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What Is A Line Of Scrimmage?

What is a line of scrimmage? In football, the line of scrimmage is not really a line that can be seen. It is more of an imaginary component in the football field. The line of scrimmage is where the defensive and offensive units position themselves before a play begins. 

The distance between the two opposing teams is called the “neutral zone.” The neutral zone is an area in which no can step through except the player who will snap the ball. The standard dimension of the neutral zone is 11 inches. Within that size, it separates the two teams before the actual play gets under way. 

Who Has To Be On The Line Of Scrimmage?

There are 11 players in each team in a football match. Seven of them from each team must line up to form the “line of scrimmage.” They are the offensive linemen, tight ends, receiver and the center. The center is the one responsible to pass the ball. After passing the ball to the team’s quarterback, the center must protect him from being tackled by the opposing team. In short, the center is the most important player on the offensive line. He has to make sure that all of his teammates are in position as he draws up a play. Read here to learn about football offensive positions.

History Of The Line Of Scrimmage and Its Formation

The line of scrimmage was first implemented in 1880. It was developed and introduced by Walter Camp, the Father of American Football.[1] It was changed from a contested scrimmage to the kind of scrimmage we are using today. 

The team’s formation during a line of scrimmage is historically significant. It helped teams capture the victory or even the championship. It all depends on the strategy that the teams are using. There are no restrictions on the formation or arrangements. Only, the teams must assure that they have seven players lined up in position. 

T Formation

The most common formation is the “T Formation.” Seven players are lined up in front of the quarterback and three players form a line behind him. In an aerial view, it would look like a letter T shape.

In the 1940 NFL Finals, the Chicago Bears used this strategy against the Washington Redskins.[2] They won the game with the score of 73-0. After that, teams started to use this kind of formation. It dominated and did well over the course of the 1940s.

Single Wing

Another kind of formation is the “Single Wing.” It was most popular during the first five decades of modern American football. But, it is rarely being used today. This formation is different from the usual. Seven players are formed up on one side of the center and only two on the other. The development of the game made the teams not to use this formation anymore. Aside from its nature of being an unbalanced formation, defense can easily penetrate and would overrun the play. 

There are a lot of other formations in football. It will depend on teams on how they would maximize their chances for success and winning. Another thing, the term “line of scrimmage”  is only a jargon in football. It is only being used by fans, commentators and viewers. But actually, it is incorrect. In the NFL rulebook, the only considered “line of scrimmage” is the line formed by the defensive team. Match officials will use the term “the previous spot” to avoid uncertainty on their part. 

What Are The Rules In The Line Of Scrimmage?

Take note that at least seven players from each team must line up to form the line of scrimmage. These players are not permitted to be next to each other. They have to spread out and maximize the size of the pitch. Having fewer than seven may result in an illegal formation penalty. If the eligible receivers did not line up at the opposite ends of the line, it would also be a penalty. If five ineligible players fail to line up, sanction will be given to their team. The offending team will be penalized with a five-yard penalty to every illegal formation. 

It is also in the rule book that only the center is allowed to have any part of his body pass through inside the neutral zone. Players who are lined up on the line of scrimmage are not permitted to touch the zone. 

The neutral zone has three major areas. Behind it is called the “offensive” side of the neutral zone. Beyond it is called the “defensive” side of the neutral zone. And last is the neutral zone itself. Other players may run to any part of the field after the center snaps the ball, and with that, the play continues. 

Final Words

In every sport, developing a game plan is important. To form up a strategy that would let your team win out of the competition is a must. Like in football, as players line up in position, they have to execute their plan. From the moment the center snaps the ball until the end of down, players’ execution will determine the success of their goal. Do you think that every position inside the football is important? Why or why not? Let us know what you think!


[1] “Walter Camp (1951) – Hall of Fame – National Football ….” Accessed 9 Aug. 2020.
[2] “Washington Home | Washington Football Team ….” Accessed 9 Aug. 2020.

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