Football Free Safety Vs. Strong Safeties

football safety position

What's the Difference Between a Free Safety and a Strong Safety?

Before we get into defining safeties and their roles, it is important to first understand the following football terms:

The Secondary

football secondary

The free safety and strong safety are both members of the secondary.

The secondary is a group of players in the defensive unit that line up in the defensive backfield or the area behind the line of scrimmage and the defensive line. The safeties serve as the last line of defense between the opposing team's offense and the end zone. Safeties can also be used to blitz or defend the run.

The differences between a strong safety and free safety are based on the following:

Free Safety

Football Free Safety

The free safety positions himself on the weak side of the field.

The strong side is the side of the line that the tight end lines up on. The other side of the field is called the weak side. The free safety is generally smaller than the strong safety and slightly faster. Free safeties also generally are tasked with more pass coverage than strong safeties, since the strong safety has to also focus on the run game. A free safety must be fast, have great tackling skills, and be able to easily read the quarterback.

Strong Safety

football strong Safety

The strong safety is a defensive back located on the strong side of the football field. 

The strong safety is generally bigger and stronger than the free safety, and is used more for run defense. They will typically be lined up closer to the line of scrimmage than the free safety, as they are tasked with stopping the run on a running play that breaks through.

List of Best NFL Safeties

  • Brian Dawkins
  • Ed Reed
  • Emlen Tunnell
  • Jamal Adams
  • John Lynch
  • Ken Houston
  • Kevin Byard
  • Larry Wilson
  • Paul Krause
  • Ronnie Lott
  • Troy Polamalu
  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Willie Wood


What does a safety do in football?

Safety is a defensive position in football, more specifically the defensive backfield or secondary. Safeties are considered the last line of defense for a football team and are mainly responsible for pass coverage in the backfield. Safeties must be reliable tacklers, as a mistake in their area could lead to a big play for the opposing offense, even a touchdown

What is the difference between a free safety and strong safety?

The main difference between free safeties and strong safeties is where they line up on the field. Strong safeties line up on the strong side of the field, and free safeties line up on the weak side. The strong side of the field is defined as the side of the field where the tight end is lined up. The other side is the weak side. Free safeties are the true last line of defense and are tasked with covering deep passes. Strong safeties will assist linebackers on run plays while also covering some deep passes.

Where does a safety line up in football?

Safeties line up 10-15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The side of the field that each safety lines up on depends on whether they are a free safety or strong safety. Free safeties line up on the weak side of the field while strong safeties line up on the strong side. The strong side of the field is the side in which the opposing tight end is lined up on, and the other side is referred to as the weak side.