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Definitive Guide of American Football Positions: Offensive, Defensive, and Special


American football as the name suggests is the conventional sport in America. It is by far the most popular sport in the United States of America as well as the most-watched and broadcasted in the USA market. Its popularity is so vast that even the College football season generates more viewership than some other major sports in the country.

A detail of this sport is that it bears the same name as soccer in many countries, people confuse it with soccer. However, between the two sports, there aren’t too many similarities except for bets. As in soccer, there are people looking for soccer betting odds, in National Football League(NFL) there are also fans who bet on their team. One of the most successful operators for both of these specific Sports, is 888 Sport. They provide some great bonuses and fair and high odds, especially for Soccer and Football. But still, it is recommended to read the 888 Sport review to be sure that you are entering a safe zone and that your funds are protected. Never deposit funds on a un-familiar asset. Always look for reviews on the internet for any business. By doing so, you’ll keep yourself safe. Why betting is popular in these Sports? Because the fans get a chance to be a part of the game since they invested themselves and their funds in it. That is one of the only things in common that all the Sports types and their fans have in common – the love for the games.

This fanaticism that produces American football in people made it an important and interesting sport for the Americans and the world thanks to access to American media in other countries.

Due to the world impact of American media, it’s popularity is spreading over the world meaning that it is now watched almost everywhere in the world. To better understand what the game is we are going to take a look at the positions on the field both employed during offensive plays and defensive plays.

Each team, during the match, has 11 players on the field. The attacking team has their offensive players on the field while the defending team has their defensive players on the field to. The offensive side of the team is the one that is controlling the ball.


The offensive team can essentially be broken down into two parts. The first part is the offensive line which as the name suggests is responsible for holding the line. The offensive line consists of a center, two offensive guards and two offensive tackles.

A typical offensive line has 5 players which from left to right are: left tackle, left guard, center, right guard, right tackle. They are responsible for blocking the defensive players from getting the ball.

The play starts when the center snaps the ball to the quarterback, making him the official initiator of the play. The guards line up to the left and right of the center and their job is to block the defensive players. It doesn’t make much difference whether it’s a running or passing play because their role is the same. There are several variations in their role which we won’t cover in-depth here.

To the right and left of the guards are the offensive tackles. Their function is essentially the same (blocking) but their role is more important. They are usually taller and quicker tasked with handling fast opposing defensive line tackle. This player’s are also the first line of defense when the opposing team rushes trying to sack the quarterback. They are essentially the quarterback’s bodyguards.

The second part of the offensive line are the backs and receivers. Heading the line for the backs is the quarterback, the man who controls the direction of the plays and by extension the team. It’s the most important position in American football because he dictates the plays and tempo of the game. It’s his task to throw the ball for the team to score. There are many types of quarterbacks (passers, runners) so their style of play depends on their skills and abilities.

Besides the quarterback, there are also running backs. As their name suggests they are mainly tasked with running with the ball to secure the first down. Teams usually feature one or two running backs in a formation but they can even be three. Their main tasks are to give the quarterback a break and to extend a play when it needs to be extended. There are several types of running backs to, like the halfback who usually only runs with the ball or the fullback who are usually only the blockers. Either of those types can do the other task as well depending on the coaches decision.

The most used weapons of the offense are called receivers (mainly wide receivers). This name suggests they play out on the field although that it isn’t a rule. There is also the slot receiver who plays more through the middle than out wide. Their task is to catch the ball that is being thrown by the quarterback and run with it until they are stopped by the defense. They are the most targeted players in the field and often are the staples of a good offensive unit.

Lastly, there is a position called tight end. They are considered hybrid players, somewhat of a mix between a receiver and offensive linemen. They are usually large physical players who possess the fine skill of catching a football. This player’s are a vital part of the football team and can be very valuable because as the name suggests they are often deployed in very tight situations.


The defensive unit like their counterpart has a line. This line is called the defensive line and is consisted of two different positions.

The first one is called the defensive tackle which is ultimately the same position as an offensive tackle with the caveat that they play in the defensive unit. The required skill is the same and their main role is stopping the quarterback and runners.

The second part of the defensive line is the defensive backs who lineup outside of the tackles. A team usually has two defensive ends tasked with rushing the quarterback to stop him from passing the ball. They can also be tasked with covering running plays as well.

After the defensive line, most teams employ a second line of defenders that may or may not resemble an actual line. Those players that play that position are called the linebackers and there can be two types. The first type is the inside linebackers while the second type is the outside linebackers. They are essentially the same players but are called differently depending on the defensive scheme.

A vital part of the defensive unit is the defensive backs. They are considered the last line of defense of the team. Their main tasks is to break up passing plays especially if they are thrown deep. Because of that, they are usually smaller and faster players who can run fast and jump high. The defensive backs can be deployed in several different positions.

The cornerbacks are deployed on the outer side of the field. They are tasked with covering the wide receivers preventing them from catching the ball.

The safeties are a different type of defensive back who mainly play deep in the defense and in the middle of the field. They are tasked with observing the plays and securing a good defensive reaction hence the name safety, they are essentially a safety switch.

Special teams

There is a part of the team which we haven’t discussed and it’s called the special teams. Special teams, as the name suggests, are only deployed in certain situations. Those situations are called kicking plays and happen when the kicker is kicking a field goal or a punter is punting the ball.

There are several roles a player can have in the special teams but the most prominent ones are the kicker and the punter. The kicker is essentially a player whose only job is to try and convert a field goal. The punter, on the other hand, is a kicker whose job is to kick the ball as far as possible after an offensive unit fails to score.

Other positions that are deployed within the special teams are the holder (holds the ball for the kicker during a field goal), punt returner (a player who is tasked with catching the punted ball) a long snapper (tasked with delivering a long snap which centers can’t do), etc.

With this information, we conclude our positional overview of American Football. While this is only a small fragment of the complexity of this game this information will help you understand better this sport.

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