As The Football Educator stated a while back with Alysen Hargrove’s post on Understanding the many definitions of PENALTY, “Learning is a continuous process and all of us are on our own timelines of understanding and knowledge, especially when it comes to football.” There are those that follow the game as close as an NFL general manager and there are those that are literally just cutting their teeth on what all this fuss is about in the National Football League.
We’ve asked Alysen to continue to present her lesson plan to the NEW football fan (whoever you are) with a look at the ALL-22, or in this case defining every position on the football field.
Breaking Down Positions
You asked for it… a breakdown of positions. I think everyone who understand the game knows the positions, but a lot of times there are multiple names for positions and you may not be able to keep it straight. Hopefully this will help.
Quarterback: QB – Everyone should know this, but he receives the ball after it is snapped on the line of scrimmage from the Center (see below) and will decide how to gain yards (pass, run, hand-off).
Offensive Lineman – aka O-Lineman, or O-Line or OL: You have your lineman. Remember from Penalties 101 (link previous article) you can only have 7 guys on the line at one time, 5 of them are O-Lineman. Of those 5, there are different positions…
Your Center is in the middle, he hikes the ball to the Quarterback (or the Running back in some formations).
Guards are next to the Center and Tackles are on the outside. RG is right guard, RT is right tackle, etc. These guys protect the “pocket” which is the area behind them where the QB is waiting to throw or hand off or run. Sometimes it’s easy to notice if the O-Line is weak because they aren’t giving the QB a lot of time (average time from snap to throw is less than 3 seconds) or helping the RB by creating penetration. These guys are the rock of the team. They are selfless and shy away from the lime light, keeping their noses down and getting their jobs done.
Receivers: TE – Tight End or WR – Wide Receivers. These guys run “routes” which are pre-designed plays and where the QB will know they are supposed to be so he can throw the ball with precision. There can only be two of eligible receivers on the line of scrimmage at the time the ball is snapped. Depending on the formation they will go on the same side, or different sides, close together or far apart, that’s the beauty of having a playbook. Tons of plays/formations to chose from. But, there are other receivers or other ball carriers depending on the play called. Some are “in motion” and running from one side to the other for various reasons. The difference between TE and WR is that TE usually line up next to the O-Line and can also block or receive.
Backs: RB – Running Back (aka tailback) or FB – Fullback. Running Backs are usually lined up behind or next to the QB at the snap or sometimes in motion depending on the formation. The tailback is usually the primary ball carrier but can obviously be a receiver if the QB needs it. Full Backs are generally larger guys who can push through the line harder and gain shorter yardage (like on 4th and 1) or block or receiver. Fullbacks are mainly used in the current style of football as blockers.
Defensive Lineman: DT – Defensive Tackle – These guys line up in the middle of the defensive line. DE – Defensive Ends – line up on the outside. These are guys who generally have more speed and can get the QB quicker for a SACK or to stop the RUN quicker.
Linebackers: OLB (Outside Linebacker) and MLB (Middle Linebacker). Wherever they play are distinguished by their location, Strong, Weak or Middle. Those first letters are also given a name, Sam, Will, Mike. So if you hear someone say he’s a Sam Linebacker, he’s a Strong Side LB. Their purpose varies on the play, but they either stop the run (RB), rush the passer (QB), The weak OLB or Will OLB is usually lined up on the side where there is no Tight End and is used to blitz the QB, drop into coverage or play the run.
The Backs (or the backfield): CB (cornerback) or S (Safety). The CBs cover the WRs. If a WR is in motion, he follows the WR. If a WR is on the line, that CB is on the line. The Safeties are litterally the last line of defense. They help the CBs on long pass coverage or stop the runs,etc. There are names for the safeties – Strong Safety (usually the strong of the two) and Free Safety (usually the faster of the two).
- Kicker aka placekicker – He handles PAT (points after touchdowns or extra points), FG (field goals) and Kick offs (beginning of game and 2nd half and after TDs and FGs).
- Holder – He receives the ball from the center and holds the ball during PATs and FGs. Usually a backup QB or a Punter.
- Punter – He punts the ball on fourth downs when there is no chance to score.
- Long Snapper – The Center usually snaps for FGs or PAT, but in some cases the snap is longer and needs to get directly to the kicker or punter.
- Punt Returner/Kick Returner – Usually the fastest guy on the team (can be from any other positions, or specialized for only returns) and catches the ball on a kick-off or punt and runs it back for as much yardage as possible.
Hopefully this helps visualize the game and clarifies some of the multiple names for positions.
Tweet any questions @alysen11. Make sure to check us out every Sunday 8-10am MT on The Football Educator (Mile High Sports Radio) or get the podcasts on iTunes.