What Are The Various Defensive Positions In American Football?

What are the 11 defensive positions in football?

The 11 defensive positions in football are made up of three distinctive groups: the defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs. The defensive line is made up of the defensive tackles (DT) and defensive ends (DE). Usually, there are four players on the defensive line, two defensive tackles and two defensive ends. Then, there are linebackers. The linebacker group is made up of the middle linebacker (MLB) and the left and right outside linebackers (LOLB, ROLB). Finally, the defensive backs (sometimes called the secondary). The defensive backs are made up of cornerbacks (CB) and safeties (S). The most common defense consists of four defensive linemen, three linebackers, and four defensive backs for a total of 11 players.

  1. Defensive tackles
  2. Defensive ends
  3. Linebackers
  4. Cornerbacks
  5. Safeties
  1. Strong safety
  2. Free safety
  1. Nose tackle

When a team is on defense they have two main goals:

  1. To get their team back on offense.
  2. To prevent the opposing team from scoring points by forcing a turnover

The Defense

The defense can be divided into two groups of players:

  1. The Defensive Line
  2. The Secondary

Defensive Line

The defensive line is a key part of every football team.

They are the group of five players who position themselves on the line of scrimmage and counter the opposing team's offensive line. They consist of the following players positions:

  1. Nose Tackle (1x)
  2. Left Tackle (1x)
  3. Right Tackle (1x)
  4. Defensive Ends (2x)

The Secondary

The secondary is a group of players that are positioned in the defensive backfield.


Cornerbacks are defensive players in the secondary, but they usually start on the line of scrimmage before protecting against routes in the defensive backfield.

Cornerbacks specialize in covering the other team's wide receivers. Their main responsibility is to prevent the other team from catching the ball. There are usually two cornerbacks on the field.


Linebackers are found in the defensive backfield close to the line of scrimmage.

They can serve as an extra pass protector or a blocker, depending on the play. Linebackers can also blitz the quarterback in attempt to get a sack. These are the players responsible for relaying the play calls to the whole defensive unit on the field. There are usually two linebackers on the field, but can be more or less if it's a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.

Free Safety & Strong Safety

The free safety and strong safety are defensive secondary players positioned in the defensive backfield. The strong safety is positioned on the strong side of the field, defending against passes and stopping the other team's ball carrier. The free safety is positioned on the opposite side of the other team's tight end on the weak side.