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NFL positions explained

Home » NFL » NFL Explained » NFL Positions Explained: What Are the Positions in Football

With 11 players on each side of the ball, many fans need to have NFL positions explained and NFL plays explained.

Particularly when they are new to the sport, fans have questions about NFL positions and what they do.

NFL positions explained

That’s why we wanted to give you a breakdown of NFL positions on offense and NFL positions on defense. In other words, if you need NFL formations explained or want to know more about NFL positions and what they do, here are the answers to some common questions.

What are the positions in football?

To get started here is a list of positions and NFL positions abbreviations:

  • Quarterback (QB) – Takes the snap and either throws the ball or hands it off.
  • Running Back (RB) – Receives handoffs or passes from the quarterback.
  • Fullback (FB) – Often blocks but occasionally carries the ball.
  • Wide Receiver (WR) – Catches passes from the quarterback.
  • Tight End (TE) – Helps to block or catch passes from the quarterback.
  • Center (C) – Delivers the snap to the quarterback and blocks.
  • Offensive Guard (OG) – Lines up on either side of the center and blocks.
  • Offensive Tackle (OT) – Lines up on the outside of the offensive line and blocks.
  • Nose Tackle (NT) – Lines up in the middle of the defensive line to stop the run and rush the passer.
  • Defensive Tackle (DT) – Lines up in the interior part of the defensive line to stop the run and rush the passer.
  • Defensive End (DE) – Lines up on the outside of the defensive line and rushes the quarterback. 
  • Linebacker (LB) – Forms the second level of the defense to stop the run and play the pass.
  • Cornerback (CB) – Defends the pass by guarding wide receivers one-on-one.
  • Free Safety (FS) – Typically the last line of defense and has the freedom to move around the field.
  • Strong Safety (SS) – Plays all over the field to help stop the run and defend the pass.
  • Kicker (K) – Kicks field goals and PATs and does kickoffs.
  • Punter (P) – Punts the ball on fourth down.

Who protects the quarterback?

It’s the job of almost every other player on the offense to help protect the quarterback. Of course, protecting the quarterback is the primary job of the five offensive linemen. The offensive tackles, especially the left tackle, are the most important players when it comes to protecting the quarterback from pass rushers. Of course, offensive guards and centers also need to be capable of protecting the quarterback on passing plays.


At the same time, running backs and fullbacks also play an important role in protecting the quarterback on passing plays. At times, running backs and fullbacks will run routes on passing plays, but if not, they help in pass protection. The same can be said of tight ends, as they are often assigned to help offensive tackles to block elite edge rushers.

Can cornerbacks make touchdowns?

Yes, cornerbacks are capable of scoring touchdowns.

If there is a turnover, all defensive players can take the ball and score a touchdown. Cornerbacks are usually the most likely defensive player to score a touchdown because they often get an interception and run it back for a touchdown. 

What is the toughest position in football?

It’s up for debate what the toughest position to play in football is. Quarterback certainly comes with the most pressure, as teams often win or lose based on the play of their quarterback. The position requires both an intellectual mastery of the game as well as refined physical abilities. However, it’s possible to argue that other positions on the football field are even more challenging.

For example, left tackle is also a challenging position. This position comes with the pressure of protecting the blindside of the quarterback. Naturally, they are up against the best pass rusher on the opposing team. Left tackles also face the challenge of needing to be virtually perfect. They can play well throughout the game, but if they have one bad play and allow a sack late in the game, it can cost their team the game.


Meanwhile, cornerback is often considered the most difficult position to play on defense. Cornerbacks are usually some of the smallest players on the field, yet they are still asked to make tackles against bigger and stronger players. The most important duty as a cornerback is to defend wide receivers, often guarding them one-on-one without help. Just like left tackles, the position demands perfection. A cornerback can play well for most of the game, but if they get beat on one play that leads to a touchdown, it might be the only play that people remember.

What football positions tackles the most?

On almost every NFL team, the leading tackler is the team’s middle linebacker.

They play in the middle of the field and often have to run from sideline to sideline depending on where the ball ends up. Middle linebackers have to be able to tackle running backs that get past the line of scrimmage but also drop back and help to tackle receivers on passing plays.

Naturally, this usually forces the middle linebacker to be around the ball carrier on every play, forcing them to make more tackles than any other player on the field.

Who is the most important person on a football team?

Football is truly a team effort. On every play, it takes 11 players working together and being on the same page to succeed.

It also takes a roster full of players doing their job to win a game. However, there is rarely any debate that the quarterback is the most important person on a football team.

More times than not, the team that gets better play from their quarterback wins the game. This is why NFL teams place such value on finding the right quarterback for their franchise.

What positions are included in Special Teams?

In football, special teams is often overlooked, but it can be just as important as a team’s offense and defense. Each team has several specialists, including a kicker, who kicks field goals, PATs, and does kickoffs, a punter, and a long snapper, who snaps the ball on all kicking plays.

At the same time, running backs, wide receivers, and cornerbacks are often used as kick and punt returners on special teams. Players at other positions, including linebackers and tight ends, also play a role on special teams, usually either helping to block or tackle kick returners.

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