American football positions

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 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, which 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 each player's main job is.

American Football Positions
A diagram showing an I formation on offense and a 4-3 formation on defense

Offense

In American football, the offense is the side in which the players have possession of the ball. It is their job to advance the ball towards the opponent's end zone to score points. Broadly, 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 to advance the ball either running with the ball or passing it. The backs and receivers are also commonly known as skill position players or as eligible receivers (or eligible ball carriers). Offensive linemen are not eligible to advance the ball past the line of scrimmage during a 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. 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 "ineligible" to catch forward passes, so they usually 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 (interior) line

2006 UT football fall scrimmage
The offensive line (on left, in orange jerseys) consists of a center (with ball in hand ready to snap) with two guards on either side, 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, a pass is deflected and caught by a lineman, 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 the quarterback. 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. Like all offensive linemen, 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 (OG)
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), "sweeps" (for outside runs), or "screens" (for passing plays). In such cases, the guard is referred to as a "pulling guard".
Offensive tackle (OT)
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 the "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 their side. Tackles typically have a taller, longer build than interior offensive linemen, due to the need to keep separation from defensive linemen in pass blocking situations. They also tend to have quick footwork skills as they often engage against containing or rushing defensive ends.

Backs and receivers

Penn State Morelli handoff to Scott crop
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback No. 14 Anthony Morelli hands the ball off to his running back, No. 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 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 they are positioned directly in contact with the center and receives the ball via the direct hand-to-hand pass, they are said to be "under center". If they have lined up some distance behind the center, they are said to be in "shotgun formation". They 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. They may run the ball, they may hand it to another eligible ball carrier to run with it, or execute a forward pass to a player downfield.
Running backs (HB/FB)
Running backs are players who line up behind the offensive line, in the 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") is often a team's primary ball carrier on rushing plays. They may also catch passes, often acting as a "check-down" 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 "wing-back" or a "slot-back" 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. Slot-backs 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)
2007 Hawaii Bowl - Boise State University vs East Carolina University - BSU offense
A wide receiver (No. 87, in white) begins a play in the flanker position
Wide receivers are pass-catching specialists. Their main job is to run pass routes and get open for passes, 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 linemen, 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 their 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 I formation is one of the most common.

Defense

The defensive team or defense is the team that begins a play from scrimmage not in possession of the ball. The objective 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, forcing the offense to fumble or throw an interception, or more rarely, forcing a turnover on downs.

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

2008 ECU NC State football snap cropped and cropped again.
The four defensive linemen (in red) have their hands on the ground in a "three point stance".

Like their offensive counterparts, defensive linemen (also called rushers) 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. The most interior defensive tackle who sometimes 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, alternately nose guard or middle guard. The nose tackle is most common in the 3-4 defense. Most defensive sets have one or two defensive tackles. If one employs a second defensive tackle, sometimes called an under tackle, they are usually a bit faster than the nose tackle.
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, a defensive lineman will have their hands on the ground, in a three- or four-point stance before the ball is snapped; this distinguishes their pre-snap stance from a linebacker, who begins in a two-point stance (i.e. without a hand touching the ground).

Linebackers

Virginia Tech vs Boston College 20051027 presnap
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 (Nos. 55, 3 and 16), and further back are two safeties (numbers 24 and 44).

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. 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

Tory James 2006
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. 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 dime backs) can be brought in in place of linebackers and defensive linemen, when there is a need to cover additional pass receivers.

Cornerback (CB)
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 them themselves or by forcing them 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

MasonCrosbyFG-Edit
A placekicker (Mason Crosby, No. 2) prepares to kick the ball from the hand of a holder (Jon Ryan, No. 9).

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, known as the kickoff specialist, handles kickoffs. 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, they hold 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 (center) during plays from scrimmage. A holder is occasionally used on kickoffs if the weather or field conditions repeatedly cause the ball to fall off the tee.
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)
Usually lines up 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage (this distance has to be shortened to avoid being on or behind the end line). The punter, upon receiving the snap, drops the ball and kicks it from the air. This is usually done only on fourth down and is done to relinquish possession to the defensive team as far downfield as possible.
Kickoff specialist (KOS)
Kickoff specialists are exclusively used during kickoffs. Teams employ kickoff specialists if they feel neither their kicker nor punter is good enough at kicking off. Due to their specialized nature and the limited number of active roster spots, professional KO specialists are rare.
Kick returner (KR) and Punt returner (PR)
Returners are responsible for catching kicked balls (either on kickoffs or punts) and running the ball back. These are usually among 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. Returners typically also play wide receiver or cornerback. Due to the relatively high likelihood of injury during kick returns, most professional teams will not regularly use their very best WRs or CBs as returners.
Upback
A 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 back 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 run the ball but may throw it.
Gunner
A player on kickoffs and punts who specializes in running down the field very quickly in an attempt to tackle the returner. They usually line up near the sidelines where there will be fewer blockers and thus allow them to get down the field quickly.
Jammer
Jammers try to slow down gunners during punts or kickoffs so that returners have more time to return them.

See also

References

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)NomenclatureStrategy
Center (gridiron football)

Center (C) is a position in American football and Canadian football (in the latter the position is spelled centre, following Commonwealth spelling conventions). The center is the innermost lineman of the offensive line on a football team's offense. The center is also the player who passes (or "snaps") the ball between his legs to the quarterback at the start of each play.

In recent years, the importance of centers for a football team has increased, due to the re-emergence of 3–4 defenses. According to Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, "you need to have somebody who can neutralize that nose tackle. If you don't, everything can get screwed up. Your running game won't be effective and you'll also have somebody in your quarterback's face on every play."

Cornerback

A cornerback (CB), also referred to as a corner or defensive halfback in older parlance, is a member of the defensive backfield or secondary in American and Canadian football. Cornerbacks cover receivers most of the time, to defend against offensive plays, i.e create turnovers in best case or (more common) deflect a forward pass or rather make a tackle. Other members of the defensive backfield include the safeties and occasionally linebackers. The cornerback position requires speed, agility, and strength. A cornerback's skillset typically requires proficiency in anticipating the quarterback, backpedaling, executing single and zone coverage, disrupting pass routes, block shedding, and tackling. Cornerbacks are among the fastest players on the field.

Defensive back

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:

Safety:

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:

Nickelback – the fifth defensive back in some sets, such as the nickel formation

Dimeback – the sixth defensive back in some sets, such as the dime formation

The seventh defensive back, in the exceedingly rare "quarter" set, but often strong

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; being the second line of defense after the lineman and guards. 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.

Defensive end

Defensive end (DE) is a defensive position in the sport of American and Canadian football.

This position has designated the players at each end of the defensive line, but changes in formations over the years have substantially changed how the position is played.

Defensive tackle

A defensive tackle (DT) is typically the largest and strongest of the defensive players in American football. 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 defense, there is no nose tackle. Instead there is a left and right defensive tackle. Some teams, especially in the National Football League (NFL), do have a nose tackle in this scheme, but most of them do not.

End (gridiron football)

An end in American and Canadian football is a player who lines up at either end of the line of scrimmage, usually beside the tackles. Rules state that a legal offensive formation must always consist of seven players on the line of scrimmage and that the player on the end of the line constitutes an eligible receiver.

Before the advent of two platoons, in which teams fielded distinct defensive and offensive units, players that lined up on the ends of the line on both offense and defense were referred to simply as "ends". The position was used in this sense until roughly the 1960s.On offense, an end who lines up close to the other linemen is known as a tight end and is the only lineman who aside from blocking can run or catch passes. One who lines up some distance from the offensive line is known as a split end. In recent years and the proliferation of the forward pass, the term wide receiver covers both split ends and flankers (wide receivers who line up in split positions but behind the line of scrimmage). The terms “split end” and “flanker” are often replaced today with terms like "X" and "Z" receivers. Bill Carpenter was the first "Lonesome end."

On defense, there is a commonly used position called the defensive end. Its primary role is to rush the passer, as well as to stop offensive runs to the outer edges of the line of scrimmage (most often referred to as "containment"). However, as there are no rules regulating the formation of the defense, players at this position commonly take on and share multiple roles with other positions in different defensive schemes.

Fullback (gridiron football)

A fullback (FB) is a position in the offensive backfield in American and Canadian football, and is one of the two running back positions along with the halfback. Typically, fullbacks are larger than halfbacks 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.Many great runners in the history of American football have been fullbacks, including Jim Brown, Marion Motley, Jim Taylor, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka, John Riggins, Christian Okoye, and Levi Jackson. However, many of these runners would retroactively be labeled as halfbacks, due to their position as the primary ball carrier; they were primarily listed as fullbacks due to their size and did not often perform the run-blocking duties expected of modern fullbacks. Examples of players who have excelled at the hybrid running-blocking-pass catching role include Mike Alstott, Daryl Johnston, and Lorenzo Neal.

Guard (American and Canadian football)

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 on the line of scrimmage used primarily for blocking. 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.

The guard's job is to protect the quarterback from the incoming linemen during pass plays, as well as creating openings (holes) for the running backs to head through. 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.

History of American football positions

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.

Lineman (gridiron football)

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.

Long snapper

In gridiron football, the long snapper (or deep snapper) is a special teams specialist whose duty is to snap the football over a longer distance, typically around 15 yards during punts, and 7–8 yards during field goals and extra point attempts.

During field goals and point after touchdown, the snap is received by the holder typically 7–8 yards away. During punt plays the snap is delivered to the punter from 13–15 yards away. Following a punt snap the snapper often executes a blocking assignment and then must cover the kick by running downfield and attempting to stop the opposing team's punt returner from advancing the ball in the opposite direction. If the punt goes uncaught it is the snapper's responsibility to make sure the ball does not enter the endzone or bounce backward resulting in loss of yards. The majority of snappers at the highest levels of competition are specialized, meaning that they uniquely play the position of snapper, or have limited responsibilities elsewhere.

A good punt snap should hit the target (namely the punter's hands at the abdomen or waistline) between .65 and .80 seconds and with a tight spiral for easy handling. A "bad snap" is an off-target snap which causes the delay or failure of a kick and/or forces the punter into a potentially compromising situation.

Nickelback (gridiron football)

In American football, a nickelback is a cornerback or safety who serves as the additional defensive back in a nickel defense. A base defense consists of two cornerbacks and two safeties, making the nickelback the fifth defensive back on the field, thus tying name of the position to the name of the North American 5-cent piece.

Usually the nickelback will take the place of a linebacker, so if the team had been in a 4–3 formation, the four defensive linemen would remain, alongside only two linebackers and now-five defensive backs, creating a 4-2-5 formation. However, some teams will replace a lineman rather than a linebacker, creating a three linemen, three linebacker and five defensive back alignment, a 3–3–5 formation. If an offensive team always uses three or more wide receivers, a defense may turn to a nickel defense for their base package on most plays. Usually extra defensive backs, such as a nickelback, are substituted into the defense in situations where the opposing offense is likely to attempt a forward pass, such as 3rd-and-long, or when extra receivers are substituted into the opposing offense.

The nickelback is the third cornerback or safety on the depth chart. The nickelback is not considered a starting position because the starting formation for a defense has only two cornerbacks and two safeties. Defensive formations with three or more cornerbacks (or three safeties) are used often enough that a nickelback will usually see moderate playing time (particularly in the modern, pass-oriented NFL) as well as subbing in for the starting corners. In certain packages (or if injuries depleted the depth chart), smaller free safeties or strong safeties can fill the spot of nickelback, as well. Their role may become that of a pass rusher from outside the box.

In Canadian football, where five defensive backs are considered the norm, the position is known as a defensive halfback.

Return specialist

A return specialist or kick returner is a player on the special teams unit of an American football or Canadian football team who specializes in returning punts and kickoffs. There are few players who are exclusively return specialists; most also play another position such as wide receiver, defensive back, or running back. The special teams counterpart of a return specialist is a kicking specialist.

According to All-American Venric Mark, "Returning punts is harder. You have to judge the ball more, you have to know when to fair catch and when not to. You can't be a superhero and try to catch everything. With kickoff returns, you catch the ball and — boom — you're going."

Running back

A running back (RB) is an American and Canadian football position, a member of the offensive backfield. The primary roles of a running back are to receive handoffs from the quarterback for a rushing play, to catch passes from out of the backfield, and to 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 (in certain contexts also referred to as a tailback), a wingback or a fullback. A running back will sometimes be called a "feature back" if he is the team's starting running back.

Safety (gridiron football position)

Safety, historically known as a safetyman, is a position in American and Canadian football played by a member of the defense. The safeties are defensive backs who line up from ten to fifteen yards in front of the line of scrimmage. There are two variations of the position in a typical American formation: the free safety (FS) and the strong safety (SS). Their duties depend on the defensive scheme. The defensive responsibilities of the safety and cornerback usually involve pass coverage towards the middle and sidelines of the field, respectively. While American (11-player) formations generally use two safeties, Canadian (12-player) formations generally have one safety and two defensive halfbacks, a position not used in the American game.

As professional and college football have become more focused on the passing game, safeties have become more involved in covering the eligible pass receivers.Safeties are the last line of defense; they are expected to be reliable tacklers, and many safeties rank among the hardest hitters in football. Safety positions can also be converted cornerbacks, either by design (Byron Jones) or as a cornerback ages (Charles Woodson, DeAngelo Hall, Lardarius Webb, Tramon Williams).

Historically, in the era of the one-platoon system, the safety was known as the defensive fullback (specifically the free safety; the strong safety would be a defensive halfback, a term still in Canadian parlance) or goaltender.

Specialist (arena football)

In arena football, a specialist was a player, other than a quarterback or placekicker, who was exempt from the league's one-platoon system ("Iron Man"). Under the original Arena football system, six of the eight players on each team were required to play both offense and defense.

One of the two offensive positions was required to be a quarterback or, in the event of a kick, a placekicker. The other was known as an offensive specialist (OS). Offensive specialists usually played wide receiver, either as a flanker or a slotback. The defense was allowed two defensive specialists (DS), who almost universally played in the secondary. Players were referred to as "specialists" instead of their more traditional positional designations (example, a player would be called a defensive specialist, and be designated as "DS" on a position chart, instead of a cornerback or CB).

Specialists were usually required to participate on special teams, a requirement that was not extended to quarterbacks.

The specialist designation was eliminated after both the Arena Football League and af2 abandoned the one-platoon system prior to the 2007 season. Most other indoor football leagues have used free substitution since their inception.

Tackle (gridiron football position)

Tackle is a playing position in American and Canadian football. Historically, in the one-platoon system prevalent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a tackle played on both offense and defense. In the modern system of specialized units, offensive tackle and defensive tackle are separate positions, and the stand-alone term "tackle" refers to the offensive tackle position only. The offensive tackle (OT, T) is a position on 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 advance the football and eventually 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 113.

Tight end

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.

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 use 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 using a tight end with better pass-catching skills in obvious passing situations.

Offensive formations may have as few as zero or as many as three tight ends at one time.

Wide receiver

A wide receiver, also referred to as wideouts or simply receivers, is an offensive position in American and Canadian 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.

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