Football Positions

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Get to know the positions of football better with the help of FanSided. You will also learn the purpose of each position as well.

What does “ATH” mean in football?

It seems so rudimentary simple but you don’t often see this abbreviation when it comes to the actual game of football. Just as QB stands for quarterback, WR for wide receiver or LB for linebacker, ATH is short for athlete. Of course, there are athletes on the football but no position game-wise. ATH is more used as a recruiting term. In terms of great athletes to play in the NFL, running back Bo Jackson and Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders are the two names that come up most frequently.

What does WR mean in football?

It’s the initials for wide receiver. And it and for the most part, it’s the player on the team that leads the club in receptions. There have been some great wide receivers in NFL history – the most heralded being Pro Football Hall of Fame wideout Jerry Rice. He owns numerous NFL records for catches, receiving yards and TD receptions during not only the regular season but the postseason as well. Worth noting that a wide receiver has been named Super Bowl MVP twice in the last four years – the Patriots’ Julian Edelman (LIII) and the Rams’ Cooper Kupp (LVI). That happened just six times in the first 52 Super Bowls.

What does the center do in football?

While it’s the quarterback’s job to get the football to the offense’s skill position (running backs, wide receivers and tight ends), it’s the center’s job to get the football to the quarterback. And that means be it a standard snap (with the quarterback under center) or a shotgun snap (the quarterback not under center). There are also some centers who also handle long-snapping duties when it comes to punts and field goal attempts as well. In many instances, the center is also primarily responsible for making blocking adjustments when it comes to the rest of the offensive line (blitz pickup, etc.).

What does TE mean in football?

It’s the tight end, which has become more and more prominent in recent years. It’s a very versatile offensive position. There are those who specialize in blocking and are not really big factors in the passing game. There are others whose forte is catching the football. And there are those who excel at both. It’s worth noting that the NFL record for catches (1,325) and receiving yards (15,127) by a tight end is owned by Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. The league record for most touchdown receptions by a tight end belongs to former undrafted free agent Antonio Gates (116).

What is a walk-on in football?

It’s the equivalent of an undrafted free agent being signed by an NFL team. Of course, those players are compensated by the NFL. A walk-on football player is one looking for an opportunity to play the game but has not received a scholarship for any numbers of reasons. He attempts to make the team just like any other player. And there have certainly been some great examples of walk-ons making a big impact in not only college but on their way to the NFL. Defensive end J.J. Watt (Wisconsin) and quarterback Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) are some recent examples.

What are special teams in football?

A football team’s offense usually gets the majority of the attention due to the quarterback position. The defense will get its fair share of attention. But a very important aspect of the game that still seems to remain under the radar are special teams. From the kicker to the punter to kickoff and punt return specialists. From the long-snapper to the kick coverage units. This aspect of the game can’t be undersold. For context, there are only two pure placekickers (Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen) and one pure punter (Ray Guy) enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

What is the secondary in football?

The defense of backfield is also known as the secondary. It can be comprised of any number of defensive backs, but a standard starting secondary traditionally has a pair of cornerbacks and two safeties. Of course, it has become very common these ways for a team to open a game with five or even six defensive backs due to the increased emphasis of the passing game in both college and pro football. Five defensive backs has been referred to as a nickel package and six defensive backs have been known as a defense’s dime package.

What is a linebacker in football?

A linebacker is basically the second player of a defensive unit. The starting linebacking corps of a team can be two outside performer and one middle linebacker in your standard 4-3 defense. This scheme was far more common in the early days of the league and obviously is still utilized. Starting in the mid-1970s, more teams started to employ the 3-4 defense to take advantage of their talent at linebacker. In that scheme, it’s a three-man line, a pair of inside linebacker and two outside linebackers. In that defense, those two OLBs are the club’s primary threats when it comes to rushing the passer. Be it a middle linebacker or inside linebacker, those players are the key to stopping the run.

What is DT in football?

When it comes to their rating system, the folks at Pro Football Focus refer to this position as “interior defender.” Be it a standard 4-3 defense or a 3-4 alignment, DT stands for defensive tackle. Technically, there’s also a “NT” as in nose tackle, the middle of the 3-4 defensive front. The interior of the defensive line are partially responsible for slowing down opposing running backs. They can also make life easier for the ends on the four-man line in terms of getting to the opposing quarterback. Be it technically and end or a tackle in terms of the two outside spots on a three-man front, those players are graded (by PFF) as interior defenders.

What does HB mean in football?

You don’t really hear the word halfback that much anymore. Back in the day (cliché aside), there were many instances where there were two performers in the backfield behind the quarterback – a running back or “halfback” and a fullback. The latter was a lead blocker for the running back more times than not. The position changed over the years and there were numerous examples of a fullback being more important to the passing game than the running attack. These days, there are a lot of one man backfields as the teams look to spread the field. So HB simply stands for half back and it is somewhat of a dated term.

What is a nickelback in football?

It would be interesting to find out if the band Nickelback has ever performed at an NFL or college game either pregame of halftime. In all seriousness, when it comes to the game of football, a nickelback is the fifth defensive back in a defensive scheme known commonly as a “nickel defense.”  A basic starting secondary consists of two cornerbacks, a strong safety and a free safety. The “nickel defense” is primarily employed by a team when an opposing offense is facing third down and long yardage. But in more modern times, especially in the National Football League, clubs often open a game with three or four defensive linemen, two of three linebackers and five defensive backs.

What is a cornerback in football?

It’s a position that has gotten more and more difficult to master over the last few years. And the real changes began in 1978 when the National Football League began making changes to make life easier for quarterbacks and the passing game. Still, a quality cornerback can pretty much stifle even the best of wide receivers. These days, that’s easier said than done. The better players at this position specialize in man-to-man coverage and often draw the assignment of handling the opposition’s top wide receiver. And those exceptional corners are not only adept when it comes to pass coverage, they are solid in run support.

What is a fullback in football?

Back in the earlier years of the game, a running back not only had an offensive line in front of him but a lead blocker as well. That was the main role of the fullback. When you go back to the NFL and the early seventies, Hall of Famers such as Larry Csonka and Franco Harris were fullbacks but the primary ball-carriers in their team’s offenses. These days, if a team does utilize a fullback, it’s for extra pass protection or more likely, a sure-handed target out of the backfield. With running games taking a back seat to passing attacks these days, the role of the fullback has been diminishing in recent years.

What does the safety do in football?

For many years, there was the designation of two players that were basically the last line of defense (no pun intended). A basic secondary in football is made up of two cornerbacks, a strong safety and a free safety. For years, the latter had a variety of roles and was a key to a defense’s ability to stop the run. The latter was somewhat free to roam the secondary and usually came up with his share of interceptions. These days, the safety roles are almost interchangeable due to the increased emphasis of the passing game in both college and professional football.

What does FS mean in football?

Football modern’s game both college and professionally has become somewhat of an aerial circus. The safety position has changed so much in recent years due mainly to the fact that teams pass a lot more and there are so many different nickel and dime packages on that side of the ball. But be it a collegiate or professional depth chart and/or play-by-play summary, FS stands for free safety. It’s a player that usually has a nose for the football and a performer who roams the defensive backfield and most times will comes up with those stray passes thrown by opposing quarterbacks.

What does OLB mean in football?

An outside linebacker in football can mean two different things. It really depends on the scheme a team plays defensively. In the 4-3 defense, there are four defensive linemen, a middle linebacker, two outside linebackers and four performers in the secondary. Those outside linebackers are responsible for handling the run and have pass coverage responsibilities. In the 3-4 defense, the outside linebackers are the keys to the pass rush. The three-man line does a lot of the dirty work. It’s not to say that they don’t get their share of sacks. But outside linebackers in the 3-4 are prevalent when it comes to getting after opposing quarterbacks.

What is 12 personnel in football?

A standard offensive set in the game of football is two tackles, two guards and a center up front. There’s the quarterback, a running back and fullback, two wide receivers and a tight end. These days, with the increased emphasis on the passing game throughout the game of football, teams will often line up with one running back and three or four wide receivers. But you will often see offenses employ what is known as “12 personnel.” It’s a formation which is identical to the aforementioned standard formation. Only instead of a second man in the backfield, the team utilizes a second tight end.

What does a quarterback do in football?

It has become very vogue in recent years to attach the term “game manager” to an NFL quarterback that relies on his ground attack and doesn’t throw the ball downfield with any regularity. But the simple truth is that each team’s quarterback is a game manager. The team’s signal-caller and field general hopefully executes the offense put forth by the head coach and/or offensive coordinator. There are different kinds of game plans depending on the team’s system, with some being more aggressive and others somewhat conservative. But it all starts with the center getting the ball to the quarterback. And these days in the NFL, quarterbacks and not only throwing the ball with regularity but are using their legs more than they have in season’s past.