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Football Formations List

What is football formations list? Get ready to learn about formations list in football.

What does Formation Mean in a Football Game?

Formations, sometimes also referred to as sets, are the places football players take on the field prior to the snap. Formations are comprised of putting all 11 players on one side in a certain positioning, called alignment, based on the formation and play call or sometimes the other team's formation or present personnel. Because some formations have very specific play designs centered around them, certain formations require different types of players. For example, an offensive formation designed for long passes may require four wide receivers and only one running back or a defensive formation may require more linemen to jam up the line in anticipation of a short run attempt by the offense.

Offensive Formations

Offensive formations are the positions that a football team's offense will take before the snap of the ball. Different formations are primed for different playstyles or specific plays. For example, formations that contain multiple receivers across the field would best suit an air raid playstyle, whereas formations that contain multiple running backs in the backfield would be better for a clock chewing run game. When a coach is selecting a formation, they will often appeal to those that put the highest number of the most skilled athletes on the field at one time. In some cases, a team may opt to shift their formation before a play starts, or they may choose to send a single player in motion to effectively change the formation.

It should be noted that in some ways, offensive formations are limited. Any offensive formation is required to have seven players on the line of scrimmage, only two of which may go downfield for a pass, and four players in the backfield. This might be a good time to review the tutorial on eligibility or visit it if you have not before. This will help in understanding why certain formations appeal to their respective playstyles.

  • A formation
  • I formation
  • V formation
  • Single back set
  • Single wing
  • Wildcat
  • Double
  • Pro set
  • T formation
  • Split T
  • Wing T
  • Wishbone
  • Flexbone
  • Spread
  • Bunch
  • Pistol
  • Full house
  • Shotgun
  • Trips/Trey
  • Weak
  • Strong
  • Quad
  • Empty (5 wide)
  • Unbalanced or Overload sets
  • Trick play formations
  • Goal Line
  • Kneel

Defensive Formations

Defensive formations are the position a football team's defense will take before the ball snaps. Like offensive formations, different defensive formations are designed with different intentions, namely stopping the offense from performing a particular type of play. When a coach is selecting a defensive formations, the main factor to consider is offensive personale and formation, with smaller considerations being taken into account the score of the game, the down and distance, and time left in a quarter. Whereas offenses often seek to put their most talented players on the field, defenses most often seek to put players on the field to neutralize the opposing team's biggest assets, pairing the best defenders against their offensive counterparts. Defenses, like offenses, can shift their formation before the play, or in other instances, they may shift to accommodate formation changes in the offense.

Unlike offense, defenses are not required to assume any specific positioning. Defenses could place all 11 players on the line of scrimmage at one time, and in some rare instances, they will. In theory a defense could also place 11 defensive backs on the field and have no down linemen, however this is unlikely.

  • 2-Level
  • 4-3
  • 4-4
  • 3-4
  • 3-0-3
  • 4-0-4
  • 3-4 eagle
  • 6-1
  • 6-2
  • 5-3
  • 5-2
  • 2-5
  • 38 defense (split middle)
  • 46 defense
  • Seven-man line
  • Cover 2 (Tampa 2)
  • Cover 3
  • Cover 4
  • Nickel
  • 4-2-5
  • 3-3-5
  • 33 stack
  • 3-5-3
  • Dime
  • Quarter
  • Half Dollar
  • 3-0-8
  • 4-0-7
  • 4-1-6
  • 0-4-7

Special Teams Formations

Special teams formations can be further divided into two categories: a kicking team, and a receiving or blocking team. Though in the event of a punt or kick off scenario the roles of possession flip, the kicking team is most often referred to as the offensive team and the blocking or receiving team the defending. For more on this, visit our tutorial on possession.

Special teams formations can take a number of varying appearances. However, their purpose is almost always the same. Kicking teams need to be able to effectively punt or kick while maintaining the ability to perform a trick play. Blocking/receiving teams need to be able to be ready to return or stop a kick and still maintain awareness and defend in the case of a trick play.

  • Onside Kick
  • Onside Kick Return
  • Kick Off
  • Kick Off Return
  • Punt formation
  • Punt Return
  • Punt Block
  • Field Goal Formation
  • Field Goal Block

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