Football Offensive Backfield

Offensive Backfield

The offensive backfield in football is the area of the field behind the line of scrimmage on the side where the offense is lined up. Any player not on the line of scrimmage is considered to be in the offensive backfield. Those players are generally the “backs” like the quarterback, running back, and the fullback. However, sometimes receivers will line up in the backfield. Read on to learn more about where players are positioned in the backfield and what type of formations feature players in the backfield.


The quarterback stands behind the center and takes the snap to begin the play. The quarterback can either be underneath the center or several yards back.

Running Back

The running back can either be positioned behind the quarterback or to the side. They receive the ball from the quarterback and then run with it on running plays and run routes or block on passing plays.


Fullbacks are similar to running backs, they line up in the backfield either behind the quarterback or to the side as well. The difference is their primary purpose is to be a blocker.

Formations in the Offensive Backfield

The positions listed above line up in the offensive backfield, but their positioning changes from play to play. The following are commonly used formations within the offensive backfield.


In the singleback formation, also known as the single set back formation, the quarterback (QB) is directly behind the center (C), and there is one running back (RB) several yards behind them.

Empty Backfield

An empty backfield occurs when the quarterback is the only offensive player in the backfield. The running backs are either lined up elsewhere or replaced for another position.


Instead of a normal shotgun positioning, which features the quarterback as the position the furthest in the backfield, the pistol features a running back behind the quarterback. The pistol formation differs from a singleback formation as the quarterback is not directly under center. The quarterback is instead positioned a few yards behind the center.

I Formation

In the I formation, there are three members of the backfield. The quarterback lines up right behind the center, the fullback (FB) lines up directly behind the quarterback, and the halfback lines up directly behind the fullback. This forms a long line referred to as the “I.”


The wildcat formation is the only offensive formation in which the quarterback is not in the backfield. The running back takes the snap instead.

Pro Set

In the pro set formation, also known as the split back formation, all three ball carriers are in the back field. The quarterback is in the shotgun position with the fullback on one side and the running back on the other.


What is the backfield in football?

The backfield in football, on both offense and defense, is the area behind the linemen on the line of scrimmage. Defensive backs, such as cornerbacks and safeties, play in the defensive backfield. The quarterback and running backs typically play in the offensive backfield.

What positions make up the offensive backfield?

The offensive backfield is typically made up of ball receivers such as the quarterback and the running backs. Their position in the backfield is why such players have “back” as the second half of their names. Technically, any player can move into the offensive backfield after the snap but it is usually populated only by ball carriers.

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