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American Football Players Positions Explained

BillsFans Staff Writer

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BillsFans Staff Writer

Do you consider yourself a true football fan? While you might enjoy watching the game, do you know all the important details about football and how it's actually run? In this post, we'll dive into how many players are there on an American football team and break down each position for you.


Since football is the favorite team sport in America, it is time we understand each position on the football team and what they actually do.

Everyone thinks that players just run, pass, and tackle but you'd be surprised to know that there is actually a lot more thought and details that go into it. If you are a new football fan, this short guide to the offensive and defensive positions in the modern game of American football will give you a basic understanding of what those positions are called, and what they are designed to do.


Before we dive into the breakdown of football, let's start with a little bit of football history.


Who invented football?

The man who is credited for inventing football is named Walter Camp. In fact, his nickname is actually "Father of American Football". Football used to be more like a rugby game when plated by Camp helped to start the transition for making it what it is today.


How long is a game of football?

The average length of time to telecast a football game is 3 hours 12 minutes. Of course, an actual football game is only 60 minutes, divided into four 15-minute quarters, but since there are commercial and TV breaks, time-outs, injuries, half-time, reviews of plays, and other instances and delays that can make a game easily last this long.


There are some games that have lasted much longer than that as well due to overtimes, weather delays, etc.


Who is the most famous football player in America?

What a tough question! This is going to vary among whoever you ask. But you'll come to find out one thing - people have very big thoughts and opinions about who they feel are the most famous football player in America. Many people are true to their favorite teams while others may stay loyal to a team but still hold individual players on different teams in high regard.


Some of the most famous players in football according to stats and opinion are Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Walter Peyton, and Marsha.


How many players are there on an American football team?

The short answer is that there are 11 football players on the field for each team at one time. The long answer? Let's dive in and break down each position one by one so that you have a better understanding of all the various football positions on the field.


Offensive positions in football

The main job of the offense is to move the ball and try to score a touchdown or a field goal. This can be done by passing plays, run plays, or the ever-exciting trick play.



Everyone knows who the quarterback is, right? This is probably the most important player on the offensive side of the ball. Not only does the quarterback throw the passes and run the plays but he also leads the team huddles on the field and communicates the play calls as well. A quarterback is a field general. He may throw a forward pass to a wide receiver, hand off the ball to a running back, or run the ball himself. As the quarterback goes, so does the team; especially in professional football. The best teams usually have the best quarterbacks.


Running Back

If you've ever watched the quarterback hand the ball off to someone when a running play is called, and that person takes off running up the field with the football, you have just watched the running back hard at work. But even though the running back runs a lot, he is more than just a ball carrier; a running back can also catch passes and is also used to provide protection for the quarterback, too.


And just because nothing is ever simple, there are a couple of different types of running backs as well. The fullback running back is strong and blocks quite a bit for the quarterback while the tailback is the one that is going to be light on their feet and make those running plays happen.


Wide Receiver

Wide receivers have their running routes in mind and they are going to be sprinting around the field and up and down the field to get open for, and catch, the pass.


Tight End

In the game of football, tight ends have to have quick hands. They are known for catching passes and making plays happen. They are typically big in size and fast on their feet, all while having soft hands to be able to catch anything that is thrown at them.


Offensive Line

Protecting the quarterback is a very important job in football. This is where the offensive line shines. On the line, there are five players comprised of the center, two tackles (a right tackle and left tackle), and two guards (a right guard and a left guard).


While they help protect the quarterback, they also help make blocks for runners as well.

If you've ever heard an offside penalty called during the game, now you know that this penalty is the result of one of these five players moving before the ball is snapped.



Without the center, the play would never happen. This position is the one that snaps the ball to the quarterback, signaling the start of the play.


The center can also help to block the defensive from getting to the quarterback as well.


Offensive Guard

This position is meant to guard, just as the name suggests. They have to pay close attention to what is called during the huddle as their job is to protect the play as best possible to let it work out.


Offensive Tackle

The main job of offensive tackles is to help block on running plays and passing plays for the offensive line. This position is very widespread in their duties and they have to be quick on their feet as well.



Defensive Positions in Football

As stated in the name, the key job for any of these positions is to stop the opposing team from running down the field and scoring.


Defensive Line

These are the players that are lined up near the line of scrimmage. They're there to charge the line and try to stop the quarterback, run plays that are coming up the middle.


Defensive End

As the name states, these defensive players are at the end of the line of scrimmage and their job is to stop the passer and try to sack him. Defensive ends are typically very fast on their feet and able to make quick decisions as they go.


Defensive Tackle

This is another position that is meant to stop any running plays and also help to stop the passer as well. This position sets up on the center of the defensive line as well.


Those who play this position are large in size and are typically taller as well to be able to try and jump up and stop passing balls as they're thrown across the middle.



Moving away from the line of scrimmage, the next defensive group is the linebackers.


The linebackers can consist of 3 or 4 upright (without hands on the ground) players behind the defensive line. Their job is to tackle offensive players advancing the ball, rush the passer, cover receivers and create turnovers.


Middle Linebacker

Holding the line, you'll find them in the center of the defensive line, or close to it.


The middle linebacker, or “mike linebacker,” is the inside linebacker since they position themselves towards the inside or center of the play.


Outside Linebacker

You'll often see this position helping to cover receives that are downfield or doing their best to get to the quarterback as well. It's all about trying to get that quarterback sack!



The job of this football position is to try and intercept the pass. They'll tackle as well as they're wanting to do anything that they can to get their hands on the ball.


Nickel Back

This position happens when a linebacker or lineman is removed from the play to put in another defensive end. This means that the defensive team has a 5th defensive end on the field.



If you know the game of football, you might know that there are a couple of different types of safeties. These are either strong safety or a free safety.


If the position is for strong safety, their job is to stop running plays. And if their job is free safety, their job is to help stop those "hail Mary" or long pass plays that we've all come to love to see.



Other articles you may find of interest:


History of the Buffalo Bills

The Playoff History of the Buffalo Bills


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