Football Running Back

Football Running Backs

In football, running plays make up a vital part of a team’s strategy, and thus, having skilled running players is a necessary part of forming a great football team. Of the running players on an offensive unit, the running back is one of the most well-known. Running backs are players on the offense who can run with the ball and catch passes thrown by the quarterback. Below, we will discuss each type of running back, including their roles, skills, and how they function in plays.

Types of Running Backs

There are three main types of running backs called halfbacks, tailbacks, and fullbacks. The differences between running backs are based on their role in the play design, size and strength, and position on the football field


Football Halfbacks

A halfback is a running back that is positioned close to the quarterback on running plays.They take the handoff on running plays and are faster and smaller than the fullback. They are the ball carrier for most plays. Many people would argue that the halfback is one of the most important positions for offensive success in a game.


Football Tailback

A tailback is a running back similar to a halfback. Tailbacks are positioned behind the quarterback, forming a “T” shape on the field. They are responsible for catching the ball and running the ball. This player must be a very versatile player and willing to fill in where needed for any given play. They will often catch the ball when they are in the backfield and run forward to gain yardage.


Football Fullbacks

A fullback is a running back that is positioned close to the halfback or tailback at the start of the down. Fullbacks are bigger than normal running backs. The fullback protects the ball carrier from being tackled. Their main role is to block for the halfback. This player must be quick on his feet and very strong to block opponents. They should clear a path for the halfback to get the ball through and down the field. 

Running Back Responsibilities

Running backs have an array of different responsibilities depending on the type of play being run. At times they serve as the centerpiece of a play, carrying the ball up the field or even serving as receivers. However, at other times they play more of a supporting role in their offense’s plan of attack.

Passing Plays

On a passing play, the running back will usually try to get open on the field for a pass thrown by the quarterback. The running back may be responsible for blocking on passing plays as well, making sure the quarterback has extra time to throw to one of their receivers. Running backs are very multifaceted players who are often utilized in different ways depending on the play.

Running Plays

On a running play, the running back (halfback or tailback) will get the ball in a handoff from the quarterback. The fullback will protect the ball carrier (halfback or tailback) from being tackled by defensive players. Due to this responsibility, the fullbacks should be very strong and aggressive to block defenders and create space for their teammates. Meanwhile, the running back will take the ball and run downfield, attempting to get past defenders and gain as many yards as possible.

Famous NFL Running Backs

There have been many well-known running backs in NFL history. Some of the most common names brought up when talking about legendary running backs include:

  • Barry Sanders (Detroit Lions)
  • Jim Brown (Cleveland Browns)
  • Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
  • Walter Payton (Chicago Bears)
  • Eric Dickerson (St. Louis Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders, Atlanta Falcons)
  • Marshawn Lynch (Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders)
  • Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans)


What does a running back do?

Running backs in football are tasked with carrying the ball on rushing plays, acting as a receiver on select passing plays, and will often find themselves blocking for the quarterback during passing plays. Due to this wide array of responsibilities, the best running backs are strong runners, capable receivers, and possess the strength necessary to defend the quarterback from incoming defensive linemen when necessary.

What are the different kinds of running backs?

There are three kinds of running backs, all of whom have slightly different roles: halfback, tailback, and fullback. The halfback is responsible for carrying the ball on running plays and may serve as a blocker or receiver on passing plays. The tailback is usually used as a pass-receiver in the backfield but will also run the ball and block on occasion. Fullbacks, meanwhile, almost exclusively serve as a blocker on running plays. Fullbacks will sometimes run or receive the ball, but it is rare.

How many running backs are on an NFL team?

The average NFL team typically keeps four running backs on their roster during a season. The reason most teams keep this many running backs on their squad is due to the high potential for injury, as defensive players are constantly tackling them. Many NFL teams will also include a halfback, fullback, and tailback as part of their four running backs. Although only one or two running backs are on the field at a time, these players serve as vital backups to keep games going in the event of an injury.