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.[1] 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.

Football-Formation-RB
The running back playing halfback in a typical I formation.

Halfback/tailback

USMC Running back
A running back turns up the field in an attempt to reach the end zone.

The halfback (HB) or tailback (TB) position is responsible for carrying the ball on the majority of running plays, and may frequently be used as a receiver on short passing plays.

In the modern game, an effective halfback must have a blend of both quickness and agility as a runner, as well as sure hands and good vision up-field as a receiver. Quarterbacks depend on halfbacks as a safety valve receiver when primary targets downfield are covered or when they are under pressure. Occasionally, halfbacks line up as additional wide receivers.

When not serving either of these functions, the primary responsibility of a halfback is to aid the offensive linemen in blocking, either to protect the quarterback or another player carrying the football. If a team uses a Wildcat formation, often the halfback is the one who receives the snap directly instead of the quarterback. As a trick play, running backs are occasionally used to pass the ball on a halfback option play or halfback pass.

The difference between halfback and tailback is the position of the player in the team's offensive formation. In historical formations, the halfback lined up approximately halfway between the line of scrimmage and the fullback (similarly, quarterbacks lined up a quarter of the distance between the line of scrimmage and the fullback). Because the halfback is usually the team's main ball carrier (while the fullback is primarily a blocker), modern offensive formations have positioned the halfback behind the fullback (at the "tail end" of the formation), to take advantage of the fullback's blocking abilities. As a result, some systems or playbooks will call for a tailback as opposed to a halfback.

In Canadian football, the term tailback is often used interchangeably with running back, while the use of the term halfback is often exclusively reserved for the defensive halfback, which refers to the defensive back halfway between the linebackers and the cornerbacks.

Fullback

John Riggins Super Bowl XVII TD Run
John Riggins

In most modern college and professional football schemes, fullbacks (FB) carry the ball infrequently, instead using their stronger physiques as primary "lead blockers." On most running plays, the fullback leads the halfback, attempting to block potential tacklers before they reach the ball carrier.

When fullbacks are called upon to carry the ball, the situation typically calls for gaining a short amount of yardage, as the fullback can use his bulkiness to avoid being tackled early. Fullbacks are sometimes receivers for passing plays, although most plays call for the fullback to block any defensive players that make it past the offensive line, a skill referred to as "blitz pickup". Fullbacks are technically running backs, but today the term "running back" is usually used in referring to the halfback or tailback. Although modern fullbacks are rarely used as ball carriers, in previous offensive schemes fullbacks would be the designated ball carriers.

In high school football, where player sizes vary greatly, fullbacks are still frequently used as ball carriers. In high school and college offenses, the triple option scheme uses the fullback as a primary ball carrier. The fullback plays a unique role by establishing an inside running threat on every play. College teams such as Georgia Tech and Air Force have employed the triple option scheme.

While in years past the fullback lined up on the field for almost every offensive play, teams often opt to replace the fullback with an additional wide receiver or a tight end in modern football. Fullbacks in the National Football League today rarely carry or catch the ball since they are used almost exclusively as blockers. Fullbacks are also still used occasionally as rushers on plays when a short gain is needed for a first-down or touchdown or to surprise the defense since they are usually not expecting a full back to run or catch the ball. Pro Football Hall of Fame members Jim Brown, Marion Motley, Franco Harris, John Riggins, and Larry Csonka were fullbacks.

Characteristics of a running back

Height and weight

Darren Sproles 2014
Darren Sproles, a "scat back"

There is a diversity in those who play at the running back position. At one extreme are smaller (5'4"–5'10"), shiftier players. These quick, agile, and elusive running backs are often called "scat backs" because their low center of gravity and maneuverability allow them to dodge tacklers. Running backs known for their elusiveness include Red Grange, Hugh McElhenny, Gale Sayers, and Barry Sanders.[2]

At the other extreme are "power backs:" bigger, stronger players who can break through tackles using brute strength and raw power. They are usually slower runners compared to other backs, and typically run straight ahead (or "North-and-South" in football terminology) rather than dodging to the outside edges of the playing field. Hall of Famers Earl Campbell, Bronko Nagurski, John Riggins, and Larry Csonka, as well as NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith, were considered power running backs.[3]

Receiving ability

Over the years, NFL running backs have been used as receivers out of the backfield. On passing plays, a running back will often run a "safe route," such as a hook or a flat route, that gives a quarterback a target when all other receivers are covered or when the quarterback feels pressured. Hall of Famer Lenny Moore was a halfback who played primarily as a pass receiver.[4]

Some teams have a specialist "third down back," who is skilled at catching passes or better at pass blocking and "picking up the blitz," and thus is often put in the game on third down and long. It can also be used to fool the defense by making them think it is being put into the game for a pass play, when the play is actually a run.

Blocking

Running backs are also required to help the offensive line in passing situations, and, in the case of the fullback, running plays. Running backs will often block blitzing linebackers or safeties on passing plays when the offensive line is occupied with the defensive linemen. On running plays, the fullback will often attempt to tear a hole in the offensive line for the running back to run through. Effective blocking backs are usually key components for a running back's success. On passing plays, a running back will stay back to help block and pick up the blitz.

Goal line backs

Many teams also have a running back designated as a "goal line back" or "short yardage specialist". This running back comes into the game in short yardage situations when the offense needs only a little bit of yardage to get a first down or a touchdown. They also come into the game when the offense nears the goal line. Normally when an offense gets inside the 5-yard line it sends in its goal line formation, which usually includes eight blockers, a quarterback, a running back, and a fullback. The closer it is to the goal line the more likely it is to use this formation. If a certain running back is used often near the goal line he may be called the "goal line back." Short yardage and goal line backs often are power backs who are not prone to fumbling. Their job is to get the first down or touchdown by muscling through or pushing a large mass of defenders to push their way to the designated area.

Kick and punt returners

Running backs are sometimes called upon to return punts and kickoffs, a role usually filled by wide receivers and defensive backs, such as cornerbacks, who are generally the fastest players on the team. A running back, Brian Mitchell, currently holds the NFL records for career kickoff return yards (14,014 yards) and career punt return yards (4,999 yards).

References

  1. ^ http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/what-the-running-backs-do-in-a-football-game.html
  2. ^ "Top 10 most elusive runners in NFL history". NFL.com. National Football League. May 28, 2008. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  3. ^ Burke, Chris (March 5, 2013). "Top 25 Power Running Backs Of All Time". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  4. ^ "Lenny Moore Bio". profootballhof.com. Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 14, 2016.

External links

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
1970 NFL Draft

The 1970 National Football League draft was held January 27–28, 1970, at the Belmont Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York.

1971 NFL Draft

The 1971 National Football League draft was held January 28–29, 1971, at the Belmont Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York. It was the first time that three quarterbacks were selected with the three first draft choices. The Boston Patriots were renamed New England Patriots after the draft in March 1971.

1972 NFL Draft

The 1972 National Football League draft was held February 1–2, 1972, at the Essex House in New York City, New York.During round 17, after Falcons coach Norm Van Brocklin yelled to his staff "Do we want the roughest, toughest s.o.b. in the draft?!", the team drafted the then-64-year-old actor John Wayne, "of Fort Apache State" (Wayne actually attended the University of Southern California and was a member of the USC Trojans football team in his youth); NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle disallowed the selection, however.

1974 NFL Draft

The 1974 National Football League draft took place at the Americana Hotel in New York City, New York, on January 29–30, 1974. Each of the 26 NFL teams were granted 17 selections for a total of 442 picks.Many experts consider the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers to have had the best draft in NFL history as they selected four players later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster). The closest any other team has come to this success in a draft is the Dallas Cowboys’ 1964 draft, when three Hall of Famers were taken.The Houston Oilers had the first pick in the 1974 draft based on their one-win record in 1973, but they traded the first overall pick—as well as the first pick of the third round, #53 overall—to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for defensive end Tody Smith and wide receiver Billy Parks. Dallas used the two picks to select two future Pro Bowlers, defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones and quarterback Danny White.

This was the first NFL draft since 1938 to not have any quarterbacks taken in the first round, and one of only five. Along with 1988, it is the only draft where no quarterback was taken in the first two rounds, and 1974 is generally regarded as one of the worst quarterback draft classes of all time, with only fourth round pick Mike Boryla reaching the Pro Bowl, and even Boryla was out of the NFL by 1978.

1977 NFL Draft

The 1977 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held May 3–4, 1977, at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, New York. The league also held its first supplemental draft, which took place after the regular draft and before the regular season.

1979 NFL Draft

The 1979 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held May 3–4, 1979, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

The Buffalo Bills held the first overall pick in the draft, acquired from the San Francisco 49ers in the trade which sent O.J. Simpson to his hometown team. The Bills' selection at No. 1, Ohio State linebacker Tom Cousineau, refused to sign with the Bills and instead inked a lucrative deal with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.

Cousineau returned to the United States in 1982 to play for the Cleveland Browns, his hometown franchise.

1983 NFL Draft

The 1983 NFL Draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 26–27, 1983, at the New York Sheraton Hotel in New York City, New York. No teams elected to claim any players in the supplemental draft that year.

The draft is frequently referred to as the quarterback class of 1983, because six quarterbacks were taken in the first round—John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O'Brien, and Dan Marino—the highest number of first round picks for the position. Of these quarterbacks, Elway, Kelly, Eason, and Marino played in the Super Bowl, Elway, Kelly, O'Brien, and Marino were selected to play in the Pro Bowl, and Elway, Kelly, and Marino have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All six quarterbacks were drafted by American Football Conference (AFC) teams, with every member of the five-team AFC East (the Baltimore Colts, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and New England Patriots) selecting a quarterback. In eleven of the sixteen years following this draft, the AFC was represented in the Super Bowl by a team led by one of these quarterbacks: five with the Denver Broncos and Elway, four with the Bills and Kelly, one with the Dolphins and Marino, and one with the Patriots and Eason.

They met with little success in the Super Bowl, however, compiling a 2–9 record among them, with an 0–9 record for their first 14 years in the league. The only two wins were by Elway in XXXII and XXXIII during his final two seasons in 1997 and 1998. Three of the most lopsided Super Bowl losses in history also came at the hands of quarterbacks from the Class of '83: Elway, a 55–10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in XXIV; Eason, a 46–10 loss to the Chicago Bears in XX; and Kelly, a 52–17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in XXVII. Marino would only reach the Super Bowl once in a 38–16 loss to San Francisco in XIX following the end of Marino's second season. Kelly and the Bills would appear in the Super Bowl for a record four consecutive years, from 1990 to 1993, but lost all four.

Of the six first round quarterbacks drafted, Hall of Famers Elway and Kelly did not sign with the teams that selected them for the 1983 season. Elway, who had made his antipathy towards the Colts known long before the draft, was also a promising baseball player in the New York Yankees organization. With Yankees owner George Steinbrenner aggressively pursuing a commitment from Elway to play baseball full-time, Elway and his agent, Marvin Demoff, successfully leveraged the threat of Elway abandoning football altogether to compel the Colts to trade Elway to the Broncos a few days after the draft.

Kelly, the other holdout, instead signed with the Houston Gamblers of the United States Football League (USFL), where he led the springtime circuit in passing in both 1984 and 1985. Kelly was set to play for the New Jersey Generals when the USFL planned to switch to a fall season in 1986, but when the USFL won only $1 (trebled to $3) from its antitrust lawsuit vs. the NFL on July 29, 1986, Kelly finally signed with the Bills three weeks later.

Including the aforementioned Elway, Kelly, and Marino, a total of six players drafted in the first round have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and seven players overall have been inducted. Each round of this draft also contained at least one player who was later selected to play in the Pro Bowl. Bleacher Report named the 1983 draft class as the "greatest of all time".

1984 NFL Draft

The 1984 NFL Draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held May 1–2, 1984, at the Omni Park Central Hotel in New York City, New York. No teams elected to claim any players in the regular supplemental draft that year. The NFL did have a special supplemental draft for college seniors who had already signed with the USFL or CFL on June 5, 1984.

The 1984 draft was the first in ten years in which a quarterback was not selected in the first round; the first quarterback selected in 1984 was Boomer Esiason, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round, with the 38th overall pick.

1985 NFL Draft

The 1985 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. The draft was held April 30 and May 1, 1985, at the Omni Park Central Hotel in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

The first six selections of the draft made at least one Pro Bowl, and three of the first 16 picks — Bruce Smith, Chris Doleman, and Jerry Rice — have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.For the second consecutive season, there were no quarterbacks chosen in the first round on draft day, although University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar was selected by the Browns in the supplemental draft several months later.

1987 NFL Draft

The 1987 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 28–29, 1987, at the Marriot Marquis in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

1989 NFL Draft

The 1989 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 23–24, 1989, at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.The draft is noted for having four of the first five players selected – quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Barry Sanders, linebacker Derrick Thomas, and cornerback Deion Sanders – being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Offensive tackle Tony Mandarich, the only top five pick not inducted, is considered a draft bust. In fact, no other draft class in the modern draft era(1970-present) has yet to boast four hall of famers from the first five selections.The 1989 NFL Draft also helped set a major precedent, as Barry Sanders was selected with the third overall pick despite an NFL rule stating that collegiate juniors could not declare for the draft. Since Barry Sanders was selected as a junior, it has become an expectation for top college players to declare for the draft after their junior season.

Another precedent the draft help set was how players were invited to the actual draft room. Troy Aikman, who was selected first overall, was represented by Leigh Steinberg, who went with his client to the draft finding he was the only player there. As years followed, more and more prestigious players began getting invited to the draft.

1990 NFL Draft

The 1990 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 22–23, 1990, at the Marriot Marquis in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

The Dallas Cowboys would have had the #1 overall pick in the draft for the second consecutive year by virtue of their league-worst 1–15 record in 1989. However, the Cowboys forfeited their first-round pick by selecting quarterback Steve Walsh in the first round of the previous year's supplemental draft. The first pick instead went to the Atlanta Falcons, who traded it to the Indianapolis Colts.

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Lewis Peterson (born March 21, 1985) is an American football running back for the Washington Redskins of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Oklahoma and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings seventh overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. Peterson set the NCAA freshman rushing record with 1,925 yards as a true freshman during the 2004 season. As a unanimous first-team All-American, he became the first freshman to finish as the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Peterson finished his college football career as the Sooners' third all-time leading rusher.

Following his first professional season, in which he set an NFL record for most rushing yards in a single game (296), Peterson was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was then awarded the MVP award for his performance in the Pro Bowl and became only the fifth player in NFL history to have more than 3,000 yards through his first two seasons. In 2010, he became the fifth fastest player to run for 5,000 yards, doing so in his 51st game.

In 2012, Peterson became the sixth fastest player to reach 8,000 rushing yards, ending the season with 2,097 rushing yards, just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single season all-time record. Peterson amassed 2,314 all-purpose yards from scrimmage in 2012, tying Marcus Allen for the eighth-highest total ever. For his efforts, he received the NFL MVP Award and the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award for the 2012 NFL season. During the 2013 season, Peterson became the third fastest player to reach 10,000 rushing yards in NFL history. In 2015, Peterson became the oldest running back to make first-team All-Pro, doing so at 30 years of age.

In September 2014, Peterson was indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child that occurred earlier that year, and was suspended for the rest of the 2014 season. A free agent coming into the 2017 season, Peterson signed a two-year contract with the New Orleans Saints, but was traded to the Arizona Cardinals just five weeks into the season before being released following the season's end. Peterson then signed with the Washington Redskins in 2018, where he recorded the eighth 1,000-yard season of his career, tied for sixth-most all-time.

Chris Johnson (running back)

Christopher Duan "Chris" Johnson (born September 23, 1985) is a former American football running back. Born in Orlando, Florida, Johnson emerged as a senior for East Carolina University where he broke out for 2,960 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, after running a then-record breaking 4.24 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. In 2009, he won the NFL rushing title with 2,006 yards (the sixth of only seven players ever to gain over 2,000 in a season), and broke Marshall Faulk's record of total yards from scrimmage with 2,509. This earned him the nickname CJ2K. He has been to three Pro Bowls and was the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2009. Johnson has also played for the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.

Eric Dickerson

Eric Demetri Dickerson (born September 2, 1960) is a former American football running back who played in the National Football League (NFL) for eleven seasons. Dickerson played college football for the SMU Mustangs of Southern Methodist University and was recognized as an All-American. He was selected in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft and played professionally for the Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders, and Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. During his NFL career, he rushed for over 13,000 yards. He holds the NFL's single-season rushing record with 2,105 yards, set in 1984. Dickerson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He wore prescription goggles throughout his career due to myopia.

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.

National Football League Most Valuable Player Award

The National Football League Most Valuable Player Award (NFL MVP) is an award given by various entities to the American football player who is considered the most valuable in the National Football League (NFL) during the regular season. Organizations which currently give an NFL MVP award or have in the past include the Associated Press (AP), the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), and United Press International (UPI). The first award described as a most valuable player award was the Joe F. Carr Trophy, awarded by the NFL from 1938 to 1946. Today, the AP award is considered the de facto official NFL MVP award. Since the 2011 season, the NFL has held the annual NFL Honors ceremony to recognize the winner of the Associated Press MVP award.

National Football League Rookie of the Year Award

Various entities present a National Football League Rookie of the Year Award each season to the top rookie(s) in the National Football League (NFL). The NFL considers the rookie of the year awards by the Associated Press (AP) to be its official honor. The AP awards and Pepsi's rookie of the year award are presented each year at the NFL Honors.

Ricky Bell (running back)

Ricky Lynn Bell (April 8, 1955 – November 28, 1984) was an American professional football player who was a running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers of the National Football League. Bell was a star in college for the University of Southern California, gaining 1,875 yards rushing in his junior season. The #1 Overall Selection in the 1977 NFL Draft, Bell was inducted posthumously into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

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