Football Tailback

football tailback


The tailback (TB) in football is a position that lines up deep in the backfield and specializes as the ball carrier on running plays. The tailback is a type of running back. Tailbacks get the ball via a handoff from the quarterback at the start of a down. They can also serve as receivers on passing plays. Tailbacks get their name from the way they line up on the field. Tailbacks line up behind the center and quarterback in the very back or the “tail” of the formation.

Tailback Roles And Responsibilities

The tailback’s main responsibility is to receive handoffs and find open lanes to run through. However, a tailback can be used in a lot of different ways, including as a blocker to keep defenders away from the quarterback, acting as a receiver, or as a distraction in a play action pass.

Tailbacks should be aware of the time on the clock and know when to take the ball out of bounds in order to maximize his team’s potential for scoring. Tailbacks are usually quicker and more agile than the other receivers and running backs, and therefore can be used in many scenarios.

Tailback Skills

Tailbacks, first and foremost, must be quick. They will need to be able to run fast to break through the opposing defense and outrun defensive players. It is equally as important for tailbacks to be agile, as they may need to change direction quickly to avoid being tackled.

Tailbacks will also typically have great balance and strength. Since they are often the subject of a lot of contact, tailbacks need to be able to power through tackles and stay on their feet to gain the most possible yardage.

Superior field vision and instincts are also key for any tailback. Seeing the field and identifying possible lanes is crucial to a tailback’s success. If a tailback is able to anticipate what a defender will do before they actually make the move, it will be easier for them to evade the tackle.

Jersey Numbers

Tailbacks wear any number allowed for running backs, which now includes any number from 1-49 as well as any number from 80-89. Before the rule change in 2021, tailbacks and any other running backs could only wear numbers between 20 and 49.

Notable NFL Tailbacks

  • Barry Sanders
  • Adrian Peterson
  • Clinton Portis
  • Emmitt Smith
  • Frank Gore
  • LaDainian Tomlinson
  • Marshall Faulk


What is a tailback in football?

A tailback is a type of running back that lines up deep in the backfield and serves as the primary ball carrier on running plays. Tailbacks are often referred to as “half backs” or simply “running backs.” They are referred to as tailbacks due to their location in the formation, which is in the back at the “tail” of the formation.

What does a tailback do in football?

In football, a tailback’s main responsibility is to receive handoffs from the quarterback and to find open lanes in the defense to run through. As a subtype of running back, this is the majority of what tailbacks do, but they can also be used as a blocker or to provide distraction in a play action pass.

What is the difference between a tailback and a halfback?

The difference between a tailback and a halfback is where they initially line up at the start of play. While halfbacks may line up anywhere behind or beside the quarterback, a tailback only starts at a position directly behind the quarterback so that the center, quarterback, and tailback make a long vertical line. The two positions, however, have very similar responsibilities and skills.