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Football Positions Explained

Medha Godbole Mar 12, 2020
American football is a team game which involves strategy and physical play in equal measure. This game covers a wide range of positions in the field. Tap ahead to get an insight of the positions that are covered in this wonderful game.
In the UK they say that 'Football is a gentleman's game played by thugs and rugby is a thug's game played by gentlemen'.
Well, one wonders how true that is! But the fact remains that both these games are quite popular all over. Now, to talk about rugby, the motive of the game includes players from two teams advancing with the ball to the opposite team's end zone for scoring a touchdown.
They can either do it by passing the ball to another teammate or running with the ball towards the end zone. The United States has their own version of rugby, which is simply called football. That is actually an offshoot counterpart of rugby.
The objective of American football is the same as rugby, which is commenced by the players on particular positions on the field. But what are these and what they do? Have a look at their markings.

Defensive Positions

Defensive Ends

There are two defensive ends and they rally the two opposite boundaries of the defensive line. What the defenders do is that they attack the player passing the ball (from the opposite team) or advance with the ball towards the boundaries of the line of scrimmage (meaning across the width of a football field).
Now, whoever is faster amongst the two is on the left side of the quarterback, that is on the right side of the defensive line.

Nose Tackle

Also called defensive tackle or defensive guard, this position refers to the linemen who are side-by-side and are between the defensive ends. They rush the passer and block the running plays, progressing towards the center of the line of scrimmage.
When this player is almost nose to nose with the opponent team's center, and is lined up directly from across the ball, the position is called a nose tackle.

Nose Guard

A nose guard is also called a middle guard. This is a position straight opposite the center of the offensive. These function as players who stop running plays in the direction of the line of scrimmage, and they are typically very sturdy and extremely strong.


These could be called the all rounders on the field. As per the situation of the game, their functions vary from covering receivers and rushing the passer to blocking or defending against the run.
There are three types of linebackers - strong side, middle side, and weak side. The middle side linebacker decides the course of the entire defense ensemble, and so he is sometimes called a quarterback of defense.


The players in this position provide a cover for the wide receivers. They basically are there to try to avert successful quarterback passes. They do that by swatting the airborne ball away from the receiver or they themselves catch the pass. They also sometimes block the rusher.


They are the last in the line of defense, helping the corners with deep pass coverage typically. They are farthest from the line of scrimmage. There are two categories in this - strong safety and free safety. The strong safety player is larger and stronger, whereas the free safety player is smaller and comparatively more agile.

Offensive Positions


This player puts the ball in play by the method of snap, and performs all the characteristic blocking functions. In many teams, the center doubles up as the team captain.

Offensive Guard

These are the offensive linemen, within the tackles and directly on either side of the center. Akin to the interior linemen, they block running as well as passing plays.

Offensive Tackle

Outside the periphery of offensive guards are the players who form the offensive tackle. Their main objective and role is to obstruct passing and running plays.

Tight End

The players in this position play close to the tackles on both sides. They have a role which is a mix of a receiver and a blocker. In case an end moves away from the tackle, the player is called a split end.

Wide Receiver

They are the specialists and are swift when it comes to pass catching on the go. They do the job of running pass routes and make way or 'get open' for a potential pass. Even though they are pass experts, they can be sometimes asked to block. This is one of the very crucial positions on the line of scrimmage in a legal formation, along with 7 others.


A fullback stands behind the middle in the line and performs running, short receiving, and blocking functions. A fullback normally paves way for the running back when the ball is in the player's possession.

Running Back

Previously called halfback, the player in this position holds and carries the ball on maximum running plays. This player also performs the role of a short-yardage receiver many times. Amongst the offensive players, running backs along with wide receivers are the fastest.


Here comes the match winner, the quarterback. This player is in a very strategic position, from where he can take a snap which is handed between the legs of the center player. Once the quarterback gets the ball, he either himself storms towards the end zone or passes it to the running back.
These are the basic football positions which can, however, change depending on a particular game. But all said and done, even though the quarterback gets most of the credit for the wins, it's not without the runs and blocks of the defensive players.
This is just a glimpse of what these players sweat out for. After all, it is a team game, and no team can succeed without each member giving his hundred percent and ensuring a victory!