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11 Football Offensive Positions Explained 2020

Do you often get confused between running back and fullback? Did you know that certain positions are eligible to carry the ball and certain roles are not? What about the ‘4 backs and 7 lines’ rule in the NFL? 

Don’t worry because in this article, I will cover each of the 11 players in the football offensive positions. 

Backs and Receivers 

Backs and receivers are eligible to carry the ball. Three of these players are required to stand at the line of scrimmage due to the 4 backs and 7 lines rule. 

Quarterback (QB) – 1x player

The Quarterback is the most influential position on the offensive side. He is the leader, captain, and signal caller. He is also the one who represents the team during the coin toss and receives interviews from the media. 

The Quarterback calls the plays in the huddle prior to the start of the game. When the time is tight and there’s no time to call the plays, he would do it on the run by making audible changes. Yelling special codes like “Blue 42” and “Taxes 29.” 

The game starts when the quarterback receives the snap from the center. This can either be through directly lining up behind him for a handoff called ‘under center’ or at a distance in formation which can be a shotgun or pistol. From there, there are three decisions that he has to call: 

  1. Advance the ball
  2. Pass or handoff for a fullback dive 
  3. Execute a forward pass to rushing wide receiver 

On a passing play, the quarterback will almost always be the one who throws the ball to another eligible offensive player. For most running plays, he would either hand or pitch the ball to the halfback or fullback. For rare option play, he will run the ball himself. 

In the event where he is tackled behind the line of scrimmage, it is called a sack.

The Quarterback is the only player who receives the ball mostly during offense, hence they are also the most glorified, scrutinized and highest-paid positions in team sports. 

Read: What Makes Tom Brady the G.O.A.T

Tight End (TE) – 1x player or none

Tight End is a hybrid player of the wide receiver and offensive linemen. He stands on the right side of the line, next to the offensive tackle. In a typical Tight End fashion, he is not eligible to carry the ball. However, if he lines up behind the line of scrimmage, he will be counted as one of the four backs eligible to carry the ball ultimately known as “H-back.”

As the Tight End is often required to block and catch passes in the middle of the field, he needs to develop versatile strength, agility, and good eye and body coordination. 

Under option play, the Tight End is the lead blocker for the fullback dive. When the quarterback is unable to pitch due to ambushes, he acts as an outlet receiver. 

Running Back (Halfback / Tailback) – 2 to 3 players

What people usually refer to as the running back is actually a Halfback. They are also called Tailback in certain formations. 

Running Backs are known for their speed, agility, and smaller body build as opposed to the Fullback. They have an important role of receiving passes or handoffs, then rushing through the field to gain yardage. 

Here’s a list of the top football cleats that most running backs use.

In a certain rare formation there can be 3 running backs. However, in modern NFL, you will only find one to two running backs depending on the offensive scheme the team is deploying. 

Since Running Backs are close in proximity with the Quarterback, they are often prepared to receive a pass during the game in case the Quarterback receives attackers. In certain alignments such as the flexbone formation and triple option offense, the Running Backs are also known as slot-backs. 

Additionally, with the wildcat formation, one of the Halfbacks is used to receive snap instead of the Quarterback. 

Read: Wishbone Offense Formation Explained

Fullback – 1x player or none

The Fullback is a power player. They are strong, big, and fast. The Fullback’s key role is to receive handoffs from Quarterbacks for a fullback dive. 

If a Running Back is quick in changing their direction to dodge defenders, the Fullback aims to power through the defenders using brute force. 

The Fullback stands directly behind the Quarterback in the starting position. Their key duties include power running, pass catching (although not particularly skilled at), as well as facilitating blocks for both the Quarterback and other Running Backs depending on the play. 

In a flexbone formation, the Fullback is sometimes referred to as B-back with the primary role of rushing. 

Wide Receivers – 1 to 2x players

Wide Receivers are often tall and should be quick. In fact, they should be one of the fastest runners in the field. They are called Wide Receivers as they often stand furthest from the team at the sideline. They are always ready to outrun and outmaneuver defenders to receive pitches from his Quarterback to advance the ball forward. 

There are three types of Wide Receivers: 

  • Split End –  stands at the line of scrimmage and is furthest away from the center. He is counted as one of the seven offensive line players. 
  • Flanker – lines up behind the line of scrimmage and typically stands at the side of the Tight End. He is the furthest player from the center on his side of the field. 
  • Slotback or Slot Receiver – positioned horizontally between the offensive tackle and the Split End, or between the Tight End and the Flanker. 

A well rounded wide receiver is noted for blocking defensive backs to support their teammate on top of their catching abilities. 

Check out our list of the best football cleat for wide receivers in this post.

Offensive (Interior) Line

The role of the offensive line players is to provide blocking to the defensive players in order to protect their quarterback. Offensive line players are not eligible to receive a pass due to the 4 backs and 7 line rule. 

They can, however, handle the ball when it is fumbled, a pass is reflected, or during a snap from the center. The players can also carry the ball when his position has changed. 

There are three key roles that makes the five offensive line players: 

Center C – 1x Player

The Center is often the biggest and strongest player in the team. 

He stands at the center of the line of scrimmage, and begins the play by snapping the ball between his legs to the quarterback. The snap can either be a hand off or a pass at a distance. Depending on the formation, the Center may offset to one side slightly to employ an unbalanced line. 

Because of his position, the Center has the most complete view of the defensive alignment which allows him to call out blocking assignments. He can also make some final second adjustments to counteract changing defensive lines. Additionally, the Center is also responsible to provide blocking to protect the Quarterback. 

Offensive guard (OG) – 2x Players 

Offensive Guards are huge and strong – they weigh as much as 325 to 330 pounds.[1]

There are two Offensive Guards standing directly on either side of the center in the line of scrimmage. Right Guards is the term for an Offensive Guard standing on the right, while Left Guards are on the left side. Same as the Center, they are responsible for blocking and protecting the Quarterback from incoming Linemen during plays. 

Offensive Guards may create openings for a Running Back dive, or pull out from their initial position to run behind the other offensive Linemen to sprint ahead of a Running back and block a defensive player known as the ‘pull.’ 

Offensive Tackle (OT) – 2x players 

Outside the Offensive Guards stand two Offensive Tackles. One is positioned at the right end and another on the left. Offensive Tackles are strong and tall with long arms. Usually, they are the most skilled players on the offensive line.

Offensive Tackles are responsible for giving blocks to both running and passing plays. If the Quarterback calls for a running play that occurs on the right side of the line with a Tight End, Offensive Tackles run forward and grab a few fast guys with their long arms. 

Since most Quarterbacks are right-hand handed, the left offensive tackle has to be on the lookout for rushing defenders coming from the Quarterback’s blindspot.

Who Protects The Quarterback? 

The entire interior offensive line which includes the Center, two Offensive Guards, two Offensive Tackles all protect the Quarterback. Other positions such as the Tight End and Fullback would also hop if he is in trouble. 

What Is The Most Dangerous Position In Football?

According to the study done by Zach Binney, the most dangerous positions in football are Defensive Backs, Linebackers, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, and Tight Ends. 

These positions have a 60 to 70% risk of landing an injury, 40% chance of missing at least a game, and a 15 to 20% chance of missing four games or more in a given season. [2]

What Position In Football Gets Hurt The Least?

From the same study done by Zach Binney, Safety is the position with the least amount of chance to acquire injuries – with only a 25% chance of landing into the injury report, 10% chance of missing time, and a low 5% chance of missing four or more games

Final thoughts 

By now you have learned that there are two groups of offensive roles: Interior Offensive Line which consists of the Center, two Offensive Guards, and two Offensive Tackles. All of them are not eligible to carry the ball. The other group are the backs and receivers which consists of the Quarterback, typically two Running Backs, two Wide Receivers and a Fullback. These positions can carry the ball forward.

Now tell me… what is your favourite position? Was there anything that we missed or you would like us to write more about? As always, drop us a comment below and we will be more than happy to answer them!

Resources:

 1.”Guards & Tackles – Football 101: Players and Positions.” https://football.calsci.com/Positions2.html. Accessed 26 Jun. 2020.
2. “NFL Injuries Part IV: Variation by Position | Football Outsiders.” https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2015/nfl-injuries-part-iv-variation-position. Accessed 26 Jun. 2020.

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