tight ends are considered hybrid players, something between a wide receiver and an offensive lineman. Because they play next to the other offensive lineman, they are frequently called on to block, especially on running plays. However, because they are eligible receivers, they may also catch passes. The position known as the H-back is a tight end who lines up behind the line of scrimmage, and is thus counted as one of the four "backs", but otherwise his role is similar to that of other tight ends.
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 which 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, sometimes without any running backs.
The defensive team or defense is the team that begins a play from scrimmage not in possession of the ball. The object of the defensive team is to prevent the other team from scoring. The defense accomplishes this by forcing the offense to turn the ball over, either by preventing them from achieving a first down and forcing a punt, or by forcing the offense to fumble or throw an interception.
Unlike the offensive team, the rules 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, and several individual positions.
Defensive line.The four defensive linemen (in red) have their hands on the ground in a "three point stance".
Like their offensive counterparts, defensive linemen line up directly on the line of scrimmage, close to the ball. There are two positions usually considered part of the defensive line:
Defensive tackle (DT);Sometimes called a defensive guard, defensive tackles play at the center of the defensive line. Their function is to rush the passer (if they can get past the offensive linemen blocking them), and stop running plays directed at the middle of the line of scrimmage. A defensive tackle who lines up directly across from the ball (and therefore is almost nose-to-nose with the offense's center) is often called a nose tackle or nose guard. The nose tackle is most common in the 3-4 defense. Most defensive sets have one or two defensive tackles.Defensive end (DE)The two defensive ends play next to the defensive tackles, at the edges of the defensive line. Their function is to attack the passer or stop offensive runs to the outer edges of the line of scrimmage (most often referred to as "containment"). The faster of the two is usually placed on the right side of the defensive line (quarterback's left) because that is a right-handed quarterback's blind side.
Often, though not always, a defensive lineman will have his "hand(s) on the ground," in a three- or four-point stance before the ball is snapped; this distinguishes his pre-snap stance from a linebacker, who begins in a two-point stance (i.e. without a hand touching the ground).
Linebackers.This defense (in white) is in a base 4-3 set. Just behind the four defensive linemen (whose hands are on the ground) are three linebackers (numbers 55, 3 &16), and further back are two safeties (numbers 24 & 44). Out-of-frame are the two cornerbacks.
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.
Middle linebacker (MLB)Sometimes called the "inside linebacker" (especially in a 3-4 defense), and known colloquially as the "Mike" linebacker, the middle linebacker is often known as the "quarterback of the defense", as they are frequently the primary defensive play callers and must react to a wide variety of situations. Middle linebackers must be capable of stopping running backs who make it past the defensive line, covering pass plays over the middle, and rushing the quarterback on blitz plays.Outside linebacker (OLB)Outside linebackers are given different names depending on their role and the philosophy of the team. Some teams keep their outside linebackers on the same side of the field at all times, and thus they are known as "right outside" (ROLB) and "left outside" (LOLB). Some teams define them by their role; as playing either "strongside" (SLB) or "weakside" (WLB). The strongside, or "Sam", linebacker lines up on the same side as the offensive tight end and often is responsible for covering the tight end or running back on pass plays. The weakside, or "Will", linebacker lines up on the side of the offensive line without a tight end, and is often used to rush, or blitz the quarterback, or may need to cover a running back on pass plays.Defensive backs.Cornerback Tory James gets a read on the offense just prior to the start of play
Defensive backs, also known as the "secondary", play either behind the linebackers or set to the outside, near the sidelines. Defensive backs are primarily used to defend against pass plays, by covering wide receivers and tight ends to prevent them from catching the ball, or to attempt to intercept the pass from the quarterback. Defensive backs 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 complement of defensive backs includes two cornerbacks and two safeties, though specialty defensive backs (nickelbacks and dimebacks) can be brought in in place of linebackers and defensive lineman, when there is need to cover additional pass receivers.
Cornerback (CB)Typically two players primarily cover the wide receivers. Cornerbacks attempt to prevent successful quarterback passes by either swatting the airborne ball away from the receiver or by catching the pass themselves. In rushing situations, their job is to contain the runner, either by directing him back to the middle of the field to be tackled, by tackling him themselves, or by forcing him out of bounds.Safety (S)The safeties are the last line of defense (farthest from the line of scrimmage) and usually help the corners with deep-pass coverage. The strong safety (SS) is usually the larger and stronger of the two, providing extra protection against run plays by standing closer to the line of scrimmage, usually on the strong (tight end) side of the field. The free safety (FS) is usually the smaller and faster of the two, and is usually the deepest player on the defense, providing help on long pass plays.Nickelback and Dimeback.In certain formations, the defense may remove a linebacker or a defensive lineman to bring in extra pass coverage in the form of extra defensive backs. A formation with five defensive backs is often called a "nickel" formation, and the fifth (extra) defensive back is called a "nickelback" after the U.S. nickel coin, a five-cent piece. By extension, a formation with a sixth defensive back is called a "dime package", a 10-cent dime coin being "two nickels (nickelbacks)." Rarely, a team may employ seven or eight defensive backs on certain plays.
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 should be eleven players on the field.) Thus, 3–4 defense will consist 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.A placekicker (Mason Crosby, #2) prepares to kick the ball from the hand of a holder (Jon Ryan, #9)."Special teams" redirects here. For the ice hockey definition of "special teams," see powerplay and short handed.
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 which are unique to the kicking game.
Kicker (K)Also called the "placekicker", he handles kickoffs, extra points, and field goal attempts. All three situations require the kicker to kick the ball off of the ground, either from the hands of a "holder" or off of a "tee". Some teams will employ two kickers: one kicks extra points and field goals, and the other kicks kickoffs and occasionally long field-goal attempts. Most however use a single kicker for both jobs, and rarely, the same player may also punt.Holder (H)Usually positioned 7-8 yards from the line of scrimmage, he holds the ball for the placekicker to kick. The holder is often a backup quarterback or a punter because of their "good hands," feel for the ball and experience taking snaps from the Long Snapper during plays from scrimmage.Long snapper (LS)A specialized center who snaps the ball directly to the holder or punter. This player is usually distinct from the regular center, as the ball often has to be snapped much farther back on kicking plays.Punter (P)Punting requires the player to drop the ball from their hand and kick it from the air. It is done to relinquish possession to the defensive team. Punting is usually only done on fourth down.Kickoff specialist (KOS)Kickoff specialists are exclusively used during kickoffs. Teams employ kickoff specialists if they feel neither their kicker or punter is good enough at kicking off. Due to their specialized nature, they are rare.Punt returner (PR) and Kick returner (KR)Returners are responsible for catching kicked balls (either on kickoffs or punts) and running the ball back. These are usually the fastest players on a team. Teams may use the same player for both positions, or may have a separate returner for punts and for kickoffs. Typically a Running Back, Wide Receiver or Defensive Back.UpbackA blocking back who lines up approximately 1-3 yards behind the line of scrimmage in punting situations. Because the punter plays so far back, the upback frequently makes the line calls and calls for the snap to be received by the punter. Their primary role is to act as the last line of defense for the punter. Upbacks may occasionally receive the snap instead of the punter on fake punts and normally runs the ball but may throw it. The term "upback" may also be used to identify the blocker directly in front of the kickoff return man. This player, usually a back-up running back, is selected for his ability to block well and — if needed — return the kick himself.GunnerA player on kickoffs and punts who specializes in running down the field very quickly in an attempt to tackle the kick returner or the punt returner. They usually line up near the sidelines where there will be fewer blockers and thus allow them to get down the field quickly.JammerJammers try to slow down gunners during punts so that punt returners have more time to return punts.