There are 12 players on each side. Here’s the breakdown…
Quarterback – This guy throws the ball. He can also run it but chances are unless he’s Michael Vick, he won’t risk getting pounded by the defense.
Offensive Line – The big boys. These guys line up at the line of scrimmage head-to-head with the defense and protect the quarterback.
- Guards – they do what their title says. They guard. If you look closely at a game this week, check out how the guards stand their ground. They’re like a friggin’ brick wall. Their sole purpose in life is to not let that defense cross that line of scrimmage.
- Tackles – again, these guys go at it, they take their jobs very seriously. They are there to stop anyone from that defensive line to get through. They also make room for one of the backs to get through when they’re running the ball.
- Center – this is the guy that snaps the ball to the quarterback. He also tries his best to let no one get to his man.
Wide Receivers – Tall, lanky (in comparison to everyone else), fast and strong. These guys can leap off the ground like a ballerina at Lincoln Center. Their job is to run down the field and get in a position to catch the ball and get a touchdown.
Tight End – While you may have played this position at your house, I assure you it’s not the same. The tight end can be found at either end of the offensive line. They will either block with the line or carry the ball and run.
Backs (full back, half back, running back) – these bad boys play behind the quarterback. While they can catch the ball, they like to leave that task to the wide receivers. Their job? To run fast and hard while carrying that football. Without. Dropping. It.
Nose guard – this guy goes up against the center. If the center’s job is to not let the defense through, the nose guard’s job is to make sure that the center does a bad job
Defensive tackle – These guys line up with the guards and again, their job is to make it through that line and get their hands on the quarterback (if they do and the QB still has the ball in his hands, do you know what that’s called? A sack!)
Defensive end – these boys remind me of the tight ends. They are fast and strong and they are looking for any leeway their defensive line gives them so that they can break through the line and get to the quarterback.
You will sometimes hear the term “the secondary” when it comes to the defense. They are talking about the guys behind the defensive line. To me, these guys are trimmer than the previous line because their job is to try to get to the players that end up making it through the first line of defense with the ball.
Linebacker – these guys are the multitaskers of the defense depending on what plays they’re running. They can “rush” the passer (can you imagine having a big burly guy just running towards you at a quick pace, that has to be scary for the QB), covering receivers, and defending against the run
This is where things might start to get confusing. You are going to hear terms such as: inside linebacker, middle linebacker, outside linebacker. Let me clear this up for you real quick:
There’s the middle linebacker. You can think of him as the QB of the defense, this is the person that’s going to call the plays on the defensive side. Again, these guys are multitasking. They will put a hurtin’ on the running backs that cross that line with a football in their hands but they can also cover pass plays and if they’re frisky, they’ll go for a sack on the quarterback. My most favoritest middle linebacker is Derrick Brooks. I pink puffy heart him even if he’s retired.
The rest of the line backers? It depends on how they are lining up and on the play. If you just understand that they are linebackers regardless of whether they are called inside, outside or middle, you’re good. For the purposes of this “class” I want to try and keep it simple.
Cornerback – if I played football and I played on the defense, this would be my position! When there’s a passing play, these are the guys covering the wide receivers. A lot of times, they’ll look similar in body type to the wide receivers because they are going to try the same type of moves. Except they’ll be going up to the ball to swat it away and if possible, intercept it
Safety – Okay, okay, okay. So if I could split myself into 2 and played football and played defense, I’d play corner AND safety. These are the guys that bring it to the wide receiver or the running backs. If you’re looking at the formation, they are hanging the furthest back from the line because they are going to try to cover all that back there in case one of the guys makes it through the rest of his team. If Derrick was my favoritest linebacker then, John Lynch is on top of my list of safeties.
- Strong safety – this guy lines up closer to the line and does the above
- Free safety – I totally forgot what I was going to say here because all that’s going through my head right now are the following lyrics “cause I’m free, to do what I want, any ol’ time!” HA!
You might hear the sports announcer use terms like nickel back and dime back. Understand that a lot of times, they are speaking about the same players we just reviewed above, it’s just changed due to a particular play they are running. For example, if there’s an offensive play where the defense feels they need extra coverage (this will usually be the case on a passing play), they might pull out a lineman or linebacker and bring in an extra defensive back. So now you end up with 5 defensive backs. That fifth guy that’s not normally in the line up? They’re gonna call him the nickel back. Get it?
I know, everyone forgets the special teams but these guys can be versatile. Plenty of times, they can be found playing another position on this team. Don’t just look over them.
Kicker – um, do I have to explain this?
Holder – again, I think this speaks for itself (this guy holds the football while the kicker kicks it)
Long snapper – this guy is a center but he is capable of “passing” the ball to the punter (or the holder). If you watch a game, see how the long snapper has, well, a longer ways to throw the ball. This is the difference between the center and the long snapper. Distance and accuracy.
Punter – the punter is required to drop the ball from their hand and kick it. You’ll see this in a fourth down situation (we’ll cover downs after you guys learn these positions)
Punt Returner or Kick Returner – this guy is catching the ball on the other side when it is either punted or kicked. Tell me, who do you think would be catching this ball if you were to go back and read the descriptions of the offensive line? If you said wide receiver or running back, give yourself a star!
There are a few other players/positions/stuff going on with the special teams but, I’m trying to keep it simple here, people.
If you have specific questions, leave a comment below and I will try to answer it next week.
Try to get acquainted with these positions. If you own a football jersey, it is your duty to put a name to a position this week. Pay attention when they introduce the offense and defense at the beginning of the game and start looking at the field to see if you can spot the positions and who is playing them.
That’s it for this week. Any questions?