What Are The Positions On A Football Team?

A football team has three main units of players categorized into offense, defense, and special teams. We will explore all of the player positions in each of these units.


The Offense

football offense

The offense is brought onto the field whenever a team has possession of the pigskin and is trying to score points in the opposing team's end zone.

The offense can be broken down into two groups of players:

The Offensive Line

There are five players in a typical offensive line. Located on the line of scrimmage, the offensive line has a role on the field to counter the opposing team's defensive line, to protect the quarterback, and to get the ball-carrier through openings called gaps in the defense.

The main role of the offensive line is to serve as a blocking group. However, the center will always start each scrimmage down with a snap to the quarterback.

The Backs

The backs are a group of players located in the offensive backfield:

  • Quarterback: Gets the ball from a snap from the center at the start of each scrimmage down and can pass the ball to a receiver, hand the ball to a running back, or run with it himself for a quarterback-sneak.
  • Running Backs: Serve as receivers, meaning they can catch passes, can provide extra block protection, or can run with the ball on the field.
  • Tight Ends: Can be a receiver and catch passes, or provide extra protection depending on the play design.
  • Wide Receivers: Receivers that run routes on the field and catch passes thrown by the quarterback.

The Defense

football defense

The defense comes onto the field when a team is trying to prevent the opposing team from scoring points. There are several defensive settings, but regardless of that, the defense can be broken down into two groups of players:

The Defensive Line

There are five players in a typical defensive line. Located on the line of scrimmage, the defensive line has a role on the field to counter the opposing team's offensive line and to prevent the ball-carrier from breaking through. They also have a job of tackling the quarterback for a sack.

The Secondary

The secondary is a group of players located in the defensive backfield. They usually consist of the following positions:

  • Linebackers: Depending on the play, he will try and force turnovers and tackle the quarterback for a sack.
  • Free Safety: Positioned on the weak side of the field, he acts as a last line of defense from passes thrown by the quarterback or ball-carriers who break through the defensive line.
  • Strong Safety: Positioned on the strong side of the field, he acts as a last line of defense from passes thrown by the quarterback or ball-carriers who break through the defensive line.
  • Cornerbacks: Positioned on the line of scrimmage, these players counter the opposing team's offensive wide receivers and try to intercept passes thrown by the quarterback called an interception.

The Special Teams

football special teams

The special teams will come onto the field whenever a kick or a return is being performed.

The special teams can be divided into the following types of players:

  • Kickers: In charge of kicking the ball on kickoffs, punts, and field goals. There are different types of kickers such as placekickers and dropkickers.
  • Returners: In charge of returning the ball on kickoffs and punts.
  • Snappers: Will snap the ball to the kicker or to a holder at the start of any kick.
  • Blockers: Responsible for protecting the kicker and returner during kicks and returns.
  • Gunners: Run along the sides of the field to tackle returners and kickers