The Roles of the American Football players

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Did you know there are 11 different playing positions in American football players? Each member of the team has their own job to do in order to lead the team to victory. If you are new to watching football in the USA and want to better understand what is going on on the gridiron, we’ve got you covered! 

This guide will take you through the different playing positions and what the role of each player is. Although it might seem confusing at first, after reading this guide you’re sure to be a football expert! 



This is probably the playing position you’re most familiar with, and that’s because he is the most important player. The quarterback is essentially the leader of the offense – he calls the plays and the majority of the time the plays will start with the quarterback receiving the ball. 

Successful quarterbacks can throw far, with great accuracy, and are allowed to run with the ball during a game. Some of the most famous quarterbacks include Tom Brady and Joe Montana.


The center also has a crucial role to play, as he will handle the ball during every play. The center’s job is to pass the ball to the quarterback at the beginning of each play. To do this, he will either hand or throw it beneath his legs, depending on where the quarterback is standing. 

The center forms part of the offensive line and, like other line members, is usually one of the strongest and largest players. He is often considered the leader of the offensive line and can call changes to the rest of the line if it is needed during the play.  Mike Webster and Dwight Stephenson are just two of the many famous centers. 

Wide Receiver

There can be up to four wide receivers used in a play. These players are usually fast because their job is to catch balls thrown towards them. They also have to be quick to avoid defenders. Wide receivers may be wearing gloves during a game of football to help them make a catch. Jerry Rice and Antonio Brown are among the most famous wide receivers. 

Tight End

The tight end has two important jobs to do – he acts as both a blocker and a receiver, catching passes from the quarterback. During a play, they can either advance up the field to make a catch or hang back and block defenders from the opposing team. 

Notable tight ends include Antonio Gates and Jason Witten. 

Running Back

The running back, also known as the halfback or tailback, does a little bit of everything. He will mainly be running with the football, hence the name, but can also catch, throw, and block. To perform this role well, football players should be fast and powerful. 

You’ll mainly find running backs receiving a pass from the quarterback then making their way as far down the field as possible before being tackled. There are usually one or two running backs on the field during a play. Famous running backs include players such as Walter Payton and Adrian Peterson. 


Fullbacks are usually bigger players who are fast runners. During a game, they have to protect the quarterback by blocking passes and also blocking for the running back. They start running to clear a path for the halfback when play begins. Notable fullbacks include John Kuhn and Jim Brown. 


There are two guards in a team – the right guard and the left guard. They are the innermost members of the offensive line. Their job is to block for the quarterback and other teammates who are carrying the ball. Essentially, they have to protect offensive players against tackling from the opposing defensive players. 



The right and left tackle are the final two members of the offensive line, playing in the outer positions. The left tackle protects the quarterback from injury by watching his blindside. Like guards, tackles also aim to protect their teammates against the opposition’s advancing defense. 

Defensive Tackle

The above have all been offensive positions, however, the defensive tackle, as the name suggests, is the first of the defensive positions in a game of American football

The defensive tackles make up part of the defensive line, and their job is to try and stop a running play, sometimes by breaking through the offensive line towards the quarterback. 


The linebackers form a line behind the defensive line. These players are the team’s strongest tacklers, and there will usually be three or four linebackers on the field during each play. They have to tackle opposing players who are carrying the ball, so they should be both strong and fast. 


These players can be found out wide on the field, usually lined up opposite of the receivers on the offensive team. They are generally the fastest defensive players, and they work to intercept passes or tackle those receiving passes. Between two and four cornerbacks might be found on the field at any one time. 


You’ll find both free safeties and strong safeties on the field, and their job is to defend both the run and the deep pass. The free safety is the last line of defense, so must be excellent at tackling as well as strong and fast. 

Defensive End

Defensive End

The final members of the team are the defensive ends, who, as you might expect, can be found on the end of the defensive line. They work to disrupt passes by putting pressure on the player making the pass and hopefully causing him to make a poor throw. 

The two defensive ends often come together to tackle the quarterback or to force the player carrying the ball, out of bounds or towards their fellow defenders. 

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