Football Defensive Back

football defensive back

What is a Defensive Back in Football?

A defensive back in football is a defensive player who lines up in the defensive backfield with the primary objective of defending against the pass; defensive backs include cornerbacks and safeties. The group of defensive backs is known as the secondary. Linebackers may also serve in roles similar to defensive backs at times.

Defensive backs defend against offensive players whose main goal is to catch passes, such as wide receivers and tight ends. Cornerbacks usually play against wide receivers, while safeties match up against tight ends and running backs, as well as playing deep zone defense to prevent long passes.

Defensive Back Positions and Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of defensive backs vary depending on their position. However, most defensive backs are responsible for blocking and stopping runners or receivers, as well as outflanking the offense in order to attempt a sack.


Cornerbacks are located on either end of the defensive line. They typically guard against passes and, in man coverage, face off against wide receivers. Cornerbacks are also responsible for sacking the quarterback in a blitz


Two defensive backs are known as safeties. They line up about 10-15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, on either side of and slightly behind the linebackers. The two types of safeties are free safeties and strong safeties. Free safeties line up on the weak side of the field, where there is no tight end on the offense, while strong safeties line up on the strong side, where the tight end lines up. Safeties stop deep passes and run plays.  

Defensive Back Schemes

In a traditional defensive base, there are four defensive backs: two cornerbacks, a strong safety, and a free safety. The most common variation of this base is to add a fifth defensive back, called a nickelback, or a sixth back, called a dime back. Adding defensive backs to a scheme provides greater protection against deep passes and long-yardage gains.

Defensive Back Strategies

Defensive backs must be very physically agile to defend against the pass but also quick enough mentally to distinguish between passing plays and running plays. Cornerbacks must be able to keep up with wide receivers in man coverage and must also be cutting and explosive when attempting to sack the quarterback during a blitz. Safeties often hang back in the secondary, waiting for runners or receivers to make a break for the open field. The safeties work with linebackers to stop passes and runs and must therefore have good eyes and quick feet to respond to the movement of the offensive line.   


What does a defensive back do in football?

In football, defensive backs play farthest back from the line of scrimmage, covering receivers and deep backfield zones. The two types of defensive backs, cornerbacks and safeties, have slightly different jobs. Cornerbacks play closer to the line of scrimmage and mostly cover wide receivers. Safeties play deep zones, guarding against breakaway runs and the longest passes.

What is the meaning of DB in football?

The meaning of DB in football is an abbreviation for a defensive back. Cornerbacks and safeties are the two positions that are considered defensive backs. There are four defensive backs in a typical defensive base: two cornerbacks, a strong safety, and a free safety. Defensive backs are players who cover the backfield, protecting against long runs and guarding receivers.

Is defensive back the same as safety?

Defensive back is a name that can be applied to the safety, but it can also refer to a cornerback. Safeties play deeper zones as last defenders against the goal zone, while cornerbacks play closer to the line of scrimmage, covering the offense’s wide receivers. Defensive back is the name for players who play at the far back of the defense in deep coverage, so the term can be used interchangeably with safety.