Football 101 | Chapter 7 | Defense


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The defense segment of the football team is further divided into three main groups with specific positions within each group.

The three major groupings for the defense are the defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs. Each group will have specific assignments it needs to accomplish for the defense to stop the offense and to force the offense to give up the ball, or to gain possession of the ball (interception or fumble recovery) and return the ball down the field trying to score.There is no set number of defensive players who must be lined up on the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped and the play begins. In identifying a defense, the first number will usually indicate the number of defensive linemen being used in the game and the second number will indicate the number of linebackers playing in the game. (ex. 6-2 = 6 defensive linemen and 2 linebackers)

The defensive line may consist of three players (1 nose tackle & 2 defensive ends); four players ( 2 defensive tackles & 2 defensive ends); five players (1 nose tackle, 2 defensive tackles, 2 defensive ends); or six players (2 defensive guards, 2 defensive tackles, 2 defensive ends). The actual number of defensive linemen used in the game will depend on the defense your team is using. Their basic job is to defeat the blocks of opposing players, locate the ball-carrier on running plays and help on the tackle, pressure the quarterback and hurry the throw, deflect the pass or sack the quarterback on pass plays.

Defensive linemen are usually bigger and/or stronger than the other defensive players and need good balance and quickness in a limited area. The nose tackle will line up in front of the offensive center. The two defensive guards in a 6-2 defense will line up on the line of scrimmage in front of the offensive guards. In a 4-4 or 4-3 defense the two defensive tackles will line up in front of the two offensive guards. In a 5-2 defense the two defensive tackles will line up in front of the offensive tackles. In a 3-4 & 4-3 defense the two defensive ends will line up in front of the two offensive tackles. In a 5-2 & 6-2 defense the two defensive ends will line up on the outside on the line of scrimmage or over a tight end if there is one on his side.

The linebackers in the game may consist of only one player (1 middle backer); two players (both inside backers); three players (1 middle backer & 2 outside backers); four players (2 inside backers & 2 two outside backers). The actual number of linebackers used in the game will depend on the defense your team is using. Their basic job is to defeat the blocks of opposing players, locate the ball-carrier and help on the tackle on running plays. On pass plays they will drop into an area of the field for zone pass coverage, run with a particular receiver for man pass coverage, or pressure the quarterback and hurry the throw, deflect the pass or sack the quarterback on pass plays. Linebackers are usually bigger and stronger than the defensive backs and need good balance, quickness in a limited area, and overall good speed to be able to pursue ball carriers.

In a 6-1 or 4-3 defense the middle linebacker will usually line up off the line of scrimmage in front of the offensive center. In a 5-2 or 3-4 defense the two inside linebackers will line up off the line of scrimmage directly in front of either offensive guard. In a 4-4 defense the two inside linebackers will line up off the line of scrimmage behind the defensive tackles directly in front of either offensive guard. In a 4-4 defense the two outside linebackers will line up off the line of scrimmage directly in front of either offensive tackle. In a 3-4 or 4-3 defense the one outside linebacker will often move up on the line of scrimmage directly in front of the tight end while the other outside backer will move back off the line and be outside the defensive lineman in front of him.

The defensive backs will make up the rest of the 11 defenders and the number will depend on the number of defensive linemen and linebackers being used in the game; three players (2 corners & 1 free safety); four players (2 corners,1 free safety, and 1 strong safety).

The actual number of defensive backs used in the game will depend on the defense your team is using. Their basic job is defend against any offensive pass play by dropping into an area of the field for zone pass coverage or run with a particular receiver for man pass coverage and intercepting the pass, causing a deflection or tackling the receiver. On running plays they should defeat the blocks of opposing players, locate the ball-carrier and help on the tackle.

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