American Football Positions for Dummies

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American football positions for dummies: If you haven’t grown up watching and playing the sport, American football is sometimes hard to follow. Whether you’re from across the pond or live here in the States, the individual player positions and their responsibilities can be especially difficult to understand.

There was a time, decades ago, when the various players on a football team shared more similarities than differences. Individuals played both offense and defense, and everyone had to know how to block and tackle well. Check out some positions in American football for dummies in this post.

Positions in American Football

The game has evolved, and so have the positions. Football has become a game of specialists, with each position assigned a specific duty at different times during the game.

This article is a basic guide to the offensive and defensive positions on an NFL football team. Volumes can be written about the strategy and the historical significance of each position, but this is intended to be simple and usable for the new football fan.

American football positions for dummies

Here you’ll find information on where each player typically lines up, a description of their duties, the physical attributes they possess, and the jersey numbers they are allowed to wear.

Why do jersey numbers matter? The NFL jersey numbering system was once fairly strict. It is meant to be helpful for the referee and other officials, but it also helps fans understand which player plays which position. NFL teams must declare an individual player’s roster position, and that player must wear a number within the range allowed for his position, as per NFL rules.

New NFL Jersey Number Rules for 2021

In 2021, the NFL relaxed its jersey numbering rules to allow a wider range of numbers for most positions. This means, for example, running backs and wide receivers will be allowed to wear single-digit numbers for the first time since before 1973.

This is similar to the numbering system in college and high school football, and we can expect to see many players revert to their old college numbers. However, this may not happen on a large scale until the 2022 season. That is because if NFL players change their jersey numbers without giving the NFL enough notice, they are on the hook for the cost of any unsold jerseys bearing their old number.

Here’s a look at each position on an NFL roster, starting with the offense.

Football Positions on Offense

There are 11 men on the field per side in American football. On the offense, seven of those men must line up on the line of scrimmage, and the other four behind them in the backfield.

The job of the offense is to move the ball down the field and score points. Each offensive position has a unique set of responsibilities, and each player has specific attributes that better enable him to do his job. The stereotypical player at each position has evolved over the decades, as players continue to get bigger and stronger with each generation.

A play starts with the center snapping the ball, and the center is one of the offensive linemen. So, the offensive line is where we will start.

You can refer to the diagrams throughout this article to see the specific locations of each position.

Offensive Line

There are five offensive linemen (OL) in most offensive formations: one center, two guards, and two tackles. Their primary function is to block the player with the ball.

Offensive linemen are the biggest, strongest guys on the field, and their work can win or lose a game.

Lines Up

All five players line up on the line of scrimmage. In football, there must be seven offensive players on the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. In most standard formations, five of those players are linemen.

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