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Football: Player Positions

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Offensive players lined up in position
Source: Football for Player and Spectator
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Football players tend to be specialized in their roles on the team, especially offensive football players. Some players have managed to play multiple positions on offense and defense even at the professional level, but this rarely happens.

Football player positions on the offense: Offensive Line: The heart of the football offense is made up of the offensive line. The main job of the offensive line is to block for the quarterback and running backs. This sounds simple, but offensive linemen must be prepared for all sorts of stunts and tricks thrown at them from the defense. They must also be able to stand and block for a pass play (pass blocking) or push the defense a certain way to create holes for a run play (run blocking). Offensive linemen run plays and move blocks around to fool the defense in order to keep defenders off of the players with the football. Offensive linemen tend to be big and strong. Without a strong offensive line, the rest of the football team will struggle.

Typical positions of the offensive and defensive teams
Source: Wikimedia, PD

There are five positions that make up the offensive line:

The center - In the middle of the offensive line, the center snaps the football to the quarterback.

Right and left Guard - these are the two offensive linemen on either side of the center.

Right and left Tackle - the two offensive linemen next to the guards.

Tight end: The tight ends line up just outside the Tackles. A football team may have one, two, or no tight ends in the game at a given time. Tight ends are combination offensive linemen and receivers. They often help block just like the O-line, but they also go out for passes. Tight ends need to be big, strong, fast, and have good hands.

Wide Receivers: These football players line up on or near the line of scrimmage, but usually far away from where the ball is placed. These players main job is to get open and catch passes. The main skill of wide receivers is the ability to catch the football and speed. Some wide receivers are small and exceptionally fast, while other wide receivers are fast, but taller and use their size and height to catch the football over defenders.

Running Backs: These football players line up in the backfield. Their main job is to carry the football, but running backs also need to block during pass plays. Full backs are a type of running back whose main job is to block. They usually run in front and block for another running back that is carrying the football. Running backs are usually strong, fast, and able to see the field and quickly cut toward openings in the defense. Running backs also are receivers and often catch several passes during a football game.

Quarterback: The quarterback is the player who gets the ball from the center and runs the play. The quarterback may run with the ball, hand it off to a running back, or pass the football to a receiver. Quarterbacks need to be good passers, be able to see the field, read the defense, and make good decisions quickly.

Football player positions on the defense:

Football teams run all sorts of defensive schemes and formations. Defensive players must be able to react to the offense and play both the run and the pass. On any given play, a defender may have a different job, but we will describe the typical positions and defensive football players.

Defensive Line: The make up of the defensive line can change from football team to football team as well as from play to play. The defensive line plays at the line of scrimmage just opposite the offensive line. Their main job is to stop the surge of the offensive linemen on a rushing play and to get to the passer on a pass play. There are usually three to five players on a defensive line including:

Nose Guard: A defensive lineman that plays at the center of the D-line right at the ball. The nose guard is a big, strong player who can clog up the middle and make it hard for the offensive team to run the ball.

Defensive Tackles: Similar to the nose guard (or instead of the nose guard), these football players are the inside force of the defensive line.

Defensive Ends: These football players play outside the tackles. Their main job is to rush the passer and to keep any rushing plays contained from getting outside. These players are big and strong, but also fast so they can get around the outside and to the quarterback.

Linebackers: The linebackers make up the next line of defense. Linebackers are usually the main tacklers on the defense. They plug holes in the defensive line when rushers try to get through. They also do some pass coverage of running backs and tight ends. Some teams use three linebackers and some four. There is usually a middle linebacker who calls out defensive formations and plays depending on the offensive set up. Linebackers must be fast and good tacklers.

Cornerbacks: These football players cover the wide receivers and try to prevent them from catching a pass. They also help out on run plays that get passed the linebackers.

Safety: Safeties are there to prevent the big play. At least one safety tries to stay behind the wide receivers if they should pass the cornerbacks. Safeties also help the linebackers out on run plays.

Football player positions on the special teams:

Special teams is an oft overlooked, but very important part of winning football games. Special teams play on kick-offs, punts, extra points, and field goals.

Punter: The punter is the kicker who kicks punts. A good punt will be long and high to allow for the tacklers to get downfield. A good punter will also be able to control his distance and to stop the ball inside the 20 yard line.

Field Goal kicker: This player kicks field goals and extra points. Accuracy is key here. This football player usually kicks the kick-off as well where distance is the main goal.

Place Holder: The player that holds the ball for the field goal kicker.

Long Snapper: The center who snaps the ball to the punter. This is a special skill and is often not the same player as the center.

More Football Links:

Football Rules
Football Scoring
Timing and the Clock
The Football Down
The Field
Referee Signals
Football Officials
Violations that Occur Pre-Snap
Violations During Play
Rules for Player Safety
Player Positions
Running Back
Offensive Line
Defensive Line
The Secondary
Football Strategy
Offense Basics
Offensive Formations
Passing Routes
Defense Basics
Defensive Formations
Special Teams

How to...
Catching a Football
Throwing a Football
How to Punt a Football
How to Kick a Field Goal

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