NFL Football 101
This article identifies and defines each of the basic football positions on offense and defense, as well as the specialized positions on special teams.
The player who receives the ball from the center at the start of each play before either handing it to the running back, throwing it to a receiver, or running with it himself.
The quarterback is usually the player in charge of running the offense on the field. He is also the guy that usually informs the offense of the play while in the huddle.
Running Back (Halfback)
An offensive player who lines up in the backfield and generally is responsible for carrying the ball on run plays. A running back’s primary role is to run with the football, he is also used as a receiver at times.
An offensive player who lines up in the offensive backfield and generally is responsible for run-blocking for the halfback and pass-blocking for the quarterback. Fullbacks are usually bigger than halfbacks, and also serve as short-yardage runners.
An offensive player who lines up on or near the line of scrimmage, but split to the outside. His primary job is to catch passes from the quarterback.
An offensive player who serves as a receiver and also a blocker. The tight end lines up beside the offensive tackle either to the right or to the left of the quarterback.
A member of the offensive line. There are two tackles on every play, and they line up on the outside of the offensive guards.
A member of the offensive line. There are two guards on every play, and they line up on either side of the offensive center.
The offensive lineman who hikes (or snaps) the ball to the quarterback at the start of each play. The center lines up in the middle of the offensive line, between the offensive guards.
A defensive player who lines up at the end of the defensive line. The job of the defensive end is to contain the running back on running plays to the outside, and rush the quarterback on passing plays.
A defensive player who lines up on the interior of the defensive line. The duties of a defensive tackle include stopping the running back on running plays, getting pressure up the middle on passing plays, and occupying blockers so the linebackers can roam free.
A defensive tackle who lines up directly across from the center. Also known as:the nose guard, the primary responsibilities of the nose tackle are to stop the run and occupy the offensive lineman to keep them from blocking the linebackers.
A defensive player who lines up behind the defensive linemen and in front of the defensive backfield. The linebackers are a team’s second line of defense. Each team has two outside linebackers. In a 4-3 defense, teams have one inside linebacker, usually referred to as a middle linebacker. In a 3-4 defense teams have two inside linebackers.
A defensive back who generally lines up on the outside of the formation and is usually assigned to cover a wide receiver.
A defensive back who lines up in the secondary between, but generally deeper than the cornerbacks. His primary duties include helping the cornerbacks in pass coverage. There are actually two safety positions; the free safety and strong safety.
* These definitions cover the specialized positions on special teams only.
The player who kicks the ball on kickoffs, extra point attempts, and field goal attempts. A placekicker either kicks the ball while it’s being held by a teammate or kicks it off a tee.
The player who stands behind the line of scrimmage, catches the long snap from the center, and then kicks the ball after dropping it toward his foot. The punter generally comes in on fourth down to punt the ball to the other team with the idea of driving the other team as far back as possible before they take possession of the ball.
The job of a punt returner is to catch the ball after it has been punted and run it back toward the punting team’s end zone.
A kick returner is the player that catches kickoffs and attempts to return them in the opposite direction. He is usually one of the faster players on the team, often a reserve wide receiver.
The center position as it would be played on offense, but this player specializes in making longer snaps for punts and field goal attempts. A long-snapper generally has to snap the ball seven-to-eight yards behind him for field goal attempts and 13 to 15 yards for punts with the accuracy that allows the holder or punter to handle the ball cleanly.
The player who catches the snap from the center and places it down for the placekicker to attempt to kick it through the uprights of the goalpost. On an attempted field goal, the holder must catch the ball and put it into a good kicking position, ideally with the laces facing away from the kicker.
The members of the special teams who specialize in racing downfield to tackle the kick or punt returner. The gunners usually line up on the outside of the offensive line and are often double teamed by blockers.