Football 101 – 03 : The defense

Welcome back everybody. So far we’ve really only talked about the offense, and so it’s time to talk about the other half of a football team – the defense.

The defense is faced with one major disadvantage when compared to the offense, and that is that they don’t know what the offense are going to do, run or pass. Run defense is pretty simple – everyone get to the ball carrier and tackle him as quickly as possible. Pass defense is a little more complicated, but we’ll keep it as simple as we can for now.
What happens is that in the huddle, the defense call a pass defense, and they intend to go with that. However, as soon as they see that the offense are running with the football, all defenders will forget their assignments and try to tackle the ball carrier. The reason for this is that on a pass defense, the defenders will be spread all over the field, however, the more defenders who can help make a tackle, the better. So if it’s a run, all defenders will try to help make the tackle, no matter where they are on the field (the same applies if the offense complete a pass, all defenders will go for the ball carrier).

So let’s learn who is on the field for the defense.

note : The offense would be trying to go ‘up’ the page

The defense is divided into three groups.


DT is Defensive Tackle. This is generally the biggest guy on defense, because he goes against the biggest guys on the offense, who you’ll remember are the Center and Guards.

DE are Defensive Ends. Big, strong and fast, they often try to get around the Offensive Tackles and take down the Quarterback before he can even throw the ball.


OLB are Outside Linebackers, ILB are Inside Linebackers : These are normally the best tacklers on a defense. They have many responsibilities that can vary from one play to the next. Preferably, they are fast enough that they can run after the opposing halfback, and strong enough to be able to tackle anything that moves and is carrying a football.


CB are Cornerbacks : They have to be fast so they can follow the Receivers of the offense.

SS is Strong Safety : Kind of a cross between a Linebacker and a Cornerback, and often has to follow the Tight End of the offense.

FS is Free Safety : Needs speed and vision because he’s mostly the last man in defense, and he normally doesn’t have to follow anyone in particular, but just be wherever he’s needed, and therefore it’s not an easy position to play.


So now let’s put it all together and show an example of how the defense try to stop an offense. (The lines and circles are just showing which player on offense is being covered by which player on defense)

This is an example of what’s known as ‘man’ coverage. It has this name because the defenders cover one man (really one skill player, you’ll no doubt remember that the Offensive Line can’t catch the ball, and the Quarterback is the one throwing the ball, so he can’t catch it either, leaving 5 offensive players who must be accounted for). The Inside Linebackers and Free Safety will watch and react, the Defensive Line will try and get the Quarterback.
Also don’t forget that man coverage is a pass defense. If the offense run with the ball, all defenders forget about their assignments and try to tackle the ball carrier.

So these were the basics of a defense. They just see what the offense are doing and react to it as quickly as they can (and by ‘react’, I mean ‘find the guy with the ball and knock him over’).

Next time we’re going to look at the third and often overlooked phase of football called Special Teams, and just your luck, that happens to be my specialty! Don’t forget to question and comment, by the way, there’s nothing a football player loves more than to be asked about football, so don’t be shy about directing questions to your husband/son/boyfriend/whatever! Until next time

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