There are eleven defensive players on the field in a football game. There are only six different positions. The reason for this is that there are five positions that two players play. The positions are two tackles, two defensive ends, two outside linbackers, two inside linbackers, a safety and two corner backs
There are two defensive tackles in a normal 4-4 football defense. These two players play on the "line" which means they play right on the line of scrimmage. They are typically the largest players on the field because it is their responsibilty to keep the offensive linemen under control and try to clog the running backs running lanes. The tackles are lined up next to eachother usually across form the offensive guards.
The two defensive ends play on the two ends of the line. Depending on the type of defensive, they are responsible for either taking the "C" gap or keeping contain. The "C" gap is the gap farthest to the outside between the offensive linemen. Keeping contain means that the defensive end will slide to the outside of the play at the snap of the ball and not let anyone get outside of him. This forces the play inside where other defensive players can tackle the ball carrier. Defensive ends are usually large, agile players who can move well.
The outside linebackers have to be able to read the play. It is their job to back up the line and make the play if the linemen don't. They are responsible for stopping plays that come through "B" gap, "C" gap, and those that go outside. They must be able to read the offensive linemen and figure out where the ball is going before the RB (running back) gets there so he can be ready to tackle. Outside linebackers are usually smart, fast players who can tackle well.
The inside linebackers have the same job as the outside linebackers but their responsiblilty is on the inside part of the line, not the outside. They have to stop plays that come through "A" and "B" gaps as well as being able to back up every other player. Middle linebackers are typically larger than outside linebackers because they have to deal with being blocked by offensive linemen.
The Safety is player who is farthest from the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball. On pass plays he is responsible for covering the middle deep third. If the field was vertically split into thirds, the middle deep section would be the middle deep third. The safety has to cover any reciever that goes into this area. On run plays, the safety is the defensive's last chance. He is farthest from the ball and if the RB gets by everyone else, he is the last one who has a chance to make the tackle. Safetys are usually tall, fast and agile.
The two cornerbacks play split about 10 yards outside of the line. On pass they must cover the two outside deep thirds. On run plays, the corners typically back up the outside linebackers and help with contain. There job on run is to pretty much just get to the ball carrier as fast as they can and make a tackle. The corner backs and safetys are known as the "D-backs"
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