What does defensive tackle do

The positions in American football

In recent years it has become established that American football players specialize in up to two positions. This has the advantage that the player who is best qualified for the task at hand can be used due to the possibility of substitution after each move. A distinction is made between players who are used on the offensive, i.e. the offense, and the defensive, i.e. the defense. There are also so-called special teams. By the way, these are not coached by a single trainer, but by a complete training team. The reason: American football is an extremely complex game, which is why every coach should be able to concentrate on his special area. The team as a whole is looked after by a so-called head coach, who is also responsible for the other coaches. These are the offensive coordinator, the defensive coordinator and the special teams coordinator. These, in turn, look after the various parts of the team and, under certain circumstances, also provide moves. In addition, there are other trainers for certain positions or tasks in the NFL. While amateur teams work with up to five trainers, a professional trainer team of ten is not uncommon. These are the different positions:

The positions on the offensive

Quarterback: The quarterback as a game designer is considered to be the head of the offense. His job is to pass the next move on to the team and implement it. While he is executing the move, a good quarterback must of course also be able to adapt it to the respective circumstances and above all to the reaction of the opposing defense in order to be able to choose the best option for a move. The quarterback tries either to gain space himself or to pass the ball. The performance of a quarterback is primarily measured by his pass quality, which is summarized in the so-called quarterback rating.

Halfback and fullback: these two positions are also known as running back. This is the player who is primarily responsible for the running game. That means: He tries to find a way through the opposing defense with the ball in hand. As soon as the center has passed the ball to the quarterback, he forwards the ball to the running back, who is in the rearmost position in the offense. His task now is to overcome the opposing line of defense. In the best case, he overcomes the entire line, reaches the end zone and scores a touchdown here. Speed ​​is the most important characteristic of a good running back, while body size does not play an important role in this position. Strong and agile players are usually used as halfbacks, while fullbacks are usually heavier and are used as additional security because they can make up ground in some situations.

Tight end: The position of the tight end is a mixture of an offensive lineman and a wide receiver. The offensive lineman stands directly in front of the quarterback and forms the front line of the offense with four other players. In its capacity as a wide receiver, the tight end can also receive the passes of the quarterback. One of the tasks of the tight end is to block the running back's path during a running game. In passing games, on the other hand, it is the ideal recipient.

Wide Receiver: The wide receiver is the player who receives the quarterback's passes. He must first run the route of the move that was announced during the huddle - the gathering of players before the move. The quarterback then tries to throw the ball into the barrel of the receiver with a precise throw. The latter, in turn, must have secured the ball before it touches the ground. Of course, he is hindered by the opposing players.

Tackle: In the offensive line, the tackle on the right and left form the outer position. One of their tasks is to stop the attacking opposing players. The tackles are considered to be the largest links in the offensive line, which is why they should ideally be at least two meters tall and weigh 125 kilograms. There is one difference between left and right tackle, however: Because most people are right-handed, the left tackle should be the better pass blocker.

Guard: The guards are the players who are positioned to the right and left of the center. Your job is to keep opposing linemen and linebackers away from your quarterback while he is executing a pass. Guards are also often used for pull maneuvers during a running game. In this case, they don't block straight forward, but take a step behind the line and move to the side. This maneuver is intended to provide an advantage for the blockers.

Center: The center is in the center of the offensive line as well as a move. Essentially, his job is to pass the ball between his legs and thus initiate the play. While this is happening, no other player other than the center may be in the neutral zone between the two teams. In addition, no other player may touch the center until the ball has been safely passed. Later on in the game, one of his tasks is to block the defensive linemen.

Let's go a little closer together and get from the basics, the rules and the points to the most important moves in American football. We understand that you should take some time to practice some of these tactics and moves. In English there is talk of play. The entire course of a game depends on these decisions. If you really want to understand a game, you can't avoid these moves in American football.

Procedure and moves in American football

Basically, the process of the plays in the base is similar. So every single play starts from the line of scrimmage. Most of the time, the ball goes back to the quarterback from the center. This is followed by various actions that end a play.

  • If a player touches the ground with a part of his body, he is Down. It only matters if the player is carrying the ball and if it is not the hands or the feet.
  • If the player is stopped and it becomes clear at this point that no further gain in space is realistic. Then one play is complete.
  • If the player comes with a part of his body on the field marking, he is out of bounds and thus ends the play.
  • If the forward pass cannot be caught and touches the ground in the process, we are dealing with an incomplete pass.
  • If the ball hits the ground in any other position, the game continues and we have a fumble.

Whenever we arrive at the end of a play, it goes back to the starting position and the next play is started. In most cases we go back to the point where the greatest gain in space occurred. The situation is different if the ball carrier has been pushed back by a tackle.

Or when a referee walks a few yards back because of a criminal offense. In this case, the ball goes as close as possible to the opponent's goal - to the point where the contributor went. Did you get an incomplete pass? Then it goes back to the old place, because nothing has changed.

Offensive moves in American football

Run block: This is nothing more than active blocking. The players step forward and try to push the opponent away. With this one would like to clear the path for the contributor.

Pass block: As the name suggests, we are referring to passive blocking here. The players step back and create a kind of pocket for their quarterback. He had more time to execute his pass.

Lead Block: The ball carrier has a blocker that runs in front of him to get all of the defense players out of the way.

Pull: This play refers to a player on the offensive line who steps back from his position and runs across the line of scrimmage. With this move he wants to block in another place. A flexible move that is used in running games and passing games.

Pocket: The offensive line creates an area around your quarterback that is as protected as possible. He thus has a clear view of the field of play in order to then take the pass in peace.

Get: Here a gap opens up in the offensive line, through which a ball carrier usually runs. In some moves these gaps are present from the beginning or can be opened by specific movements on a block.

American football running plays

We are dealing with these moves when a player behind the line of scrimmage grabs the ball. This can be the quarterback who receives the ball from his center, or the running back.

Drive: This move can also have other names, such as Plunge or Slam. In this case, the quarterback gives the ball to his running back, who then runs through a gap and tries to overcome the offensive line.

Off tackle: Here, too, the running back runs through the gap and moves just outside a tackle and past it. At best, this move creates more space to run.

Toss: Here you go to a previously selected page for fullback and halfback. You turn towards the opposing goal. The quarterback throws to the fullback. This player is behind the halfback.

Sweep: On this move, the fullback goes to the sideline, shortly before it turns in the direction of attack. The offensive line will move in such a way as to create the clearest possible lane for your running back. The fullback is responsible for the lead blocker.

Draw: The quarterback takes a few steps back while his offensive line passively blocks. One would like to give the impression that a pass follows. The quarterback gives the running back the ball, which runs through the block of the players.

Reverse: Similar to the sweep, the running back runs to the line of scrimmage, but passes the egg to the wide receiver shortly before that. Suddenly he runs in the other direction. This is an extremely complex move, but effective when the defense rushes closed to the running back and the wide receiver is free.

The positions on the defensive

The defensive tackle: If an odd number of tackles are used in a defensive formation, the middle one is called the nose tackle. The reason: This is in the middle of the opposing offensive line. Depending on which position they occupy in the formation, the players are referred to as Left or Right Defensive Takle.

Defensive end: The players who are positioned at the end of the defensive line are called the defensive end. However, the term End is not used today. This goes back to the early years of American football.

Linebacker: The linebacker stands directly in the middle of the defense, i.e. behind the defense line and in front of the defensive backs. The ideal linebacker has to meet relatively high physical demands for his team. He should be between 1.85 and 1.90 meters tall and his muscle mass so pronounced that he can weigh at least 100 kilos. Because the linebacker often also acts as the defense captain, a lot of experience and a good overview of the game are required. In defense, they are actively used against both passing and running play.

Cornerback: The cornerback is placed on the outside of the defense. He is supposed to defend the field against the opposing wide receivers as well as against other pass recipients. Usually, the cornerback acts together with the other defense players as part of a zone defense, with each player having to defend a specific room.

Strong Safety: The Strong Safety is placed on the "strong" side of the opposing attack line. He faces the tight end or fullback of the opponent relatively directly. Its main task is to disrupt the opponent's running game.

Free Safety: The task of the Free Safety is to guess the line-up of the opponent and the moves. This should enable him to intercept passes from the opposing quarterback. Just like the Strong Safety, the Free Safety can attack the opposing quarterback directly. This procedure is known as Safety Blitz. However, because it is an extremely risky maneuver, it is rarely used in practice.

Nickelback: The nickelback is a third cornerback who goes onto the field in certain defensive formations alongside the other defensive backfield players. The nickelback is mainly used when the opposing offensive has to cover a long distance and a passing game is therefore expected. The nickelback is not a starting position because it is not included in the basic formation of the defense. The position is therefore usually taken by safeties or cornerbacks.

Defense refers to the part of the team in which only defensive players are set up. The goal of this team is designed only for the opponent. You want to stop a potential gain in space as quickly as possible, better prevent it and get in the way of porters. Hardly any other team is equipped with as much nonsense as the defense in football - a job for the toughest guys on a team. We now want to introduce the individual positions and the special features of defense in more detail.

Defense information and tasks

In a football game, offense and defense usually face each other. They are both pursuing an opposing game. Because the offense aims to gain a lot of space and as many points as possible. The defense wants to prevent exactly this and, if possible, recapture the ball via an interception. But be careful: prepare yourself for many different formations and games. We will try to explain this in a comprehensible manner.


If the wide receiver looks ahead, it looks straight into the eyes of the cornerback - CB for short. this player has one goal: he wants to prevent his opponent from catching a pass. If you want to play in this position, you need enormous speed, very resilient and flexible hips in order to be able to change direction quickly. In addition, the CB needs to develop an awareness of what the wide receiver wants to do next.

In this position, excellent players do not storm directly against the player, i.e. the receiver, but rather against the thrown ball.

Defense End

Here we have to differentiate again between the 4-3 and the 3-4 Defense:

  • 3-4 Defense: In this formation there are very strong and stable players who go straight to the man and block him. You have the task of controlling the entire line of scrimmage. Few NFL players are quick enough to put pressure on the quarterback in these positions.
  • 4-3 Defense: Here the teams rely on much lighter players who go hunting for quarterback. Especially when it comes to a pass on the field, exactly the right choice. As we can see, the defense probably serves one of the most diverse player options, which differentiates between very strong and very agile players. Real top players and talents combine both qualities.

Defensive tackle

At this position we find the biggest and strongest players on the entire defense of a team. They try to get to the quarterback and stop him running. One of the basic qualities is his quick hands that prevent the opponent from pushing himself out of position.

Free safety

The Free Safety - FS for short - has the sole task of following the ball. If it is not a running game but a passing game, he goes to the cornerback's position to support him and defend the wide receiver.

Inside linebacker

Usually there are two of these players positioned in the middle of the defense. At best, these players have a very strong physique. However, they prevent the run and cover the entire zones of pass coverage.

Middle linebacker

May we introduce: This is the boss of the 4-3 Defense. The middle linebacker stands eye to eye with the center and always keeps an eye on him in order to give the appropriate instructions to his teammates.

The Spy Pass also targets the opposing team's quarterback. Otherwise, he has enough room to run and make yards himself.

Nickel Back

We're not dealing with the well-known US rock band, but with the third cornerback. If the pass is clear, the teams prefer to rely on the nickel back - NB for short - than on a linebacker to build a safe defense.

Nose tackle

Admittedly, a rather unusual name for a player who is directly across from the center.The name was derived from the position. In most cases it is the heaviest player on the team. They are busy taking out two of the offensive liners to give the linebackers a chance to tackle. If you want to play in this position, you not only need strength and strength, but also a lot of discipline and excellent technique.

Outside linebacker

The goal of an outside linebacker - or OLB for short - is to prevent the lateral walking paths. In addition to incessant pressure on the quarterback, tackles and blocks are his main tasks.

Strong Safety (SS)

The declared opponents of Strong Safety - SS for short - are the tight ends. At best, these players are characterized by their enormous size and physical strength, which is higher than that of Free Safety.

Defense strategies and tactics

The complexity of the defense opens up a wide range of tasks and tactical refinements to the defense coordinator in connection with the head coach. Basically, it's just about preventing the gain in space. The individual positions have several tasks.

It is the art of perfect teamwork in order to maintain an overview despite all the action and tension that ultimately brings a team to victory. So ultimately the defense has an impact on the outcome of the game. It offers the best conditions for your offense to gain space and prevents all runs and passing games of the opposing team.

The main defense formations

The most important line-ups include 3-4 and 4-3 Defense. But what is behind this term? It is the front of 7 men, which consists of 4 players in the defensive line and 3 linebackers in the case of 4-3. Behind them are safes and cornerbacks.

In contrast, the 3-4 is more flexible and agile, because the 4 linebackers have the option of launching a lightning attack directly on the quarterback or individually stopping and covering the recipients of the passes. In contrast to the NFL, the College American Football teams mainly rely on the front of 8 men, such as 6-2, 4-4 or 5-3.

The special teams

The kicker: The kicker is responsible for achieving a field goal or the point after touchdown. His job is to shoot the ball out of the field or through the opponent's gate rod after the touchdown. Kickers play a crucial role because they can make up for a bad run on their team by winning a point. Even some super bowls were decided by field goals in the last second.

The punter: A good punter is primarily characterized by good shooting technique, which is why punters often also take the position of the kicker at the same time. The punter is used when it is foreseeable that your own team will not be able to gain ten yards of space. In this case, the punter kicks the ball as far as possible into the opposing half, but this leads to the loss of the right to attack


Kicking Specialist: Kicking Specialists are always used when the ball is kicked with the foot. This is the case with punts and field goals as well as with a kickoff or the point after touchdown. As a rule, Kicking Specialists are not assigned to other positions.

Long snapper: The Long Snapper is a specialist. Like the center, the long snapper transports the ball between its legs to a teammate. Because the Long Snapper is only used when there are long distances to be overcome, it has to act extremely quickly and precisely. The fact that this position is extremely important is shown, among other things, by the fact that every team in the NFL now has a long snapper who does not play in any other position.

Holder: The holder's job is to keep the ball straight during a point-after-touchdown or field goal attempt so that the kicker can hit reliably. He must therefore have the ability to receive the ball as flawlessly as possible. For this very reason, punters and backup quarterbacks are often used as holders. In the regular position, they must also be able to accept balls. The holder should also be characterized by a certain amount of speed and harmonize well with the kicker. Because depending on the kicking technique of the kicker, the holder has to position the ball.

Kick return: After an opponent's kickoff, the kick returner must first try to catch the ball and then carry it back as far as possible. As an alternative, it can also display a fair catch. In this case, he may catch the ball without being tackled. However, he is then no longer allowed to bring the ball forward. The kick returner usually chooses this option when the opponents come too close and catching the ball is no longer guaranteed.

Punt return: The point returner must catch the ball at an opposing punt and carry it back as far as possible. As soon as he has caught the ball, the punt returner runs towards the opposing end zone. If he manages to carry the ball into the end zone, it is a punt-return touchdown. If he does not succeed in this, the offense starts the next attack from the position to which the punt returner could carry the ball. Alternatively, the punt returner can indicate a fair catch by waving his arms over his head. In this case he is allowed to catch the ball, but cannot gain any space.

Return Specialist: The task of the return specialist is to carry back kickoffs, punts and field goals that have come off too short. The Return Specialist is usually also employed in other positions.