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Understanding Football - The Defense

Many people understand about offense when watching football but do not know about the key components of a good defense. The primary objective of the defense is to prevent the opponent's offense from scoring. If they come up with a fumble or interception, they can also advance the ball themselves and try to score a defensive touchdown.

Defensive Players

The defense consists of a variety of players - defensive linemen, linebackers and the defensive secondary.

Defensive Linemen

The defensive linemen make up the line of players that is lined up facing the offensive line. Defensive linemen are either defensive tackles or defensive ends. The defensive tackles are in the middle of the line, while the defensive ends are at each end of the defensive line.

The job of the defensive linemen is primarily to stop the running backs and fullbacks from penetrating and going up field. They also rush the quarterback to stop the pass and possibly sack the quarterback.


Linebackers line up a couple yards behind the line of scrimmage. There are inside linebackers and outside linebackers. The job of the linebackers is to stop the running backs and other ball carriers. Inside linebackers are big players who try to stop the rush, while outside linebackers are sometimes more fleet of foot and try to cover the receivers.

Defensive Secondary

The two components of the defensive secondary are the cornerbacks and the safeties.

The job of the cornerbacks is to stop the receivers. Cornerbacks lineup opposite the wide receivers, slightly behind the defensive line. Cornerbacks are normally the fastest, most agile players on a defensive team. They need to stay with the wide receivers and prevent them from catching the ball, as well as trying to intercept the ball themselves.

The job of the safeties is also to stop the pass. Safeties are usually positioned approximately ten yards behind the defensive line. Additionally, they attempt to stop the run once a back has gotten beyond the defensive line. Safeties are also very fast, however they are usually bigger players than cornerbacks.

Overall Strategy

A lot of the strategy on defense is based off of guessing whether the team on offense is going to run the ball or pass the ball. If the defense believes they will run the ball, the defensive players will move closer to the line of scrimmage. If the defense believes a pass is coming, theyíll line up further away from the line of scrimmage.

Defenses will also change personnel based on whether they think a run or a pass is coming. If itís believed to be a run, an additional defensive lineman or linebacker will be placed in the game. If itís thought to be a pass, an extra cornerback or safety will be brought in.

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