Friday, September 02, 2011

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

2011 NFL season

2011 NFL season

The 2011 NFL season, the 92nd regular season of the National Football League, is scheduled to begin on Thursday, September 8, 2011 with the New Orleans Saints traveling to Lambeau Field, the home of the Super Bowl XLV champion Green Bay Packers; and end with Super Bowl XLVI, the league's championship game, on February 5, 2012 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beginner's Guide to Football

Beginner's Guide to Football

One 11-man team has possession of the football. It is called the offense and it tries to advance the ball down the field-by running with the ball or throwing it - and score points by crossing the goal line and getting into an area called the end zone.

The other team (also with 11 players) is called the defense. It tries to stop the offensive team and make it give up possession of the ball. If the team with the ball does score or is forced to give up possession, the offensive and defensive teams switch roles (the offensive team goes on defense and the defensive team goes on offense). And so on, back and forth, until all four quarters of the game have been played.
In order to make it easier to coordinate the information in this digest, the topics discussed generally follow the order of the rule book.
The field measures 100 yards long and 53 yards wide. Little white markings on the field called yard markers help the players, officials, and the fans keep track of the ball. Probably the most important part of the field is the end zone. It's an additional 10 yards on each end of the field. This is where the points add up! When the offense - the team with possession of the ball-gets the ball into the opponent's end zone, they score points.
Games are divided into four 15-minute quarters, separated by a 12-minute break at halftime. There are also 2-minute breaks at the end of the first and third quarters as teams change ends of the field after every 15 minutes of play. At the end of the first and third quarters, the team with the ball retains possession heading into the following quarter. That is not the case before halftime. The second half starts with a kickoff in the same way as the game began in the first quarter.

Each offensive team has 40 seconds from the end of a given play until they must snap of the ball for the start of the next play, otherwise they will be penalized.

The clock stops at the end of incomplete passing plays, when a player goes out of bounds, or when a penalty is called. The clock starts again when the ball is re-spotted by an official.

If a game is tied at the end of regulation, a 15-minute overtime period will be played. In the NFL, this is sudden death and the first team to score wins. Possession is determined before the period begins by a coin toss.
Each team has 3 separate units: the offense (see section below), those players who are on the field when the team has possession of the ball; the defense (see section below), players who line up to stop the other team's offense; and special teams that only come in on kicking situations (punts, field goals, and kickoffs). Only 11 players are on the field from one team at any one time.

To see how the players line up click here
A game starts with the kickoff. The ball is placed on a kicking tee at the defense's 30-yard line, and a special kicker (a "placekicker") kicks the ball to the offense A kick return man from the offense will try to catch the ball and advance it by running. Where he is stopped is the point from which the offense will begin its drive, or series of offensive plays. When a kickoff is caught in the offense's own end zone, the kick returner can either run the ball out of the end zone, or kneel in the end zone to signal a touchback - a sign to stop the play. The ball is then placed on the 20-yard line, where the offense begins play.
All progress in a football game is measured in yards. The offensive team tries to get as much "yardage" as it can to try and move closer to the opponent's end zone. Each time the offense gets the ball, it has four downs, or chances, in which to gain 10 yards. If the offensive team successfully moves the ball 10 or more yards, it earns a first down, and another set of four downs. If the offense fails to gain 10 yards, it loses possession of the ball. The defense tries to prevent the offense not only from scoring, but also from gaining the 10 yards needed for a first down. If the offense reaches fourth down, it usually punts the ball (kicks it away). This forces the other team to begin its drive further down the field.
MOVING THE BALL - The Run and the Pass
A play begins with the snap. At the line of scrimmage (the position on the field where the play begins), the quarterback loudly calls out a play in code and the player in front of him, the center, passes, or snaps the ball under his legs to the quarterback. From there, the quarterback can either throw the ball, hand it off, or run with it.
There are two main ways for the offense to advance the ball. The first is called a run. This occurs when the quarterback hands the ball off to a running back, who then tries to gain as many yards as possible by eluding defensive players. The quarterback is also allowed to run with the ball.
The other alternative to running the ball is to throw it. Or as they say in football, pass it! Usually, the quarterback does the passing, though there are times when another player may pass the ball to confuse the defense. Actually, anyone on the offensive team is allowed to pass the ball as long as the pass is thrown from behind the line of scrimmage. A pass is complete if the ball is caught by another offensive player, usually the "wide receiver" or "tight end." If the ball hits the ground before someone catches it, it is called an incomplete pass.
The defense prevents the offense from advancing the ball by bringing the ball carrier to the ground. A player is tackled when one or both of his knees touch the ground. The play is then over. A play also ends when a player runs out of bounds.
The object of the game is to score the most points. There are four ways to score points in football.
A touchdown is the biggest single score in a football game. It is worth six points, and it allows the scoring team an opportunity to attempt to get an extra point. To score a touchdown, the ball must be carried across the goal line into the end zone, caught in the end zone, or a fumble recovered in the end zone, or an untouched kickoff recovered in the end zone by the kicking team.
Immediately following a touchdown, the ball is placed at the opponent's two-yard line, where the offense has two options. Usually the offense will kick an extra point, also called the point after touchdown, conversion, or PAT. If the offense successfully kicks the ball through the goal posts, it earns one point. The offense can also score two points by running or throwing the ball into the end zone in the same manner as you would score a touchdown. Since going for two points is more difficult than kicking an extra point, the offense generally chooses to kick the extra point.
If the offense cannot score a touchdown, it may try to kick a field goal. Field goals are worth three points and often are the deciding plays in the last seconds of close games. They can be attempted from anywhere on the field on any down, but generally are kicked from inside the defense's 45-yard line on fourth down. For a field goal to be "good", the placekicker (or field goal kicker) must kick the ball through the goal-post uprights and over the crossbar. The defense tries to block the kick and stop the ball from reaching the goal post.
The safety is worth two points. A safety occurs when the offensive ball carrier is tackled behind his own goal line.
While trying to advance the football to the end zone, the offense may accidentally turn the ball over to the defense in one of two ways:
When the ball carrier or passer drops the ball, that's a fumble. Any player on the field can recover the ball by diving on it or he can run with it. The team that recovers a fumble either gets-or retains-possession of the ball.
An aggressive defense can regain possession of the ball by catching (intercepting) passes meant for players on the other team. Both fumble recoveries and interceptions can be run back into the end zone for touchdowns.
Whichever team has possession of the ball is the offense. While only the quarterback, the wide receivers and tight ends, and the running backs can legally handle the ball, it is the quarterback who is the leader of the team and the playmaker. In fact, he's a man of many talents - he not only throws the ball, he outlines each play to his team.
  • The quarterback ("QB") passes or hands off the ball.
  • The center snaps the ball to the QB and blocks the defense.
  • 2 guards and 2 tackles keep the defense at bay.
  • 2/4 wide receivers catch the ball thrown by the QB.
  • 1 or 2 running backs take the ball and run with it.
  • 1 or 2 tight ends block the defense and can also catches passes.
The job of the defense is to stop the offense. The 11 men on the defensive team all work together to keep the offense from advancing toward the defense's end zone.
  • Linebackers defend against the pass, and push forward to stop the run or tackle the QB.
  • The defensive line (ends and tackles) battles head-to-head against the offensive line.
  • Cornerbacks and safeties defend against the pass from the QB to the wide receiver and help to stop the run.


Positions Key

Positions key

Center (C) is a position in American football and Canadian football(spelled centre in Canadian English). The center is the innermost linemanof 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 thequarterback 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 toBaltimore 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."[1]

the positioning of a center in an offensive formation.


The center's first and primary role is to pass the football to the quarterback. This exchange is called a snap. Most offensive schemes make adjustments based on how the defensive line and linebackers align itself to the offensive line, and what gaps they line up in. Because the center has an ideal view of the defensive formation before the snap, he typically makes the first line call. This call is typically based on the position of the defensive linemen or linebackers in his gaps (0i-1i), most subsequent adjustments are dependent on this call. In some cases the center may call an adjustment for the entire offensive line.
After the snap, the center performs blocking assignments. The blocking assignments vary by offense but typically consist of the following:

Run blocking

Run blocking assignments will vary based on the current play and the defensive formation when the ball is snapped. Typically, these assignments consist of the following:
  • Blocking middle or backside linebackers in certain formations, then moving up to secondary levels if no linebacker is present.
  • Assisting guards in their blocking assignments. This may be a center/guard double-team where the center and guard are assigned to the same target (usually a defensive tackle) to get extra push or drive. Assistance may also be just a quick hit or "chip" to throw the defensive player off balance and help the guard to execute his block, while the center moves up to higher level targets.
  • Backside blocking of defensive tackles for pulling guards. In some offensive schemes, certain plays will involve "pulling" an offensive lineman to block for the ball carrier. If a guard needs to pull for a block, the center will typically block the defensive tackle in order to fill the guard's void.

Pass Blocking

  • Pass blocking for a center is very similar to the above Run Blocking section. The center will initially help guards based on the position of the defensive linemen. In the case of a blitz, the center may need to pick up a rushing linebacker,safety or corner. A good center also needs to stay vigilant during pass blocking to protect against defensive stunts and twists.

During the play

On most plays, the center will snap the ball directly into the quarterback's hands. In a shotgun formation, the center snaps the ball to the quarterback lined up several yards behind him. In punt and field goal formations, the center also snaps the ball several yards behind him to the punter or holder on the field goal unit. Because bad snaps can ruin special teams plays and cause turnovers, some teams have a center who is specifically trained for snapping the ball in punt and field goal formations. This player is often referred to as the team's long snapper. Also, the center does not have to snap the ball to the quarterback, holder, or punter. He is allowed to snap the ball to anyone behind him. Because of this, some plays involve snaps directly to running backs instead of the player generally expected to receive the snap, hoping to fool the defense.
In slang, the player receiving the snap is said to be "under center" if he receives the ball directly from the center (not in shotgun). This phrase is typically applied to quarterbacks, but has been used in reference to other positions as well.

Special teams

In special teams situations, the center is a long snapper, who snaps the ball to a punter standing approximately 12-14 yards behind him, or to the holder for the place-kicker, kneeling approximately 7 yards (6.4 m) behind him. These long snappers are players particularly talented at performing these snaps, and are sometimes a different player from the regular center.

Drawing penalties

Although the quarterback commands the ball, it is the center's snap that renders the ball in play; the defensive line may not cross the line of scrimmage until the center snaps the football. An astute center can help draw an opposing team offside prior to the snap or potentially trick the other team into a penalty by quickly snapping the ball while the opposing team attempts to substitute players.
In college football, the Dave Rimington Trophy is awarded annually to the nation's most outstanding center.


A cornerback (CB) (also referred to as a corner) is a member of the defensive backfield or secondary in American and Canadian football.[1] Cornerbacks cover receivers, to defend against pass offenses and make tackles. Other members of the defensive backfield include the safeties and occasionallylinebackers. The cornerback position requires speed and agility. A cornerback's skillset typically requires proficiency in anticipating the quarterback, back-pedalling, executing single and zone coverage, disrupting pass routes, shedding blockers, and tackling.

Cornerbacks across from their assigned receivers in a base 3-4 defense

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
  • Cornerback, which include
    • nickel back, the fifth defensive back in some sets
    • dime back, the sixth defensive back in some sets
    • The seventh defensive back, in the exceedingly rare 'quarter' set
      • 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. 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. They are usually the smallest, quickest players on the field.

Defensive end

Defensive end (DE) is the name of a defensive position in the sport ofAmerican and Canadian football.
This position has designated the players at each end of the defensive line, but changes in formations have substantially changed how the position is played over the years. Eleven-time pro bowler and National Football League Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, usually considered one of the best defensive ends ever, is the all-time leader in career sacks with 200.

The defensive end position in a base 4-3 defense

Lineman Defensive lineman DL

Defensive line

Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork of theNew England Patriots

The defensive line consists of one or two defensive tackles and two defensive ends who play outside the defensive tackles. The defensive line works with thelinebackers to try to control the line of scrimmage. The 4-3 defensive formation, most commonly used in the NFL, employs two defensive tackles (and a defensive line of four men, with three linebackers behind them), while the 3-4 formation uses just a single defensive tackle, called the nose tackle (and a defensive line of three men, with four linebackers behind them).
On running plays, the goal is to tackle the ball carrier. The defensive line attempts to maintain their original formation (even spacing without holes), but also to prevent any members of the opposing offensive line from successfully engaging the linebackers, who chase down the ball carrier. The defensive tackles are usually the most skilled run defenders on the team.
On passing plays, the defensive line tries to reach the quarterback. Ideally, the defensive players are able to tackle the quarterback for a loss (a sack), but in practice the quarterback will usually manage to throw the ball before an actual tackle is made; the goal is thus to put pressure on the quarterback as quickly as possible to force him to throw the ball before he can find an open receiver. Defensive ends are usually the most skilled pass rushers on the team. In order to increase the pressure on the quarterback, teams will often have players other than the defensive line attempt to tackle the quarterback; this is called a blitz.
Because the defense does not know whether the offense is attempting to run a passing play or a running play (or whether a quarterback will give up on an attempt to pass and instead run with the ball), they must balance passing and running strategies: running around offensive linemen and avoiding contact may allow faster pressure on a quarterback, but it also leaves a hole in the defensive line and frees an offensive lineman to engage a linebacker, enabling a big running play.
Defensive linemen--particularly defensive ends--are called upon to do more running than offensive linemen, thus they usually tend to be somewhat smaller and faster

A diagram of the linemen, with defensive linemen (in 4-3 formation) in red and offensive linemen in green.

Defensive tackle

A defensive tackle (abbreviated "DT") is typically the largest and strongest of the defensive players. 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 defensive set, there is no nose tackle. Instead there is a left and right defensive tackle.[3]


A fullback (FB) is a position in the offensive backfield in American andCanadian football, and is one of the two running back positions along with the halfback. Typically, fullbacks are larger in size than halfbacks and in most offensive schemes their duties are split between power running and blocking for both the quarterback and the other running back.
Many of the great runners of the history of American football have been fullbacks, notably Jim Brown, Franco Harris, and Larry Csonka; in recent years the position has evolved to be more a blocker than a runner, with occasional pass-catching duties. While some teams have actually phased-out fullbacks altogether in favor of two tight end sets (notably, Indianapolis Colts have fullback spots filled by backup tight ends), the remaining prominent fullbacks in the NFL such as Ovie Mughelli,Leonard Weaver, Owen Schmitt and Tony Richardson are typically employed for breaking through tight defensive alignments, often in short-yardage situations as they are usually larger and heavier than halfbacks or tailbacks, or for screen passes. As a result, fullbacks are typically known less for speed and agility and more for muscularity and the ability to shed tackles. However, Le'Ron McClain was the rushing leader for the Baltimore Ravens in 2008, being deployed from the fullback position.
Although technically a running back, typically fullbacks are primarily valued for their blocking in most modern day offenses. In many offensive schemes, the fullback is used as a receiver, especially when the defense blitzes.
The position is less frequently used in Canadian football, which focuses more on passing than running the ball.

Example of fullback positioning in an offensive formation.

Free safety

The free safety tends to be smaller and faster than the strong safety. His job tends to be to keep some distance from the line of scrimmage, watch the play unfold, and follow the ball. The free safety would correspond to the quarterback in man coverage, but as the quarterback usually remains in the pocket the free safety is "free" to double cover another player. On pass plays, the free safety is expected to assist the cornerback on his side and to close the distance to the receiver by the time the ball reaches him. Offenses tend to use the play-action pass specifically to make the free safety expect a run play, which would draw him closer to the line of scrimmage, and reduce his effectiveness as a pass defender. Furthermore, quarterbacks often use a technique to "look off" a free safety, by purposely looking to the other side of the field during a pass play, with the intention to lure the free safety away from the intended target receiver on the other side of the field. This phenomenon often tests how effective a free safety's wit and athleticism are at defending long pass plays. If the offense puts a receiver in the slot, then the free safety may be called upon to cover that receiver. Free safeties occasionally blitz as well. When this happens, the pressure on the quarterback is often very severe since a blitz by a defensive back is not usually anticipated. Free safeties, because of their speed and deep coverage, are often prone to catching interceptions.[2] Standout retired free safeties include Paul Krause, Larry Wilson, and Willie Wood. Ed Reed andNick Collins are among the best active free safeties.


In American and Canadian football, a guard (G) is a player that lines up between the center and the tackles on the offensive line of a football team.
The guard's job is to protect quarterback from the incoming defensive line andlinebackers during pass plays, as well as creating openings (holes) for therunning backs to head through. Guards perform speed blocking and "pulling"—sprinting out in front of a running back in order to block for him. 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.
Guards, like other linemen, today are often over 300 pounds (135 kg). To date, no lineman over 300 pounds has ever been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but linemen of this mass have become prevalent only since the mid-1980s.
Right guards (RG) is the term for the guards on the right of the offensive line, while left guards (LG) are on the left.


A halfback, sometimes referred to as a tailback[1], is an offensive position in American football, which lines up in the backfield[2] and generally is responsible for carrying the ball on run plays.[3] Historically, from the 1870s through the 1950s, the halfback position was both an offensive and defensive position. In the related sport of Canadian football, halfback is adefensive rather than offensive position.


Placekicker, or simply kicker (PK or K), is the title of the player in American and Canadian football who is responsible for the kicking duties of field goals, extra points. In many cases, the placekicker also serves as the team's kickoff specialist (KOS) or, more rarely, punter (P), as well.

Kickoff returner

In American and Canadian football, a kick returner (KR) is the player on special teams who is primarily responsible to catch kickoffs and attempts to return them in the opposite direction. If the ball is kicked into his own endzone, he must assess the situation on the field while the ball is in the air and determine if it would be beneficial to his team for a return. If he decides that it is not, he can make a touchback by kneeling down in the end zone after catching the ball, which gives his team the ball at their own 20-yard line to start the drive.
He is usually one of the faster players on the team, often a backup wide receiver,defensive back, or running back.
A kick returner might also double as a punt returner as well

Chicago Bears' kickoff returnerDevin Hester

Sometimes players who make big plays at the punt or kick returner positions become well known "return specialist" players. (e.g. Dante Hall, Leon Washington, Desmond Howard, Josh Cribbs, Devin Hester, Darren Sproles, Eric Metcalf, Brian Mitchell,Pacman Jones, Billie "White Shoes" Johnson, and Danieal Manning).

Kickoff return touchdown percentage

The following table ranks all National Football League kick returners with at least 4 touchdown returns through the 2008 season by touchdown return percentage:


A linebacker (LB) is a position in American football that was invented by football coach Fielding H. Yost of the University of Michigan.[1]Linebackers are members of the defensive team, and line up approximately three to five yards (4 m) behind the line of scrimmage, behind the defensive linemen. Linebackers generally align themselves before the ball is snapped by standing upright in a "two point stance" (as opposed to the defensive linemen, who put one or two hands on the ground for a "three point stance" or "four point stance" before the ball is snapped).

Two college football linebackers (MLB and LOLB) backing up their defensive line while the ROLB (front, upright) threatens to blitz

Types of linebackers

There are several different designations of linebackers: strongside, middle, and weakside. Usually the strongside and weakside are combined under the title outside, and the middle is renamed inside. In many formations and systems, teams do not use the strong and weakside designations, and merely play their outside linebackers consistently on one side of the formation and designate them either right outside linebacker and left outside linebacker.[2]These terms are abbreviated ROLB and LOLB when appearing in lineup cards.

Middle linebacker (MLB)

The middle linebacker, often referred to as "Mike," was invented by the Chicago Bears in the early 1950s. The middle linebacker is often referred to as the "quarterback of the defense". Often it is the middle linebacker that receives the defensive play calls from the sideline and relays that play to the rest of the team–and in the NFL he is usually the defensive player with the electronic sideline communicator. A jack-of-all-trades, the middle linebacker can be asked to blitz (though they often blitz less than the outside linebacker), cover, spy thequarterback, or even have a deep middle-of-the-field responsibility in theTampa 2 defense. In standard defenses, middle linebackers commonly lead the team in tackles.

Outside linebacker (OLB)

The outside linebacker is usually responsible for outside containment. This includes the strongside and weakside designations below.

Strongside linebacker

The strongside linebacker (SLB) is often nicknamed "Sam" for purposes of calling a blitz. Since the strong side of theoffensive team is the side on which the tight end lines up, or whichever side contains the most personnel, the strongside linebacker usually lines up across from the tight end. Often the strongside linebacker will be called upon to tackle therunning back on a play, because the back will be following the tight end's block. He is most often the strongest linebacker; at the least he possesses the ability to withstand, shed, and fight off blocks from a tight end or fullback blocking the backside of a pass play. The linebacker should also have strong safety abilities in pass situation to cover the tight end in man on man situations. He should also have considerable quickness to read and get into coverage in zone situations.

Weakside linebacker

The weakside linebacker, or the "Will", must be the fastest of the three, because he is often the one called into pass coverage. He is also usually chasing the play from the backside, so the ability to maneuver through traffic is a necessity for the Will. The Will usually aligns off the line of scrimmage at the same depth as Mike. Because of his position on the weakside, the Will does not often have to face large interior linemen one on one unless one is pulling. In coverage, the Will often covers the back that attacks his side of the field first in man coverage, while covering the weak flat or hook/curl areas in zone coverage. In a 3-4 defense the "Will" Linebacker plays on the "weakside" of the two middle Linebacker positions and a 4th Linebacker comes in to play the weakside. Known as a "Rush", "Rover", "Jack" and/or "Buck" Linebacker, their responsibility is more pass rush based but often is called into run stop (gap control) and pass coverage.

Long snapper

In American football and Canadian football, the term long snapper refers to a player who is a specialized center during punts, field goals, and extra point attempts. His job is to snap the ball as quickly and accurately as possible.
During field goals and point after touchdown, the snap is received by theholder. During punt plays the snap is delivered to the punter. A good, consistent long snapper is hard to find, and many marginally talented players have found a niche exclusively as long snappers.
A "bad snap" is a snap which causes the delay of a kick or the failure of a play.
The long snapper still performs the normal tasks of a center and also runs downfield after the ball has been punted to help defend the punt return.

Diagram of a punt formation, the long snapper or deep snapper is indicated by the blue "DS"

In the punt formation, the long snapper ordeep snapper is the center of the interior line (#58 in blue)

Offensive tackle

The offensive tackle (OT, T) is a position of 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. 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 doesn’t, plus whoever the tight end isn’t covering. Usually they defend against defensive ends. In the NFL, offensive tackles often measure over 6 ft 4 in (193 cm) and 300 pounds (140 kg).
In the current version of the A-11 offense, offensive tackles are known as "anchors," and have a significantly different role.[1]
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 anIQ of 112.

Offensive lineman

The interior offensive line consists of the center, who is responsible for snapping the ball into play, two guardswho flank the center, and two offensive tackles who flank the guards; NFL rules require that a team have all five of these interior linemen on the field for every offensive play. In addition to the interior line, a full offensive line may also include a tight end outside one or both of the tackles.
Interior offensive linemen are not eligible to catch forward passes, and are not allowed to have advanced past the line of scrimmage at the time a pass is thrown unless they are in contact with a defensive player. However, tight ends are eligible to catch passes.
On running plays, the primary job of the offensive line is to create space for the ball carrier to run, either by pushing all defensive players backwards past the line of scrimmage, or by pushing defensive players to the side to allow the ball carrier to run past them. On some running plays, an offensive lineman will pull by backing out of his initial position and running behind the other offensive linemen to engage a defensive player beyond the initial width of the offensive line; in modern games this duty usually falls to guards.
On passing plays the offensive line is responsible for stopping defensive players from tackling the quarterback before he has thrown the ball. Stopping these players indefinitely is usually not possible, so the main objective of the offensive line is to slow them down, providing the quarterback with several seconds to identify an open receiver and throw the ball.
An offensive lineman's motion during a play is often limited to just a few quick steps to establish position, followed by a wrestling match similar to sumo. Offensive linemen thus tend to be the largest players on the field, with excellent agility and balance but limited straight-line running speed.
When an offensive linemen knocks a player down on a block without falling down themselves, it is often known as a pancake block.

A diagram of the linemen, with defensive linemen (in 4-3 formation) in red and offensive linemen in green.

Nose tackle

Nose tackle (also nose guard) is a defensive alignment position for adefensive lineman. In the 3-4 defensive scheme the sole defensive tackle is referred to as the nose tackle. The nose tackle aligns across the line of scrimmage from the offense's center before the play begins in the "0-technique" position. In five-linemen situations, such as a goal-line formation, the nose guard is the innermost lineman, flanked on either side by a defensive tackle ordefensive end. The nose guard is also used in a 50 read defense. In this defense there is a nose guard, two defensive tackles, and two outside linebackers who can play on the line of scrimmage or off the line of scrimmage in a two point stance. The nose guard lines up head up on the center about six to eighteen inches off the ball. In a reading 50 defense, the nose guard's key is to read the offensive center to the ball. In run away, the nose guard's job is to shed the blocker and pursue down the line of scrimmage, taking an angle of pursuit. The primary responsibility of the nose tackle in this scheme is to absorb multiple blockers so that other players in the defensive front can attack ball carriers and rush the quarterback.
In order for a 3-4 to be effective, it needs a dominant nose tackle, which is very hard to find. Ted Washington, who in his prime weighed around 400 pounds, is considered the prototypical 3-4 nose tackle of his era. A few examples of nose tackles in the NFL are Vince Wilfork, Casey Hampton, Kelly Gregg, Jay Ratliff, Jamal Williams, Kris Jenkins, Kyle Williams, Antonio Garay, B. J. Raji, Aubrayo Franklin, Sione Pouha, Phil Taylor, Kenrick Ellis, and Terrence Cody, among others.

A lone nose tackle in the base 3-4 defensive formation


A punter (P) in American or Canadian football is a special teams player who receives the snapped ball directly from the line of scrimmage and then punts(kicks) the football to the opposing team so as to limit any field position advantage. This generally happens on a fourth down in American football and a third down in the Canadian version. Punters may also occasionally take part in fake punts in those same situations, when they throw or run the football instead of punting.

Shane Lechler of the Oakland Raiderspunts the ball in November 2008.


A punter must be skilled in angling the football and/or kicking it as high as possible (called "hangtime") to maximize his teammates’ ability to eliminate a punt returner's forward progress. Also, the punter will try to make the ball spin in an unusual manner making it harder to catch, which could result in a muff and potentially lead to the punter's team gaining possession.
Punters are rarely well known or recognized by fans, but play a major role in winning the field position battle. Today, punters have increasingly begun to pull double duty as the holder on field goal attempts and also being used on kickoffs. One of the main reasons why punters are starting to take over the holder position is that the backup quarterback is usually busy with the rest of the offense and has little time to devote to holding. The long snapper for field goals is usually the punt snapper as well, so the punter already has developed a chemistry with the snapper and is used to catching a long-snapped ball.
Punters are also kickers and understand kicking mechanics better, such as knowing how far back to lean the ball and better judging whether to abort a field goal attempt. Punters are usually on their own during team practices, allowing them the time to work with the kicker, so the punter and placekicker tend to develop a close rapport. Many punters also double duty as kickoff specialists as most punters have been at one point field goal kickers as well and some, such as Craig Hentrich, have filled in as worthy backup field goal kickers.

Coffin corner

A coffin corner refers to the corner of the playing field just in front of the end zone, usually from the 5-yard line to the goal line. A perfect coffin corner kick is one that goes out of bounds just before either orange pylon located in the front of the end zone. The punter tries to place the ball so that it lands out of bounds or is downed on the field by another member of the kicking team anywhere inside the 5-yard line without touching the goal line, thus forcing difficult field position for the receiving team on their next scrimmage.
The name arises by extension from the coffin corner found in Victorian houses, for if the kick is slightly too far into the end zone or if a member of the kicking team touches the goal line while maintaining possession of the ball, a touchback is awarded, losing the advantage that comes with a successful execution of the kick. If the ball goes out of bounds too far upfield, the receiving team will usually have more options on offense, such as being able to drop back for a pass without fear of possibly giving up a safety. More often than not, a kicker's attempt to land the ball accurately within the coffin corner fails, as the amount of skill required to angle a kick inside such a small area is extraordinary.
This type of kick can also be attempted in Canadian football. The difference is that if the ball becomes dead in the endzone in Canadian football, a single point is awarded to the kicking team and the conceding team scrimmages from their 35 yard line. In most cases however, the kicking team prefers the advantageous field position, not the point.

Punt returner

Punt returner (PR) is a position on special teams in American football.


The role of a punt returner is to catch the ball after it is punted and to give his team good field position (or a touchdown if possible) by returning it. Before catching the punted ball, the returner must assess the situation on the field while the ball is still in the air. He must determine if it is actually beneficial for his team to attempt a return. If it appears that the players from the punting team will be too close to the returner by the time he catches the ball, or it appears the ball will go into his ownend zone, the punt returner can elect not to return the ball by choosing one of two options:
  • Call for a fair catch by waving one arm above his head before catching the punt. This means that the play will end once the catch is made; the punt returner's team will get the ball at the spot of the catch and no return attempt can be made. The fair catch minimizes the chances of a fumble or injury because it ensures that the returner is fully protected from the opposing team, whose players may not touch the returner or attempt to interfere with the catch in any way after the fair catch signal is given. In the NFL, a fair catch also allows the fair catch kick to be used on the next play, even with no time on the clock remaining, to attempt a field goal via free kick. However, this option is rarely exercised.
  • Avoid the ball and let it hit the ground. Under this option the ball will go into the returning team's end zone for a touchback, go out of bounds and be spotted at that point, or come to final rest in the field of play and be downed by a player on the punting team. This is the safest option, as it completely eliminates the chance of a fumble and ensures that the returner's team will get possession of the ball. However, it also provides an opportunity for the punting team to pin the returner's team deep in their own territory by downing the ball or sending it out of bounds near the returner's end zone. This can not only give the return team poor field position, but can even lead to asafety.

The position demands footspeed, quick reflexes, and good hands. Punt returners sometimes also return kickoffs and usually play other positions, especially wide receiver, defensive back and running back, although sometimes as backups. An analogous position exists in Canadian football, though differences in rules affect play considerably. See Comparison of Canadian and American football for a complete discussion of the punt returner's role in the Canadian game.

Devin Hester fielding a punt during the special teams practice at theChicago Bears 2007 Training Camp.


Quarterback (QB, originally called blocking back)[1] is a position inAmerican and Canadian football. Quarterbacks are members of theoffensive team and line up directly behind the offensive line. Quarterbacks are the leaders of the offensive team, responsible for calling the play in the huddle.
Every play starts with a "snap", an action where the offense's center gives the ball to the quarterback, or to another offensive player such as a punteror wide receiver. After receiving the ball, the quarterback either throws a pass or hands it to another offensive player; in some cases, the quarterback keeps the ball in an attempt to run or "scramble" past the defense.
At most levels, but especially at the college and professional level, the quarterback role is one of the most visible and important roles on the team. The quarterback touches the ball on nearly every offensive play and has a great deal of responsibility both in calling plays and making decisions during the play. While there is liberal substitution at most positions in football based on the play call and to minimize player fatigue, most quarterbacks are on the field for every offensive play leaving only for injury or when the game's outcome is no longer in doubt. Quarterbacks are frequently chosen early in the NFL Draft and often receive much more lucrative contracts than other positions. As of 2011, players in this position have won more Super Bowl MVP awards (24 of 45) than players at all other positions combined.
As the term "quarterback" gained acceptance in the 1930s, it originally referred to the player's position relative to other members of the offensive backfield. Before the emergence of the T-formation in the 1940s, all members of the offensive backfield were legitimate threats to run or pass the ball, and most teams used four offensive backs on every play: a quarterback, two halfbacks, and a fullback. The quarterback began each play a quarter of the way back, the halfbacks began each play side by side and halfway back, and the fullback began each play the farthest back. Now that most offensive formations have only one or two running backs, the original designations do not mean as much, as the fullback is now usually a lead blocker (technically a halfback), while the halfback or tailback (called such because he stands at the "tail" of the I) lines up behind the fullback.
Traditionally, quarterbacks have been responsible for calling the team's offensive plays based on the defense's formation, or game situation. To choose the proper play, quarterbacks often spend time rehearsing and studying prearranged plays during their team's practice sessions.
In recent years, the rise of offensive coordinators has led partiality toward a scripted game plan. The offensive coordinators and coaches usually give the quarterback information via a built-in headphone in the helmet as to what to do before the play. Quarterbacks are allowed to hear, but not talk to, their coaches until there are fifteen seconds left on the play clock.[2] The quarterback then relays the information to teammates and executes the plays. When the players are set in a formation, the quarterback starts the play by calling out a code word, a number, or a combination of the two.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry was an early advocate of taking play calling out of the quarterback's hands. Although this remained a common practice in the NFL through the 1970s, fewer QBs were doing it by the 1980s and even Hall-of-Famers like Joe Montana did not call their own plays. Buffalo Bills QB Jim Kelly was one of the last to regularly call plays. Among current NFL QBs, Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons call all, or nearly all, of their team's plays using a no-huddle offense, although they mostly just make adjustments to the plays given to him from the offensive coordinator.

Quarterback Shea Smith looks to pass during the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl.

Special tactics

If quarterbacks are uncomfortable with the formation the defense is using, they may call an audible change to their play. For example, if a quarterback receives the call to execute a running play, but he notices that the defense is ready to blitz – that is, to send additional defensive backs across the line of scrimmage in an attempt to tackle the quarterback or thwart his ability to pass – the quarterback may want to change the play. To do this, the quarterback yells a special code, like "Blue 42," or "Texas 29," which tells the offense to switch to a specific play or formation.
Also, quarterbacks can "spike" or throw the football at the ground to stop the official game clock. For example, if a team is down by a field goal with only seconds remaining, a quarterback may spike the ball to prevent the game clock from running out. This usually allows the field goal unit to come onto the field, or attempt a final "Hail Mary pass". However, if a team is winning, a quarterback can keep the clock running by kneeling after the snap. This is normally done when the opposing team has no timeouts and there is little time left in the game, as it allows a team to burn up the remaining time on the clock without risking a turnover or injury.


While quarterbacks are mainly not a factor in terms of receiving forward passes, some trick plays, like the flea flicker, require quarterbacks to catch a lateral by a wide receiver or running back before delivering a forward pass. In the wildcat formation, a quarterback lines up as a flank receiver who can be used to catch a forward pass. Typically the quarterback is not thrown to in this formation, but serves as a decoy, as even the least mobile quarterbacks are capable of catching a ball for positive yardage. Occasionally, some backup quarterbacks may be used to receive long snaps as a holder for field goal or extra point attempts, as quarterbacks generally have good ball handling skills, and may have to become the passer in the event of a bad snap, an aborted kick attempt or a designed trick play.
Under NFL rules, if a quarterback lines up under center, he is by definition ineligible and not allowed to receive a forward pass. However, in college and high school ball, quarterbacks are eligible receivers (by a special exemption in the high school rule books) regardless of whether they are under center or in a shotgun formation. The NFL allows a quarterback in a shotgun formation to receive a forward pass.

Dual-threat quarterbacks

Michael Vick, a member of the NFC team at the NFL's 2006 Pro Bowl,
uses his mobility to eludeDwight Freeney.

With the rise of several blitz heavy defensive schemes and increasingly faster defensive players, the importance of a mobile quarterback has been redefined. While arm power, accuracy, and pocket presence – the ability to successfully operate from within the "pocket" formed by his blockers – are still the most important quarterback virtues, the ability to elude or run past defenders creates an additional threat that allows greater flexibility in the team's passing and running game.
This is generally more successful at the college level. Typically, a quarterback with exceptional quickness is used in an option offense, which allows the quarterback to either hand the ball off, run it himself, or pitch it to the running back following him at a distance of three yards outside and one yard behind. This type of offense forces defenders to commit to either the running back up the middle, the quarterback around the end, or the running back trailing the quarterback. It is then that the quarterback has the "option" to identify which match up is most favorable to the offense as the play unfolds and exploit that defensive weakness. In the college game, many schools employ several plays that are designed for the quarterback to run with the ball. This is much less common in professional football, except for a quarterback sneak, but there is still an emphasis on being mobile enough to escape a heavy pass rush.

Two quarterback system

Sometimes a team is undecided on which quarterback should start a game. In that case, the team may employ alternating quarterbacks. This could have negative effects on the cohesion and consistency of the offensive team, but could also serve to confuse the defense. A rare successful example of a two-quarterback system can be seen in the "WoodStrock" combination of Don Strock and David Woodley, which took the Miami Dolphins to the Epic in Miami and Super Bowl XVII the following year.

Running back

A running back (RB) is a gridiron football position, who is typically lined up in the offensive backfield. The primary roles of a running back are to receive handoffs from the quarterback for a rushing play, to catch passesfrom 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(HB for short, in certain contexts also referred to as a tailback) or afullback (FB).

The running back/halfback (blue) in a typical I formation.


Safety (S) 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 behind the line of scrimmage. There are two variations of the position in a typical 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.
Safeties are the last line of defense, and are thus expected to be sure tacklers. As professional and college football have become more focused on the passing game, safeties have become more involved in covering the eligible pass receivers.[1]

Free safety and strong safety positions in the 3-4 defense

Strong safety

Former Washington Redskins' free safetySean Taylor

The strong safety tends to be somewhat larger and stronger than the free safety. However, the word strong is used because he is assigned to cover the "strong side" of the offense, the side on which the big, powerful tight end lines up on offensive plays. The strong safety tends to play closer to the line and assist in stopping the run. He may also be responsible for covering a player, such as a running back or fullback or H-back, who comes out of the backfield to receive a pass. A strong safety's duties are a hybrid of those belonging to alinebacker and those of the other defensive backs, in that he both covers the pass and stops the run. Two of the most notable retired strong safeties are Ken Houston and John Lynch. Among the best active strong safeties are Troy Polamalu and Adrian Wilson.

Free safety

The free safety tends to be smaller and faster than the strong safety. His job tends to be to keep some distance from the line of scrimmage, watch the play unfold, and follow the ball. The free safety would correspond to the quarterback in man coverage, but as the quarterback usually remains in the pocket the free safety is "free" to double cover another player. On pass plays, the free safety is expected to assist the cornerback on his side and to close the distance to the receiver by the time the ball reaches him. Offenses tend to use the play-action pass specifically to make the free safety expect a run play, which would draw him closer to the line of scrimmage, and reduce his effectiveness as a pass defender. Furthermore, quarterbacks often use a technique to "look off" a free safety, by purposely looking to the other side of the field during a pass play, with the intention to lure the free safety away from the intended target receiver on the other side of the field. This phenomenon often tests how effective a free safety's wit and athleticism are at defending long pass plays. If the offense puts a receiver in the slot, then the free safety may be called upon to cover that receiver. Free safeties occasionally blitz as well. When this happens, the pressure on the quarterback is often very severe since a blitz by a defensive back is not usually anticipated. Free safeties, because of their speed and deep coverage, are often prone to catching interceptions.[2] Standout retired free safeties include Paul Krause, Larry Wilson, and Willie Wood. Ed Reed andNick Collins are among the best active free safeties.

TailBack (TB)
A halfback, sometimes referred to as a tailback[1], is an offensive position in American football, which lines up in the backfield[2] and generally is responsible for carrying the ball on run plays.[3] Historically, from the 1870s through the 1950s, the halfback position was both an offensive and defensive position. In the related sport of Canadian football, halfback is adefensive rather than offensive position.

Early offensive backfields

Before the emergence of the T-formation in the 1940s, all members of the offensive backfield were legitimate threats to run or pass the ball. Most teams used four offensive backs on every play: a quarterback, two halfbacks, and a fullback. The quarterback began each play a quarter of the way back, the halfbacks began each play side by side and halfway back, and the fullback began each play the farthest back.[4]
The sport's first triple threat, Bradbury Robinson of St. Louis University, ran, passed, received and punted out of the halfback position. It was as a halfback that Robinson threw the first legal forward pass to teammate Jack Schneider in a game at Carroll College on September 5, 1906.
Now that most offensive formations have only one or two running backs, the original designations do not mean as much, as the fullback is now usually a lead blocker (technically a halfback), while the halfback or tailback (called such because he stands at the "tail" of the I) lines up behind the fullback.

Responsibilities of the halfback

The halfback position is one of the more glamorous positions on the field, and is commonly viewed as a requirement for a team's success.[5] They are responsible for carrying the ball on the majority of running plays, and may frequently be used as a receiver on short passing plays. Occasionally, they 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. Sometimes the halfback or tailback can catch the ball from the backfield as he is an eligible receiver.

Running ability

No position in American football can perform his duties successfully without the help of other players. Like the wide receiver, who generally cannot make big plays without the quarterback passing to him (with the exception of the end-around play), the halfback needs good blocking from the offensive line and fullback to successfully gain yardage. Also, a halfback will generally have more rushing attempts than a receiver will have receptions. This is mainly because most football teams have one primary halfback to receive most of the carries, while successful passes will generally be spread between a number of different receivers (wide receivers, tight ends, running backs).The running back is usually a short stature man, with a wide muscular body. This is the position that usually gets worked the most in American football.

Characteristics of a halfback

Physical characteristics

There is a great diversity in those who play at the running back position. At one extreme are smaller, faster players. These fast, agile, and elusive running backs are often called "scat backs" because their low center of gravity and maneuverability allow them to dodge tacklers. Hall-of-famer Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions exemplifies this running style. "Scat backs" still active in the NFL include Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans, Darren Sproles of the San Diego Chargers, andReggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints.
At the other extreme are "power backs": bigger, stronger players who can break through tackles using brute strength and raw power. They are usually (but not always) 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 (i.e. running "East-and-West") like shorter, quicker, lighter backs will often do. Historically, some of the greatest halfbacks were "power" running backs, such as John Riggins and Jerome Bettis. More recent examples are Steven Jackson of the Saint Louis Rams,Brandon Jacobs of the New York Giants and Peyton Hillis of the Cleveland Browns.
In professional American football, the halfback position has been dominated by black people since the 1990s, with only a small number of non-black players at the position.

Receiving ability

In addition to skill at running the ball, some halfbacks in the National Football League are known for their prowess at catching passes. The role of the halfback as a receiver out of the backfield has expanded greatly in the NFL over the years, and a versatile halfback who provides his team with running and pass-catching abilities is highly valued. On passing plays, a halfback will often run a safe route, such as a hook, creating a safe target for a quarterback to throw to if all other receivers are covered. The increase in demand for halfbacks with good receiving abilities can be attributed to the rise in popularity of the West Coast offense and its variants, which often requires its halfbacks to catch passes on a regular basis. A great early example of a system that combined accomplished rushing skills with receiving abiity is the offense of the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s and 1990s under Bill Walsh and George Seifert. Their teams featured two Pro Bowl running backs who also had excellent receiving skills in Roger Craig and Ricky Watters. Craig became the first player in NFL history to both rush and receive more than 1,000 yards in a season. Currently Marshall Faulk is one of the top 20 pass catchers in NFL history. A good example of a dual threat running and pass-catching halfback is New York Jets' LaDainian Tomlinson; in 2003, while with the San Diego Chargers, Tomlinson rushed for 1,645 yards and caught 100 passes for 725 yards, giving him 2,370 total yards from the line of scrimmage, and he became the first NFL player ever to rush for over 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in a season. Some teams have a halfback who is more skilled at catching short passes than the starting halfback on the team, and/or is better at pass blocking or "picking up the blitz" than that of the other backs. Known as a "third down" back, he is often put in the game in third down and long situations where a pass is needed to pick up a first down. He can also be used to fool the defense by making them think he is being put into the game for a pass play, when the play is actually a run. One example of this type of running back is Chester Taylor of the Chicago Bears.


Halfbacks are also required to help the offensive line in passing situations, and, in the case of the fullback, running plays. Halfbacks 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 halfback to run through. Effective blocking backs are usually key components for a running back's success (as seen in LaDainian Tomlinson record-breaking season in 2006).

Goal line backs

Many teams also have a halfback designated as a "goal line back" or "short yardage specialist". This halfback comes into the game in short yardage situations when the offense needs only one to five yards to get a first down. They also come into the game when the offense nears the goal-line. Normally when an offense gets inside the 5 yard line they send in their goal-line formation which usually includes eight blockers, a quarterback, a halfback, and a fullback. The closer they are to the goal-line the more likely they are to use this formation. If a certain halfback is used often near the goal-line he is called the goal-line back. Short yardage and goal-line backs are usually larger power backs that are not prone to fumbling. Their job is to get the first down or touchdown by muscling through or pushing a large mass of players that are being blocked without dropping the ball. Players like John Kuhn, Thomas Jones, and Brandon Jacobs specialise in short-yardage situations, like 3rd and short.

Contributing to special teams

A halfback might be called upon to return punts and kickoffs on special teams. Although this is most often done by wide receivers and defensive backs, such as cornerbacks (because they are generally the fastest players on the team), some halfbacks have enough speed and talent to perform this role. The NFL's current all time leading in kickoff return yards (14,014 yards) and punt return yards (4,999) by a halfback is Brian Mitchell. He also gained 1,967 rushing yards, 2,336 receiving yards, and 15 fumble return yards, giving him a total of 23,330 all-purpose yards, the second most in NFL history behind Jerry Rice.

Passing ability

On rare occasions, a halfback is asked to throw the ball when running an HB option. This play is generally referred to as a half-back pass, regardless if the player throwing the football is a tailback or fullback. This play is risky because most halfbacks are inexperienced passers, and so it is often run only by certain halfbacks more skilled at passing than most. The HB can also throw the ball while running a Direct Snap play where the Center snaps the ball to halfback directly. This has become particular in teams that use the "wildcat" formation, most prominently the Miami Dolphins, where RB Ronnie Brownwould run, pass and receive out of this set.

Tight end

The tight end (TE) is a position in American 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, 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 thehead coach. In some systems, the tight end will merely act as a sixth offensive lineman rarely going out for passes. Other systems utilize 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 and while utilizing a better pass catching tight end in obvious passing situations.
Offensive formations may have between zero and three tight ends at one time. If a wide receiver is present in a formation, but outside the tight end, the wide receiver must be positioned behind the line of scrimmage (see figure to right). If two tight ends are on the same side of the line of scrimmage, the outside tight end must be behind the line of scrimmage.

Example of tight end positioning in an offensive formation.

Former Green Bay Packers' tight endBubba Franks

History of the tight end position

The advent of the tight end position is closely tied to the decline of the one-platoon system which happened in the 1940s and '50s. At one time, the game allowed limited substitutions- a rule derived from its evolution in other codes of football. Players had to be adept at playing on both sides of the ball and most offensive linemen were also defensive linemen or linebackers, while receivers tended to double as defensive backs. At that time, the receivers were known as either ends orflankers with the end lining up wide at the line of scrimmage and the flanker lining up slightly behind the line usually on the opposite side of the field. As the transition from one-platooning took place, it became possible for players who did not fit the mold of the traditional position to fill a niche. Players who were both good pass catchers and blockers, but were mediocre on defensive were now seen as an asset instead of a liability; many of these players were too big to be receivers, yet too small to be offensive linemen, but there were those who saw the potential of having a larger receiver lined up inside. One of those was Paul Brown, the legendary coach of the Cleveland Browns. Among Brown's innovations were blocking techniques and passing schemes that utilized the unique attributes of the tight end position.
The full potential of the tight end as receiver; however, was not fully realized until the '60s with the emergence of two players in particular, Mike Ditka and John Mackey. Until these two players, most teams considered the tight end position as almost a sixth offensive lineman, only rarely utilizing them as receivers.[1] In a 12 year career, Ditka caught 427 passes for over 5800 yards and 43 touchdowns.[1] Mackey added an entirely new dimension to the position as he had the breakaway speed of a wide receiver. In one season, 6 of his 9 touchdown passes were over 50 yards.[2]



Some plays are planned to take advantage of a tight end's eligibility (i.e. that they may lawfully catch a forward-passed football). At times, the tight end will not be covered by the defense, a situation that rarely occurs with the regular receivers. The tight end is therefore considered another option for the quarterback to pass to when the wide receivers are covered. The tight end is usually faster than the linebackers who cover him and often stronger than the cornerbacks and safeties who try to tackle him. However, tight ends are typically chosen for their speed and catching ability and therefore tend to have less size and blocking ability. Some examples of great pass catching Tight-Ends are Mike Ditka, Kellen Winslow, Antonio Gates,Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Dallas Clark, Marcedes Lewis, and Todd Heap. There could be tight ends on both sides of the line.
At the extreme end of this spectrum are 'hybrid' tight ends that are drafted primarily for their pass-catching abilities. Often, these players are talented athletes with near-receiver-like speed, coupled with the imposing physical size and strength of a traditional tight end. Offensive schemes often seek to take advantage of this type of player by placing him in space, often treating him as an extra receiver. Prime examples of this type of 'hybrid' player are Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ersand Jermichael Finley of the Green Bay Packers.


In the National Football League (NFL), tight ends are usually larger and slower than a wide receiver, and therefore able to block more effectively.[3] It is the job of the tight end, along with the fullback, to open up a hole in the defense for the tailback to run through. Tight ends can also be used along with the offensive linemen to protect the quarterback during passing plays. Often, tight ends are employed in a fullback position called "H-Back" in which he is still beside the tackle, however off the line of scrimmage. Tight ends may also pass block like other offensive linemen. Some teams employ tight ends solely to block, however this position is sometimes filled by an offensive lineman who has reported to the referee that his number is now an eligible receiving number; this makes him "Tackle Eligible".
Most modern offenses (due to the introduction of the West Coast Offense) now use tight ends more as receivers than blockers. Traditionally tight ends were just blockers eligible to catch passes; however, now tight ends are more like bigger and slower receivers who can also block more effectively than most wide receivers. Most tight ends are generally large in size with an average height of 6'3" and a weight exceeding 240 lbs. The origin of the two tight end set is unclear. The Detroit Lions[4] and the Washington Redskins[5] have been credited with being the first teams to utilize two tight ends as part of their base offense.

Wide receiver

A wide receiver is an offensive position in American and Canadian football, and is the key player in most of the passing plays. Only players in the backfield or the ends on the line are eligible to catch a forward pass. The two players who begin play at the ends of the offensive line are eligible receivers, as are all players in the backfield. Since these two receivers begin play as the offensive players nearest the sidelines, they are referred to as "wide" receivers. At the start of play, one wide receiver may begin play in the backfield, at least a yard behind the line of scrimmage, as is shown in the diagram at the right. The wide receiver on the right begins play in the backfield. Such positioning allows another player, usually the tight end, to also become the eligible receiver on that side of the line. Such positioning defines the strong side of the field. This is the right side of the field in the diagram shown.
The wide receiver (WR) or a flanker as referred to by Craig Kelskey in his famous football coaching quote "you got ya flankas on your left and right sides" is a position in American and Canadian football is the pass-catching specialist. Wide receivers (also referred to as wideouts or simply receivers) are among the fastest and most agile players in the game, and they are frequent highlight-reel favorites.
The wide receiver's principal role is to catch passes from the quarterback. On passing plays, the receiver attempts to avoid, outmaneuver, or simply outrun defenders (typically cornerbacks and/or safeties) in the area of his pass route. If the receiver becomes open, or has an unobstructed path to the destination of a catch, he may then become the quarterback's target. Once a pass is thrown in his direction, the receiver's goal is to first catch the ball and then attempt to run downfield. Some receivers are perceived as a deep threat because of their flat-out speed, while others may be possession receivers known for not dropping passes, running crossing routes across the middle of the field, and generally, converting third down situations. A receiver's height and weight also contribute to his expected role; tall in height and light in weight are advantages at the receiver position.
Wide receivers, and the passing game generally, are particularly important when a team uses a hurry-up offense. Receivers are able to position themselves near the sideline to run out of bounds, stopping the clock at the end of the play (NFL, and last two minutes of each half in NCAA). (A failed, "incomplete," pass attempt will also stop the clock.)
A wide receiver has two potential roles in running routes that range in status. Particularly in the case of draw plays, he may run a pass route with the intent of drawing off defenders. Alternatively, he may block normally for the running back. Well-rounded receivers are noted for blocking defensive backs in support of teammates in addition to their pass-catching abilities.
Sometimes wide receivers are used to run the ball, usually in some form of reverse. This can be effective because the defense usually does not expect them to be the ball carrier on running plays. Although receivers are rarely used as ball carriers, running the ball with a receiver can be extremely successful. For example, in addition to holding nearly everyNational Football League receiving record, wide receiver Jerry Rice also rushed the ball 87 times for 645 yards and 10 touchdowns in his 20 NFL seasons.[1]
In even rarer cases, receivers may pass the ball as part of a trick play. Despite the infrequency of these plays, some receivers have proven to be capable passers, particularly those with prior experience as a quarterback. A remarkable example where wide receiver and quarterback even swapped roles was Kansas City Chiefs' WR Mark Bradley's 37 yard touchdown pass to QB Tyler Thigpen against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on 2 November 2008.[2]
Wide receivers also serve on special teams as return men on kickoffs and punts, or as part of the hands team during onside kicks.[3][4]
Finally, on errant passes, receivers must frequently play a defensive role by attempting to prevent an interception. If a pass is intercepted, receivers must use their speed to chase down and tackle the ball carrier to prevent him from returning the ball for a long gain or a touchdown.
In the NFL wide receivers can use the numbers 10-19 and 80-89.

An example of a wide receiver's positioning in an offensive formation: (L) in split end position, (R) in flanker position.


While the general fan base and most commentators use the generic term wide receiver for all such players, specific names exist for most receiver positions:
  • Split end (X or SE): A receiver on the line of scrimmage, necessary to meet the rule requiring seven such players atsnap. Where applicable, this receiver is on the opposite side of the tight end. The split end is farthest from center on his side of the field.[5]
  • Flanker (Z or FL): A receiver lining up behind the line of scrimmage. Frequently the team's featured receiver, the flanker uses the initial buffer between himself and a defender to avoid jamming, legal contact within five yards of the line of scrimmage. The flanker is generally on the same side of the formation as a tight end. As with the split end, this receiver is the farthest player from the center on his side of the field. The flanker is probably lined up just like a split end except that he is just behind the line of scrimmage, being in the backfield and not on the line.[6]
  • Slot receiver (Y or SL): A less-formal name given to receivers in addition to split ends and flankers (for example tight-ends who line up wide). These receivers line up between the split end/flanker and the linemen. If aligned with a flanker, the slot receiver is usually on the line of scrimmage, and if with a split end, off the line of scrimmage. As with the flanker position, a featured receiver often takes a slot position with a split end to avoid jamming.[6]
  • Slot back: A receiver lining up in the offensive back field. Canadian and Arena football allow them to take a running start at the line. They are usually larger players as they need to make catches over the middle. In American football slot backs are typically used in flexbone or other triple option offenses while Canadian football uses them in almost all formations.

2011 NFL Draft

General information
April 28–30, 2011
8:00 pm EDT April 28 (rd. 1)
6:00 pm EDT April 29 (rds. 2 & 3)
Noon EDT April 30 (rds. 4–7)
Network(s) (US)
Most selections
Fewest selections
Overall selections

The 2011 NFL Draft was the 76th installment of the annual NFL Draft, where the franchises of the National Football League select newly eligible football players. Like the 2010 draft, the 2011 draft was held at Radio City Music Hall over three days: this year, the first round took place on Thursday, April 28, 2011; the second and third rounds took place on Friday, April 29; with the final four rounds on Saturday, April 30, 2011.
The Carolina Panthers, who had the worst record for the 2010 NFL season at 2–14, had the right to the first selection in each round of the draft. With the first pick the Panthers selected Auburn Universityquarterback Cam Newton, who was the 2010 Heisman Trophywinner.[1]
A second Heisman Trophy winner, running back Mark Ingram fromAlabama was selected by New Orleans late in the first round. This was the eleventh draft which included multiple Heisman winners, and the first time ever that it has occurred in consecutive drafts (Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow in 2010).[2] Five of the first six picks played college football in the Southeastern Conference (SEC).[3]
Teams were allowed ten minutes to make each selection in the first round, seven minutes per selection in the second round and five minutes in each of the subsequent rounds.[4]

Impact of labor situation

Despite an ongoing labor dispute between league owners and players over a newcollective bargaining agreement (CBA), a provision in the expired CBA ensured that this draft would still take place, despite the fact that the owners had imposed alockout to prevent the start of the league year.[5] Fans in attendance at the draft expressed their displeasure with the lockout by lustily booing NFL commissionerRoger Goodell during the event and chanting "We want football." [6]
Due to the labor situation and the lockout, franchises were not able to trade players for draft selections (trades involving only selections are permitted), and will be unable to sign or even contact drafted or undrafted players until the lockout is lifted. Because of the lockout, the Panthers could not sign or even negotiate with their first draft pick before the draft began, as other teams have done in years past.[citation needed] The restriction on trading players extended to players selected in this draft—teams were unable to swapany player once selected, e.g. as happened in 2004 when the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants completed a draft day trade involving Eli Manning and Philip Rivers who had been selected first and fourth respectively.[7] In addition, with no agreement in place between owners and players mandating future drafts, teams were advised by the league that any trades involving future draft picks would be made at the teams' "own risk".[8] This warning did not dissuade several teams from making trades involving future selections.
The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) considered plans to dissuade potential prospects from attending the draft,[9] but a record 25 potential draftees attended the event, including Von Miller, who is a named plaintiff in the players' antitrust lawsuit against the league.[10][11]

Early entrants

Main article: List of 2011 NFL Draft early entrants
A record 56 underclassmen announced their intention to forgo their remaining NCAA eligibility and declare themselves eligible to be selected in the draft.[12] To be eligible for the draft, a player must be out of high school for at least three years.
The selection of Newton, a junior, marked the third straight draft where the first overall selection was an underclassman. Since non-seniors were first eligible to be drafted in 1990, fourteen first overall picks ( including six of the last seven) have been players who have entered the draft early.[13] Eight of the first ten players chosen in this draft were non-seniors, which broke the record of six set in 1997 and matched in 2006. Jake Locker and Von Miller were the only two seniors among the first ten draftees.[13]

Determination of draft order

For more details on this topic, see National Football League Draft#Rules for determining draft order.
The draft order is based generally on each team's regular season record, with the exception of the teams making the playoffs in 2010, who are placed at the end of the draft order in the order in which they were eliminated.

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