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Defensive Football Positions

Think about football, and the first thing that comes to your mind is the amazing and glamorous life of a quarterback.
Rahul Thadani Mar 11, 2020
Sure enough, he more often than not, steals the show and is constantly in the limelight, but he owes a lot of this to a whole bunch of guys who make him look good - the defensive line. The importance of defensive line in American football is undisputed.

American Food-ball!

On an average, Americans together spend about $50 million on food just before the Super Bowl.
The defensive positions in football are not as rigid as you may be led to believe, as the defensive players can be positioned anywhere behind the Line of Scrimmage, depending on the strategy of play adopted by the coach of the team. The positions that focus on defense are absolutely crucial for the team to succeed in the National Football League (NFL).
It isn't easy being a football player, more so if you are in the defensive line. The job calls for incredible amounts of stamina, lightning-quick pace, and brutal strength. The reason for this is that, being in one of these positions, your task is to break up the play of the offensive line, and force a turnover through an interception, fumble or a punt.
Filling up for these positions is not a simple task, as you will be repeatedly called upon by your captain, in order to get back possession of the football, and to stop the opposing team from scoring.
The simplest defensive formation used by many teams is known as the 4-3. There are many other variations that can be adopted as well. Explained below are the roles that all the players play in these critical positions -
DL - Down Linemen
NG - Nose Guard
DE - Defensive End
LB - Linebacker
CB - Cornerback
SS/FS - Safety

Down Linemen (DL)

These are the two interior players in the defensive line. They stand at the Line of Scrimmage, facing the offensive line. Their task is mainly to cause the opposing quarterback problems, and force him into making a mistake. They can do this by rushing the quarterback, if they can manage to get past the offensive linemen blocking him. The players in this defensive football position are also known as Defensive Tackles (DT).

Nose Guard (NG)

Also called a Middle Guard, this is a player sometimes positioned between the two down Linemen. He is directly facing the attacking team's center, and is one of the optional positions in defense. His job is to stop any runs progressing down the middle, and to help out the down linemen in double teaming opposition players.

Defensive End (DE)

On either flank of the down linemen, are the Defensive Ends. Their task is to prevent attackers from running down the outside. They must either tackle them, or divert them back to the middle, where the down linemen can tackle them. The faster defensive end is usually on the right hand side, as he can usually attack a right-handed quarterback on his blind side (his left side).

Linebacker (LB)

There are usually three linebackers present. The stronger LB will be facing the side of the opposition which is a greater threat. You may hear them being referred to as 'Sam', 'Mike' and "Will'. This represents the Strongside LB, the Middle LB, and the Weakside LB. The Middle LB has the task of organizing the entire defensive line, and is sometimes also called the quarterback of the defense.

Cornerback (CB)

Also known as Defensive Backs (DB), their task is to prevent the wide receivers of the offensive team. They have to ensure that the wide receivers do not receive any passes from the Quarterback. Interceptions are what they excel at, and it goes without saying, that they must be very quick and agile, in order to perform their task efficiently.

Safety (SS and FS)

The safeties are the last line of defense, and occupy the final defense positions. The Strong Safety (SS) primarily focuses on tackling opposing players, that are running with the ball, and are therefore bigger and stronger than the Free Safety (FS).
The FS is smaller and faster, and helps out the cornerbacks in intercepting passes. Being the last line of defense, the safeties cannot let an attacker cross them under any circumstance.
The way they are placed, and the number of players in each position, may vary according to the formation being used, and the strategy adopted by the team. To find a balance between offense and defense is absolutely essential and this is an art mastered by The New York Jets and helped them achieve great results.
The importance of defensive football positions is usually understated in comparison to the offensive ones, and they do not receive as much adulation and fanfare as the attackers, but without them a football team would be unable to achieve anything.