There are more in-depth explanations on some things here: Courtesy of KDawg
3-4 Defense: Base defense that employs three down linemen and four linebackers. In this style of defense, the down lineman play two-gap defense, meaning that they plug the gap between two offensive linemen and aim to neutralize those two blockers, allowing the linebackers to go unblocked and make the majority of the tackles. A 3-4 defense is a stronger defense against the run, but requires very strong and stout defensive linemen.
4-3 Defense: Base defense that employs four down linemen and three linebackers. The 4-3 was devised in 1950 by New York Giants coach Steve Owen. The defense needs ends who are strong pass rushers as well as physically tough against the run. The 4-3 also operates best with a quality middle linebacker. The 4-3 defense is a one-gap style that allows for smaller, swifter down linemen.
Accrued Season: Six or more regular-season games on a club's active/inactive, reserved-injured, or "physically unable to perform" lists. Important for determining a player's free agent status.
Anchor: 1. The ability to hold one's ground and not be moved. 2. The key member of a particular group of players. Ex. London Fletcher is the anchor of the LB corps.
Audible: Usually referred to when a quarterback changes the play at the line of scrimmage. However, defenses can audiblize as well.
Back Judge: The official who sets up 20 yards deep in the defensive backfield on the wide receiver side of the field. His duties include:
• Make sure the defensive team has no more than 11 players on the field
• Watch all eligible receivers on his side of the field
• Watch the area between the umpire and field judge
• Rule on the legality of catches and pass interference penalties
• Watch for clipping on kick returns
• On field goals, stand under the goalpost and rule on whether the kick is good
Backfield: The area behind the offensive linemen.
Base: Your main defense with no bells and whistles. Simple play your gap defense.
Bird-Dog: A quarterback's tendency to keep his eyes glued on an intended receiver throughout his pattern, rather than looking away from him and toward different receivers. Bird-dogging tends to tip off the defensive players as to where the pass will be thrown.
Blast: A running play often referred to as a dive. Every team has the blast in its playbook; it's the simplest of carries. Usually led by the fullback, the running back takes a quick handoff from the quarterback and hits a hole between an offensive guard and tackle or guard and center.
Blind-Side: Also known as the backside. The side of the backfield on which the quarterback has less-than-optimal vision when setting to throw; the side opposite his throwing arm.
Blitz: Sending one or more linebackers or defensive backs to rush the passer.
Body-Catches: When a receiver cradles the ball against his body rather than snatching it cleanly out of the air with his hands.
Bootleg: An offensive play where the quarterback fakes a hand-off to a running back going one direction while he goes the opposite direction to run or pass. A bootleg is often used against a defense that is overpursuing the ball carrier.
Bow: When the offensive line lines up incorrectly, it creates the look of a bow (and arrow). This is illegal as it could constitute for not enough men being on the line of scrimmage.
Box: The box is the imaginary area near the line of scrimmage where the defensive linemen and linebackers line up prior to the offensive putting the ball into play. Usually, a team puts seven defenders, known as the front seven, in that box. But a team can put an eighth man - the strong safety - in the box. By placing eight defenders against six blockers - five offensive linemen and a tight end - the odds are pretty good that the running back will have trouble finding open territory.
Example of "7 in the Box"
Break: When a receiver cuts.
Break Down: Get into the proper position to make a tackle or block.
Bubble Screen: A type of screen pass where the quarterback takes the snap and immediately throws to a wide receiver lined up to the far right or left of the center. The receiver catches the ball, and then turns to run downfield.
Bull Rush: Straight-ahead, power rush.
Bump-and-Run Coverage: Man-to-man coverage where the defensive back jams the receiver at the line of scrimmage and then runs with him down the field. Opposite of man-off coverage.
Buttonhook: A pass route in which the receiver heads downfield, then quickly turns back towards the line of scrimmage.
Captain: Starting in 2008, six players are designated as Captains: two on offense, two on defense, and two on special teams. They wear a "C" patch on the chest of their jersey. There are four stars on the patch. The number of stars filled-in indicate how many years in sequence the player has been a Captain. The Captains are present at mid-field to witness and participate in the coin toss prior to the start of the game.
Chains: A length of chain exactly ten yards long with verticle poles on each end used to determine the distance needed for the offense to achieve a first down.
Cheap Shot: A deliberate foul against an unsuspecting player. A cheap shot is usually met with a personal foul and a penalty of 15 yards if spotted by an official.
Check Off: AKA Audible. Changing a play at the line of scrimmage by calling out a predetermined set of signals. A check off is often called by the quarterback when he doesn't like the play call after getting a look at the defensive formation.
Checkdown: The checkdown pass is when the quarterback has to complete a short pass to a running back or tight end as a last resort to avoid a sack. The term means that the quarterback has "checked down" his list of receivers. Handling a checkdown situation is for a running back to catch this short pass, then use his speed, agility and power to run for extra yardage.
Chop Block: The legal variety is used within three yards of the line of scrimmage to slow down the opposition's pass rush. A lineman blocks down low with his shoulders and arms, attempting to take the defender's legs from underneath him and stop his momentum. If this play occurs three yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage, the blocker is penalized 15-yards.
Chucking: A term often used when referencing linemen as one tries to chuck the other. Chuck is an extension of the arms followed by a quick retraction of the arms in an attempt to create space between the players and/or to knock the opposing player off center.
Clipping: An illegal block in which a player hits an opponent from behind, typically at leg level. Clipping is a personal foul that results in a 15-yard penalty.
Clothesline: An illegal play in which a player strikes an opponent across the face or neck with an extended arm. The penalty for a clothesline is 15 yards.
Coffin Corner: The corners of the football field located between the end zone and the five-yard line at each end of the field. A punter often tries to kick the ball out of bounds near a coffin corner to stop the other team from returning the ball and to pin them back near their goal line.
Coin Toss: Before the start of the game, the captain of the visiting team calls heads or tails of a coin flipped by the referee. The team that wins the coin toss has the choice of kicking off or receiving the kick. The losing team chooses which goal they would like to defend.
Combination Block: Also referred to as a double team. Bock on one defender carried out in unison by two offensive linemen.
Comeback Route: Teams use this pass effectively when the receiver is extremely fast and the defensive player gives him a 5-yard cushion, fearing his speed. On the comeback, the receiver runs hard down field, between 12 and 20 yards, then plants hard, and turns and runs back towards the sideline at a 45 degree angle. To work effectively, the quarterback usually throws the ball before the receiver turns. It's a timed pass - the quarterback throws to a spot where he expects the receiver to be. It is most often used to guarantee a receiver will get out of bounds to control the clock.
Compensatory Draft Pick: There are two types of compensatory draft picks: (1) those forthcoming from a team that signs a restricted free agent away from his current team, and (2) those awarded by the league as a form of compensation for the loss of unrestricted free agents. In the former case, the pick comes from the signing team. In the later, under terms of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in a year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks. The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four. The compensatory picks will be positioned within the third through seventh rounds based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost. Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary and performance. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula. A club could receive a compensatory pick even though it did not suffer a net loss of compensatory free agents. For example, using the formula in this scenario, a compensatory free agent lost could rank higher than one signed (by a specified point differential based on salary and performance).
Completion: AKA Catch, Completed Pass. A forward pass that is caught by an eligible receiver. To be a completion, a receiver has to have possession and control of the football with both feet in bounds.
Contain: A defensive assignment. On outside runs such as the sweep, one defensive player (usually a cornerback or outside linebacker) is assigned to keep the rusher from getting to the edge of the play and turning upfield. If executed properly, the rusher will have to turn upfield before the design of the play calls for it, giving the linebackers a better chance of stopping the play for little or no gain.
Controlling The Clock: Keeping possession of the football for long periods of time, giving the other team's offense less time to operate with the ball. Controlling the clock also helps a team's defense by allowing them to rest for longer periods before having to go back out on the field.
Corner Route: Route where the receiver drives the defender off the ball by running directly towards the end zone and then breaks the pattern to the outside corner.
Cornerback: AKA corner, defensive back. A defensive player who generally lines up on the outside of the formation and is usually assigned to cover a wide receiver. A good cornerback can usually be counted on to stay with a receiver in one-on-one coverage.
Counter: A misdirection run by design and intended to go against the pursuit of the defense. For example, the quarterback can fake a lateral toss to one back who is heading in one direction parallel to the line of scrimmage. He's the decoy. The quarterback then tuns and hands off to the remaining runner in the backfield, generally the fullback, who runs toward the middle of the line, hoping to find an opening between either guard and the center.
Counter-Trey: A running play made famous by the Washington Redskins of the early 1980's, but now used by most teams. A misdirection running play where a running back will take a false step towards one direction, before heading in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, the offensive linemen on the side of the false step will pull to the true direction of the play.
Cover: To defend a position, player, or location on the field. To cover is attempt to prevent a receiver from catching a pass. There are two general schemes for defending against the pass:
1. Man-to-man - each eligible receiver is covered by a defensive back or a linebacker.
2. Zone - certain players (usually defensive backs and/or linebackers, though occasionally linemen as well) are assigned an area on the field (Flat, Hook, Curl and Deep) that they are to cover.
Common types of coverage:
1. Cover Zero - Strict man-to-man coverage with no help from safeties (usually a blitz play with at least five men crossing the line of scrimmage)
2. Cover One - Man-to-man coverage with at least one safety not assigned a player to cover who can help out on deep pass routes.
3. Cover Two - Zone coverage with the safeties playing deep and covering half the field each. Can be Cover 2 man, where every receiver is covered by a defensive player, or Cover 2 Zone (also known as Tampa 2), where CB covers Flat zone, OLB Hook Zone and MLB Curl Zone.
4. Cover Three - Zone coverage as above, but with extra help from Strong Safety/Cornerback, so that each player covers one-third of a deep zone.
5. Cover Four - As above, with the corners and safeties dropping into deep coverage, with each taking one-fourth of the width of the field. Also referred to as Quarters.
Coverage: A defensive scheme designed to stop the pass, or a special teams scheme designed to limit the kick return. The pass coverage on a particular play is generally determined in the huddle before the play.
Cover One: Defensive coverage where the free safety is 12-14 yards deep, the two cornerbacks are in press coverage, and the strong safety is about 5 yards deep over the tight end. Cover one is generally a man-to-man scheme and vulnerable to a running play.
Cover Two: Defensive coverage where both safeties are deep (12-14 yards off the line of scrimmage). The two cornerbacks are in press coverage while the two safeties prepare to help the corners on passing plays and come forward on running plays. A deep comeback route, crossing route, or a swing pass works well against this type of coverage. More here.
Cover Three: This coverage usually has the two corners and the free safety deep (10-14 yards off the line of scrimmage). The cover three is an obvious zone coverage. The strong safety is 5 yards off the line, over the tight end. This is a stout defense versus the run, but very soft versus a good passing team. A quarterback can throw underneath passes unless the linebackers are very strong in coverage.
Cover Four: All four defensive backs are off the line of scrimmage - aligned approximately 12 yards deep. The cover four is a good pass defense because the secondary players are told never to allow a receiver to get behind them. Running plays often work well against this kind of coverage.
Crackback: A block by an offensive player who is usually spread out away from the main body of the formation and runs back in towards the ball at the snap, blocking an opponent back toward the original position of the ball at the snap. Blocking below the waist or in the back in this situation is illegal. An illegal crackback block is a personal foul and is penalized 15 yards against the offending team.
Creepers: Defenders who are threatening to blitz just before the snap.
Crossing Route: This is an effective pass against man-to-man coverage because it's designed for the receiver to beat his defender by running across the field. The receiver generally runs about 10 yards down the field and then cuts quickly straight across the field. The play is designed for the quarterback to pass to the receiver on the run as the receiver crosses his field of vision.
Curl: Also referred to as a turn-in route. An 8- to 14-yard pass where the receiver stops and then turns immediately, making a slight curl before facing the quarterback's throw. The receiver usually takes a step or two toward the quarterback and the ball before the pass reaches him. The curl tends to be a high-percentage completion because the receiver wants to shield the defender with his back. This is a common route for tight ends.
Cut Back: A sudden change in direction. Cut backs are often designed into running plays to take advantage of the direction of pursuit by the defense.
Cut Block: Block below the knees.
Cut-Off Block: Generally used on running plays, which are designed to allow a defensive player to come free across the line of scrimmage. After that happens, an offensive lineman deliberately gets in the way of this on-rushing defender. This block is sometimes called an angle block because the offensive lineman hits the defensive player from the side, or from an angle.
Dead Ball: The period of time between plays when the ball is no longer in play, which is determined by the officials signaling the play to be over.
Decoy Route: A route run by a receiver to draw a defender away from where the ball is actually going.
Defensive Back: A member of the defensive secondary. Defensive backs generally try to keep receivers from making catches. Safeties, cornerbacks, nickel backs, and dime backs are considered to be defensive backs.
Defensive Backfield: The area of the field behind the defensive linemen that is defended by the defensive backs. Also sometimes refers to the defensive backs themselves.
Defensive Holding: AKA Illegal Use of Hands. Use of the hands to hold or push an offensive receiver or back on a passing play after the receiver has crossed beyond the first five yards past the line of scrimmage. Inside the five yard chuck zone, the defense may jam the receiver, but after that a penalty is called. Defensive holding results in a five-yard penalty on the offending team and an automatic first down.
Delay Of Game: A penalty called on a team for either letting the play clock expire before snapping the ball, having too many players on the field, or calling a time out after having already used all they were allotted by rule. A delay of game infraction results in a five-yard penalty against the offending team.
Delay Route: A route run by a tight end or running back where the player first "acts" as if he were blocking, then runs a pattern as a receiver.
Dime Coverage: Coverage with six defensive backs instead of the standard four. Two linebackers are usually removed in favor of two extra defensive backs in this coverage. Dime coverage is generally used to defend a passing situation.
Typical Dime Defense
Direct Snap: A play in which the ball is passed directly to the presumed ball carrier by the center.
Dog: Short for "Red Dog." See "Blitz."
Double-Dog Look: When two linebackers slide up to the line of scrimmage, threatening blitz.
Double-Team Block: Double-teaming is two linemen ganging up on one defensive player. It's more common on pass plays when the center and a guard work together to stop the penetration of a talented inside pass-rusher. However, the double-team also works well on running plays, especially at the point-of-attack or at the place where the play is designed to go.
Double Foul: A situation in which each team commits a foul during the same play. A double foul usually results in offsetting penalties that negate the result of the play.
Double Wing: A formation with 2 tight ends & 2 wingbacks in which the snap is tossed by the center between his legs to the quarterback or halfback moderately deep in the backfield.
Double Wing-T: A formation with 2 tight ends & 2 wingbacks in which the center hands the ball to the quarterback, who holds his hands between the legs of the center.
Double Zone Coverage: Coverage which as five defenders in the undercoverage (cornerbacks and linebackers) with two safeties playing the deep halves of the field. The cornerbacks look inside to determine run or pass. The WR's are double-teamed on the routes downfield, with the cornerbacks bumping them inside and the safeties picking them up deep. This defense also allows for strong run force from the cornerbacks.
Double Zone With Man Coverage Underneath: Also known as double man coverage. This coverage looks the same as double zone coverage except that the cornerbacks are up tight on the wide receivers in bump-and-run position. The cornerbacks will usually take an inside position on the wide receivers. The safeties once again provide deep help. This type of defense can often leave the flats vulnerable.
Down Block: A block thrown from the outside across a defender's feet to cut off his pursuit angle.
Down Lineman: A defensive lineman, including defensive tackles and defensive ends.
Down Marker: The verticle pole held on the sideline at the line of scrimmage indicating what the down is.
Draw: A running play where the offensive personnel fake a passing play, delay, and then run the ball up the middle of the formation. Because the offensive linemen draw back like they're going to pass-protect, the opposing defensive line often come charging on the pass rush and are easily pushed aside at the last moment. Draws are often quite effective in "obvious" passing situations.
Drive Block: This one-on-one block is used most often when a defensive lineman lines up directly over an offensive lineman. The blocker usually explodes out of a three-point stance and drives his hips forward, delivering the block from a wide base while keeping his head up and his shoulders square. The blow should be delivered with the forearms and not the head, with the head kept to the side of the opponent where the hole for the ball carrier should be. The object of the block is to drive a defensive player out of position creating a hole for the ball carrier.
Drop Back: An action by a quarterback, after taking the snap, where he takes a few steps backward into the pocket to set up for a pass. Quarterbacks generally have a set number of steps they drop back on certain plays before setting up to throw the ball.
Drop Kick: A free kick where a player drops the ball and kicks it right after it hits the ground. Oone method of scoring a field goal or extra point is by drop-kicking the football through the goal. A drop kick is rarely used in the NFL today.
Eligible Receiver: An offensive player who can legally catch a forward pass. Most of the time, an offensive lineman is not an eligible receiver, but a tackle can be eligible if he reports to the referee before the play.
Encroachment: A foul in which a defender makes contact with a member of the offense before the snap. Encroachment results in a five-yard penalty on the offending team.
End: An offensive player who lines up on the very end of the line of scrimmage. Also a defensive player who lines up on either end of the defensive line. The end on the right side of an offense (for teams with right-handed quarterbacks) is referred to as a tight end, as he lines up close to the offensive linemen. The end on the opposite side is spread out toward the sideline, and is called a wide receiver.
End Line: The very end of the field, at either end. The end line is located at the very back of the end zone on either end of the field.
Excessive Time Outs: Calling a time out after having used the three allowed per half. Or calling two time outs back to back with no play in between. The penalty for excessive time outs is five yards against the offending team and the clock is restarted.
Exclusive Rights Free Agent (ERFA): ERFA's are players who have completed less than three seasons of accrued service and whose contracts have expired. They may negotiate or sign only with their prior club, if the prior club tenders the player at least a one-year contract at or above the minimum applicable. If the club does not tender, the player is free to sign with any club and no compensation is required.
Face Mask: The bars attached to a football helmet that cover a players face. Also a foul for grasping an opponent's face mask. There are two levels of severity for face mask penalties. One results from incidental grabbing of a face mask where it is immediately released, and results in a five-yard penalty. A major face mask foul usually results from a player grabbing an opponent by the face mask and using it to pull the player down or twist his head around and results in a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.
Fade Route: Route where the receiver quickly breaks to the outside and looks for the ball over his inside shoulder. Often used near the goal line. A route best used by taller receivers who can outleap their opponent and fight for the ball.
Fair Catch: When the player returning a punt signals by waving his extended arm from side to side over his head, making it illegal for the opposition to tackle him. After a player signals for a fair catch, he cannot run with the ball, and defenders can't touch him. The penalty for fair catch interference is 15 yards against the offending team.
Fake: A blocking technique sometimes employed by seasoned offensive lineman. Example: A pass is called. If the offensive linemen stand straight up, take a wide stance and sag their hips into their normal pass-blocking set, the middle linebacker will read "pass" and instinctively back-pedal. So, instead, the offensive line comes off the ball hard, with their knees bent and shoulder pads low, giving the illusion of a drive block, thereby fooling the middle linebacker into a run play and leaving space fifteen yards over the middle for the receiver.
Faker: A linebacker who slides up to the line of scrimmage threatening blitz, but who, after the QB starts to audible, then moves back.
Faking A Roughing: An illegal act by a quarterback, kicker, or punter in which they fake being roughed by the opposition in the hopes of drawing a roughing penalty. This foul is rarely called in the NFL, but when it is, it results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.
False Start: An infraction in which an offensive player moves before the ball is snapped. A false start results in a five-yard penalty against the offending team.
Field Judge: The official that lines up 25 yards deep in the defensive backfield on the tight end side of the field. His duties include:
• Keep track of the play clock and call delay of game if it expires
• Make sure the defensive team has no more than 11 players on the field
• Rule on plays that cross the defense's goal line
• Watch all eligible receivers on his side of the field
• Rule on the legality of catches and pass interference penalties on the strong side of the field
• Mark the spot where a play goes out of bounds on his side of the field
• Watch for illegal use of hands by the receivers and defensive backs
Field Position: Refers to the ball's location on the field and is often preceded with "Good" or "Bad." Field position is a very important aspect of the game of football. Teams starting with bad field position have a tougher time moving the ball forward.
First Read: A QB's primary receiver.
Flanker: The wide receiver who lines up on the strong side, closest to the sideline, but off the line of scrimmage. Often referred to as the "Z" receiver.
Flashes: Shows ability sporadically.
Flats: The area of the field between the hash marks and the sideline and in close proximity to the line of scrimmage. A pass, generally to a running back, in this particular spot is described as a flat pass. Running backs often run pass routes to the flat when they are the safety valve receiver.
Flea Flicker: A trick play where the quarterback hands off to a running back and then the running back tosses the ball back to the quarterback for a pass play.
Flex Bone: A formation involving three running backs where a fullback is lined up behind the quarterback and two slotbacks are lined up behind the line of scrimmage at both ends of the offensive line.
Flood: A strategy used by offenses where they send more players to a particular area of the field than the opposition can effectively cover. Against zone defenses, an offense will sometimes flood a zone, forcing a defender to have to cover more than one player.
Fly Route: Also known as the streak, go, or takeoff. Speed route where the receiver tries to outrun his defender straight up the field. This pass is often designed to loosen up a defense by forcing the defense to think about the long throw. In turn, this should help to open up the short passing and running games.
Forward Pass: A pass that touches a person, object, or the ground closer to the opponent's end line than where it was released from, or is accidentally lost during a forward throwing motion.
Franchise Player: A club can designate one franchise player in any given year. The salary level offer by a player's old club determines what type of franchise player he is. An "exclusive" franchise player - not free to sign with another club - is offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player's position as of April 16, or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater. If the player is offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries of last season at his position, he becomes a "non-exclusive" franchise player and can negotiate with other clubs. His old club can match a new club's offer, or receive two first-round draft choices if it decides not to match.
Free Agency: An open signing period during which an NFL team can sign any unrestricted player who is without a contract. Many players change teams during free agency.
Free Agent: See restricted free agent, unrestricted free agent, exclusive rights free agent, and rookie free agent.
Free Kick: Either a kickoff or a punt following a safety. After being tackled in their own end zone for a safety, a team must kick the ball to the opposition via a free kick.
Free Safety: A defensive player who lines up the deepest in the secondary and defends the deep middle of the field against the pass. A free safety's primary responsibility is to defend the pass.
Front Four: The defensive linemen in a formation that includes two ends and two tackles.
Front Seven: The defensive linemen and linebackers.
Fullback: An offensive player who lines up in the offensive backfield and generally is responsible for blocking for the running back and also pass-blocking for the quarterback. Fullbacks are usually bigger than running backs, and also serve as short-yardage runners.
Fumble: When a player loses possession of the football before a play is blown dead. Any player within the field of play may recover a fumble.
Futures Contract: See Reserve/Futures Contract.
Gap: The open space between players along the line of scrimmage when they are aligned. Each gap along the line of scrimmage usually has a number assigned to it, and running plays are usually designed to go through a specific gap.
Goal Line: The front of the endzone. Per NFL rules: The goal line is the imaginary verticle plane that exists on the edge of the white line marked between the two goal line pylons. It is positioned on the edge of the white line nearest the 1-yard line. The plane extends along the goal line and ends at the pylons but includes the pylons. In previous years, the plane extended out of bounds indefinitely, but this was changed in 2007. Regarding scoring touchdowns: If the ball is in possession, and the ball breaks the plane or even touches the plane, it is a touchdown. This is because the goal line, and the plane, is considered "in the endzone." Regarding the pylons, a player with possession of the ball must get any part of the football to pass inside or over the goal line pylon before he touches out of bounds to be awarded a score. Ref.
Goal Line Defense: Defense used on the goal line or in short yardage situations where the entire defense lines up close to the line of scrimmage in an attempt to stop an expected running play. It is usually used to counter a Goal Line offense. Since there is not more than 10-11 yards of field left, the safeties can be pulled for more linemen or linebackers. However, depending upon the abilities of a particular receiving corps, some defenses may be forced to keep their defensive backs in goal-line situations, weakening their ability to stop the run.
A goal-line defense with "9 in the box"
Goal Posts: The poles at the rear of each end zone through which teams score field goals and extra points. The goal post consists of a verticle post, a horizontal crossbar, and two verticle uprights. The horizontal crossbar is positioned even with the end line and is an even distance from the two sidelines. The post that holds the uprights is 10 feet tall. The crossbar, which is 18 feet, 6 inches in length, sits atop the post. The uprights extend 30 feet above the crossbar. However, for scoring purposes, the uprights extend upwards indefinitely.
Gridiron: Football field.
Gunner: The wide men on the punt coverage unit. These two should be the first down the field and are often double-teamed by the punt return unit.
Gunslinger: A quarterback who plays with an aggressive and decisive manner by throwing deep, risky passes. These quarterbacks usually possess the strong arm needed to throw deep effectively.
H-Back: An H-Back usually serves as a "move tight end" in a two-TE formation and is often put into motion. He is usually inserted into the line-up in lieu of one of the running backs. His main role is to block and catch.
Hail Mary: An offensive play where the quarterback throws a very long pass high in the air without really targeting any particular receiver, hoping someone on his team catches it. A Hail Mary is generally used on the last play of the half or end of the game when a team is out of field-goal range and has just enough time for one play. The ball is usually lofted up toward one side of the end zone where several receivers try to catch it while a group of defenders try to knock it down or intercept it.
Halfback Option: A trick play in which the halfback has the option to throw a pass or run.
Half-Dollar Coverage: AKA Prevent Defense. Coverage with eight defensive backs instead of the standard four. All three linebackers or two linebackers and two defensive lineman are usually removed in favor of the extra three defensive backs in this coverage.
Hands Team: A team of sure-handed players that specializes in recovering onside kicks. During an onside kick, both teams put in their hands teams so they have the players on the field with the best ball-handling skills.
Hang Time: The length of time that elapses from when the ball comes off a kicker's foot until it touches a player on the ground.
Hash Marks: The two rows of lines near the center of the field that signify 1 yard on the field. Before every play, the ball is marked between or on the hash marks, depending on where the ball carrier was tackled on the preceding play. On a professional field, the hash marks are four inches wide and are located 70 feet, 9 inches for the sidelines.
Head Linesman: The head linesman is the official that sets up straddling the line of scrimmage on the sideline designated by the referee. His duties include:
• Watch for line of scrimmage violations like offsides and encroachment
• Rule on all out-of-bounds plays on his side of the field
• Keep tabs on the chain crew
• Mark the chain to a yard marker on the field as a reference point for a measurement on the field
• Mark a players forward progress after a play is whistled dead
• Keep track of all eligible receivers
• Watch for illegal motion, illegal shifts, illegal use of hands, illegal men downfield
Heavy: A two-tight end, one-wide receiver offensive formation often used in short yardage situations.
Heavy Side Of The Field: The side of the field where the QB's first read is located.
Heisman Trophy: An award presented annually by the Downtown Athletic Club of New York to the best college football player in the country. The Heisman Trophy is named in honor of John W. Heisman, the first Athletic Director of the Downtown Athletic Club.
Helping The Runner: Another player cannot assist the ball carrier by pushing or pulling them forward. The penalty for helping the runner is 10 yards against the offending team.
Hitch And Go: A pass pattern where a receiver goes downfield to catch a pass, fakes a quick turn inside or outside, then continues downfield for a deeper pass.
Hitch Route: Similar to a curl route, but run at a shorter depth - around six yards.
Holding: An illegal action where one player keeps another from advancing by grabbing him and holding him back. Offensive holding is a 10-yard penalty and the down is repeated. Defensive holding results in a five-yard penalty and an automatic first down.
Hole Number: A number assigned to each gap or space between the five offensive linemen and the tight end. Even numbers are to the right of center.
Home Field Advantage: The benefit a team gets by playing games in its own stadium. Home field advantage is enhanced by fan support, familiarity with the field and its surroundings, and the lack of required travel. It is generally understood to be worth about three points, but this will vary.
Hook And Ladder: A pass play in which the receiver catches a pass facing toward the line of scrimmage, then laterals the ball to another offensive player who is racing toward the opponent's end zone. The hook and ladder (lateral) is considered a trick play by most coaches and is rarely used in the NFL.
Hook Route: This is a common pass play designed mostly for a tight end, who releases down field and then makes a small turn, coming back to face the quarterback and receive the ball. A hook is similar to a wide receiver running a curl, although it's a shorter pass (8-12 yards). It is a timing route - the quarterback usually releases the ball before the tight end starts his turn.
Horizontal Attack: To stretch a defense from sideline to sideline.
Hot Check: The QB's safety valve should his first read not get open.
Hot Dog: A player who shows off by displaying flamboyant antics instead of going about his duties in a business-like fashion.
Hot Read or Hot Receiver: When a linebacker or defensive back blitzes, often the man who he was responsible to cover will be wide open. This man is generally known as the "hot" receiver. If the quarterback can read the blitz quickly enough, a big play may result.
Hug Technique: Employed by a defensive player, usually a linebacker. If the receiver/back runs a route, the defender covers him. If the receiver/back stays in to block, the defender rushes the QB.
Hurry-up Offense: An offensive strategy designed to gain as much yardage as possible while running as little time off the clock as possible. Often involves making plays without a huddle. This technique can also be used to keep the defensive team off-balance.
Hybrid: See "'tweener."
"I" Formation: In the "I" formation, the tailback (the halfback in the "I" is referred to as the tailback) can place himself as deep as 7 yards from the line of scrimmage. By stepping this far back, the runner will be in full stride when he nears the line of scrimmage. Also, the depth allows him to have complete vision of his blockers and the defensive players' first reaction to the run. This formation is called the "I" because the quarterback, fullback, and tailback form an "I", with the fullback between the quarterback and tailback.
Icing the Kicker: An attempt to force the kicker to "think" about (and miss) his upcoming kick by calling a time out just before the kicker has the ball snapped.
Illegal Formation: An offensive formation in which not enough players are on the line of scrimmage. By rule, an NFL team must have seven men lined up on the line of scrimmage to begin every offensive play. Failure to do so is an illegal formation and a five-yard penalty against the offending team.
Illegal Motion: An illegal movement is when an offensive player is in motion but moving forward at the time of the snap. Or a lineman who was not set for one second before the snap. Illegal motion results in a five yard penalty against the offending team.
Illegal Procedure: A penalty that includes movement by an offensive player before the snap. The penalty for illegal procedure is five yards against the offending team.
Illegal Shift: When two offensive players are in motion at the same time when the ball is snapped.
In-Route: Route where the receiver drives up field and then breaks horizontally towards the center of the field. In-routes can be run anywhere from 12-20 yards in depth.
Ineligible Receiver: Certain players on the offense are not allowed to catch passes. For example, in most situations offensive linemen cannot be receivers and they may cause their team to be penalized if they catch the ball. An exception is if the ball has already been tipped by a different player.
Influence Pull: A fake pull designed to have the linebackers flow with the pulling lineman. A type of misdirection that isn't often used at the higher levels.
Injured Reserve: When a player is injured and expected to miss the rest of the current or upcoming season, he is usually placed on injured reserve. A player on injured reserve cannot be signed by another team, but he also no longer counts against the roster until the next offseason. Players on injured reserve count against the salary cap.
Intentional Grounding: A type of illegal forward pass thrown without an intended receiver and no chance of completion to any offensive player for the sole purpose of conserving time or eliminating what would be a loss of yardage. This foul costs the offense a loss of down and 10 yards. If it occurs 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage, then the 10 yards is taken from the spot of the foul. If the foul is committed in the end zone the penalty is a safety. Intentional grounding is not called in the case of a spike after a hand to hand snap or if under NFL rules, the quarterback was outside the tackle box, (the imaginary area between each tackle) at the time of the pass, provided that the ball travels at least to the line of scrimmage. The Tackle Box is also known as the Pocket.
Interception: The legal catching of a forward pass thrown by an opposing player.
Interference: Illegally hampering a player's opportunity to catch a pass. A defensive interference penalty is automatic first down at the spot of the foul. Also, blocking for another player carrying the football is known as "running interference."
Jumbo: A three-tight end, no wide receiver formation used in short yardage situations. In many cases, an extra offensive linemen will in fact be used instead of a tight end. In the NFL, such a player must report in as an eligible receiver because a lineman or linebacker would not generally wear an eligible number.
Jump The Route: When a defensive back abruptly moves between the QB and the intended receiver in an attempt to intercept the ball.
Key: Either a specific player or a shift in a particular offensive formation that serves as a clue to a defensive player. From studying a team tendencies, he immediately knows which play they will attempt to run and to what direction.
Kicking An Opponent: An illegal act in which a player kneels on or kicks a member of another team. Kicking an opponent results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team, and the guilty player can be disqualified if the foul is ruled to be flagrant.
Kneel: A low risk play in which the player in possession of the ball kneels down after receiving the snap, ending the play. Used to run out the clock. (Also called "take a knee".) Most commonly, the quarterback will down the ball immediately after the snap in the time after the two-minute warning. Another notable situation is for a player to stop just short of the goalline and take a knee to enable his team to run down the clock because the opposition has no timeouts left.
Lateral: A sideways or backwards pass thrown from one player to another. Since it is not a forward pass, a lateral can be executed beyond the line of scrimmage. Unlike a forward pass, if a backward pass hits the ground or an official, play continues. Like a fumble, a backward pass that has hit the ground may be recovered and advanced by either team.
Line Judge: The official who lines up on the opposite side of the field from the head linesman. His duties include:
• Assist the head linesman on in making illegal motion, illegal shifts, offside and encroachment calls
• Assist the umpire with illegal use of the hands and holding calls
• Assist the referee on false start calls
• Make sure the quarterback does not cross the line of scrimmage before throwing the ball
• Watch for offensive lineman going downfield too early on punts
• Supervise the timing of the game
• Supervise substitutions by the team on his side of the field
Line Of Scrimmage: An imaginary line stretching the width of the field that separates the two teams prior to the snap of the ball. The line of scrimmage is determined by the points of the football with the length of the football representing the neutral zone.
Line To Gain: Term that indicates the distance needed for first-down yardage.
Long Snap: The center snap to a punter or holder for a placekicker.
Long Strider: A player who takes long steps instead of quick ones, and thus, tends to move slower into and out of his breaks.
Loose Ball: A ball that is not in possession of either team. Examples:
A ball that is lying, or rolling around on the ground after a fumble. A ball that hits the ground during an attempted lateral. A ball that is blocked during a kick or punt.
Man In Motion: A player on offense who is moving backwards or parallel to the line of scrimmage during the snap count just before the snap. In American football, only one offensive player can be in motion at a time, cannot be moving toward the line of scrimmage at the snap, and may not be a player who is on the line of scrimmage.
Man-Off Coverage: Man-to-man pass coverage when a defender is backed off the line of scrimmage, as opposed to tight bump-and-run coverage.
Man-on-Man Blocking: The straight-ahead style of blocking a defender who plays directly over you and driving him out of the hole. Most defenses use four linemen, so man-on-man blocking is common on pass plays, with each offensive lineman choosing the opponent opposite of him, and the center helping out to either side.
Man-to-Man Coverage: Also simply called man coverage. Coverage where the defensive backs and linebackers are called upon to cover specific offensive players rather than certain areas of the playing field. The defenders are supposed to cover their respective opponents until the completion of the play.
Man-to-Man with Free Safety: Also called man free. This coverage allows tight man-to-man coverage with the free safety helping deep. The cornerbacks will often position themselves to the outside in this coverage, knowing they have help deep from the safety. In straight man, the free safety does not serve as a safety valve as the defense is most likely blitzing.
Man Under: A coverage scheme where the safeties play a zone defense, usually cover 2, but can be others depending on personnel with the underneath coverage players (linebackers/corners) playing a man scheme.
Marty Ball: A conservative gameplan which involves an offense based around the use of halfbacks with use of the passing game only to advance the running game, and a great emphasis on defense. Popularized term for Marty Schottenhiemer's approach to coaching.
Max Protect: A modification used on pass plays (usually combined with a shotgun formation) which keeps the tight end and both backs in behind the line of scrimmage to pass protect rather than run a pass route. This is used in obvious blitzing situations to give the quarterback "maximum protection" in the pocket. Although good for holding off a blitz, it leaves the quarterback with only two receivers to throw to (and therefore only two players for the secondary to defend). Some of the logic behind this play might stem from a player's supposed lack of defensibility: when a receiver (such as Randy Moss) or quarterback-receiver duo (such as the historic Joe Montana-and-Jerry Rice) is of the caliber that a completion is likely even when the receiver is closely guarded by defenders. Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs is known for having used a two tight end formation to protect his QB from the nearly unstoppable blitzer Lawrence Taylor.
Middle Guard: AKA nose guard or nose tackle. The defensive tackle who lines up opposite the offensive center. A middle guard is generally big and strong enough to take on double teams on a consistent basis.
Mike: Middle Linebacker
Mirror: Shadow; stay in front of.
Mr. Irrelevant: The last player drafted of a class of draftees.
Mo: Also known as Jack. The Interior Linebacker (ILB), 3-4 formation, that plays in the weak side of the formation.
Motion: When an offensive player (wide receiver, tight end, running back) is called upon to move laterally along the line of scrimmage after the team lines up but before the ball is snapped. Motion is often used to help the offense read defensive coverages, avoid bump-and-run coverage, and/or create mismatches. Motion cannot be forward, and only one player is allowed to move at a time.
Mouse Trap: AKA trap block. A blocking scheme where a defensive player is allowed through the offensive line only to be blocked by another player behind the line. A tight end is often put in motion on a mousetrap so that he gets to the area behind the line of scrimmage where the defender is coming through the line.
Muff: A loose ball that is dropped or mishandled while the player is attempting to gain possession.
Muffed Punt: Occurs when there is an "uncontrolled touch" of the football after it is punted. May be recovered but not advanced by the kicking team.
Multiple Offense: An offensive strategy that utilizes a number of different formations. A team will use a multiple offense to try to confuse the defense.
Neutral Zone: The area that is between the offensive line and defensive lines, stretching from sideline to sideline, that is to remain clear of any part of either team's players prior to the snap. The width of the neutral zone is defined by the length of the football. Breaking this rule results in an offsides or false start penalty.
Nickel Back: An extra defensive back who is used mostly in obvious passing situations. A defensive back is referred to as a nickel back when he is the fifth defensive back on the field.
Nickel Coverage: Coverage with five defensive backs instead of the standard four, used in obvious passing situations. A linebacker is usually removed in the nickel for the extra defensive back.
Most common nickel coverage
North-South Runner: Player who tends to run towards the goal line rather than laterally.
Nose Guard/Tackle: The defensive player who lines up directly across from the center's "nose." A nose guard is generally big and strong enough to take on double teams on a consistent basis. The primary responsibilities of the nose tackle are to stop the run and to occupy the offensive lineman to keep them from blocking the linebackers.
Off-Tackle Run: Strong-side running play where the halfback heads toward the end of the line to take advantage of the hole supplied by the tackle, tight end, and fullback. The runner can take the ball either around the tight end or outside the tackle. The fullback is usually charged with blocking the outside linebacker.
Offensive Holding: A foul in which an offensive player keeps a defender from advancing by grasping him with his hands or arms. Offensive linemen are allowed to use their hands as long as they keep them to the inside of a defenders body, but if they get to the outside of the defender's body, it is a penalty. Offensive holding results in a 10-yard penalty.
Offensive Pass Interference: A penalty in which an offensive player significantly hinders a defensive player's opportunity to intercept a forward pass or pushes off of the defender to give himself an advantage. Offensive pass interference results in a 10-yard penalty.
Offer Sheet: When a restricted free agent receives and agrees to sign a contract with another team, the player must submit a certificate with the contract terms to his prior team. The prior team has seven days from the time it receives the offer sheet to exercise or not exercise its right of first refusal.
Officials: The men in the striped shirts who officiate the game. The crew of officials consists of a referee, umpire, head linesman, line judge, back judge, field judge, and side judge.
Offset "I" Formation: In the offset "I" formation, the running back remains deep, 5 -7 yards from the quarterback. When the running back is this deep, the majority of the time the team plans to run the ball. The fullback or blocking back can be as close as 3 yards to the line of scrimmage, but is offset to either side by a few yards. The other back wants to be close to his target - the defender he must block. Also, he's deep enough should the play require him to go in motion to either side.
Offside: A penalty that occurs when any part of a defender's body is beyond his line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped. An offside infraction results in a five-yard penalty against the offending team.
Onside Kick: An attempt by the kicking team to recover the ball by kicking it a short distance down the field. An onside kick must travel at least 10 yards before the kicking team can legally touch it, unless it is touched first by the receiving team. Once the ball travels ten yards, it is considered a loose ball, and the ball does not have to be touched by the receiving team before the kicking team may attempt to recover it.
Option: An option play normally has a quarterback sweeping in one direction as the ball carrier with the "option" to either pass downfield, lateral the ball to a fellow teammate running back who is sweeping even wider than the quarterback, or keep the ball. This is often seen in college games, but rarely at the professional level.
Out Of Bounds At The Snap: A player may not enter the field of play after the football is snapped. The penalty for being out of bounds at the snap is five yards against the offending team.
Out Route: Often referred to as a square out. Pass route where the receiver drives up field and then cuts his pattern directly towards the sideline. The square-out is a timing play because the quarterback must deliver the pass before the receiver reaches the sideline and steps out-of-bounds. The quarterback must really fire this pass - if the ball hangs, it could be easily intercepted. A square out run at depth is often referred to as a deep out; a shallow square out (approximately five yards past the line of scrimmage) is often referred to as a quick out.
Package: The group of players on the field for a given play. For example, the Nickel Package substitutes a cornerback for either a linebacker or a defensive lineman (the latter is referred to as a 3-3-5 Nickel), or the Jumbo package substitutes a wide receiver with a tight end.
Pancake Block: A block where the offensive player literally knocks his opponent off his feet and onto his back.
Pass Interference: Illegally hindering another player's chances of catching a forward pass. Defensive pass interference awards the offensive team the ball at the spot of the foul with an automatic first down. Offensive pass interference results in a 10-yard penalty against the offense.
Pass Protection: The use of blocking by the offensive line and backs to allow the quarterback time and space to throw the ball.
Pass Rush: An attempt by the defensive players to get to the quarterback so they can tackle him before he can complete a pass. A pass rush can come in a number of different forms. Teams often pass rush just three or four down linemen, or they can also use one or more linebackers or defensive backs to add a blitz to their pass rush.
Penalties: Fouls (a type of rule violation) are punished with penalties against the offending team. Most penalties result in moving the football towards the offending team's end zone. If the penalty would move the ball more than half the distance towards the offender's end zone, the penalty becomes half the distance to the goal instead of its normal value. Most penalties result in replaying the down. Some defensive penalties give the offense an automatic first down. Conversely, some offensive penalties result in loss of a down (loss of the right to repeat the down). If a foul occurs during a down, an official throws a yellow penalty flag near the spot of the foul. When the down ends, the team that did not commit the foul has the option of accepting the penalty, or declining the penalty and accepting the result of the down.
Penalty Marker: AKA Penalty Flag or Flag. A yellow piece of fabric weighted with shot thrown by an official to mark the occurrence of and the approximate location of a penalty.
Personal Foul: A flagrant illegal act that is generally deemed to unnecessarily risk the health of other players. Personal fouls include, but are not limited to late hits, unnecessary roughness, and blows to the head. A personal foul results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.
Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)/Non-Football Injury List: This is a list for players who are injured off the field or outside the scope of their player contract and who are unable to pass their team's physical prior to training camp. Players on this list are not entitled to compensation while on the list, although their contract continues to run until they are in the final year of their contract.
Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)/Football Injury List: This list is for players unable to pass their team's physical prior to training camp because of a prior season injury. Players on this list receive their full salary while on the list and their contract continues to run until they are in the final year of their contract.
Pick:(Informal) Synonymous with Interception.
Pick Play: When two receivers cross. The goal is to have one receiver intentionally block the path of a defensive player who is trying to cover the other receiver - thus allowing that receiver to become wide open. Pick plays are illegal, but seldom called.
Pigskin: A football is sometimes called a "pigskin." However, the NFL's official footballs are made of premium cowhide leather. According to the NCAA, college teams also use leather footballs, but they're a little bit smaller than NFL balls.
Piling On: An illegal play where several players jump on the player with the ball after he's been tackled. Piling on results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.
Pistol Formation: A hybrid of the traditional shotgun and single back offenses. In the pistol offense, the quarterback lines up four yards behind the center rather than seven yards, as with the shotgun formation. The running back lines up three yards directly behind the quarterback, as opposed to next to him as in the shotgun. The quarterback is close enough to the line of scrimmage to be able to read the defense and far enough back to give him extra time and a better vision of the field as in the shotgun.
Pitch: A running play generally made from a two-back formation. The quarterback takes the snap and fakes a handoff to the first back, who's headed toward the line of scrimmage; then he tosses the ball to the laterally to the other runner, who has begun to move to the outside. The runner can either take the pitch outside or cut back toward the inside.
Plane: Per NFL rules: The imaginary verticle plane that exists on the edge of the goal line. It is positioned on the edge of the white line nearest the 1-yard line. The plane extends along the goal line and ends at the pylon but includes the pylon. In previous years, the plane extended out of bounds indefinitely, but this was changed in 2007. Regarding scoring touchdowns: If the ball is in possession, and the ball breaks the plane or even touches the plane, it is a touchdown. This is because the goal line, and the plane, is considered "in the endzone." Regarding the pylons, a player with possession of the ball must get any part of the football to pass inside or over the goal line pylon before he touches out of bounds to be awarded a score. Ref.
Play-Action: A pass play that begins with the quarterback faking a handoff to a running back while he's dropping back to pass. The quarterback hopes that the defense falls for the fake or hesitates long enough to fail to cover the offensive receivers. Play action is especially effective when used by a strong running team.
Play Clock: A clock displayed above each end zone that limits the time teams may take between plays. In the NFL, teams have 40 seconds timed from the end of the previous down, or 25 seconds after the ball is declared ready for play after certain administrative stoppages and game delays. If an offense fails to snap the ball before the play clock expires, they are assessed a five-yard penalty for delay of game.
Playing Off: Coverage where the defensive back provides a cushion of space between his receiver and himself before the start of the play. Opposite of bump-and-run coverage.
Pocket: An area formed on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage, where the offensive linemen attempt to prevent the defensive players from reaching the quarterback during passing plays
Pooch Kick: AKA squib kick. A low, line drive kickoff that often bounces around before it is fielded by the kick returner. A pooch kick is often used against a team with a dangerous kick returner or as time is running out in the game or half. A pooch kick is less likely to be returned for a touchdown and uses more time off the clock than a normal kickoff.
Possession: When a team has control of the ball, they are considered to be in possession of it. Also, when a player maintains control of the ball while touching both feet, or any other part of his body other than his hands, to the ground. A team's possession begins when they take over on offense and ends when they give up the ball either by turnover, punt, or scoring. On a pass play, for the play to be considered a completed pass, a receiver must have possession of the ball before going out of bounds.
Post Corner Route: Also known as the dig or flag route. Route similar to the post route, except for after a receiver makes his post move, he then will then break to the corner of the end zone. This route often "catches" a free safety playing too far inside in anticipation of a true post pattern.
Post Route: This is a long pass in which the receiver runs down the hash marks toward the goal posts. Most teams use the hash marks as a guiding system for both the quarterback and the receiver. This play is called when one safety is deep and the offense believes it can isolate a fast receiver against him. The quarterback needs to put enough loft on the ball to enable the receiver to catch the pass in stride.
Post-Snap Read: The attempt by offensive and defensive players to determine what their opposition will do AFTER the play starts. The players will look for keys (or clues) from their opponent. Players often adjust their tactics based on the post-snap read.
Power Sweep: AKA Sweep. A running play in which two or more offensive linemen pull out of their stances and run toward the outside of the line of scrimmage, leading the running back who receives a handoff or pitch from the quarterback. To run a successful power sweep, a team must have guards with agility and the speed to get outside the line.
Practice Squad: Every NFL team can sign up to eight players to a practice squad after the regular season starts. These players do not count towards the roster limit, but they may be free to sign with any team at any point. Practice squad player salaries also count towards the salary cap. Free agents signed to the practice squad can only be players who do not have an accrued season of free agency credit or who were on the active/inactive list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s). A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than two seasons.
Pre-Snap Read: The attempt by offensive and defensive players to determine what their opposition will do BEFORE the play starts depending on their opponents formation and keys. Players will often adjust their tactics based on the pre-snap read.
Press Coverage: See bump-and-run coverage.
Prevent Coverage: Also called prevent defense. Coverage used in sure passing situations, especially during the last two minutes of a half. The defense is set to take away the deep pass first and, secondly, to keep all other passes in front of the coverage. Prevent defenses requires dime or quarter or half-dollar coverage.
Pro Set: The base pro set formation with a split end (WR to left of formation), a flanker (WR on right of formation), a quarterback(QB), a fullback (FB), a halfback (HB), a tight end (TE), and five down linemen (OL). In American football, the pro set or splitback formation is a traditional formation, commonly a "base" set used by professional and amateur teams. In pro set formations, the running backs are lined up side-by-side instead of one in front of the other as in traditional I-formation sets. It was an outgrowth of the original, three running back T-formation, with the third back (one of the halfbacks) in the T becoming a permanent flanker, now referred to as a wide receiver.
Pull: When an offensive lineman is called upon to run to the outside of the formation in order to block for an outside running play. Guards are often called upon to pull.
Pylon: A short orange foam marker that marks all four corners of each end zone. The pylon helps officials determine where the goal line and end line meet the sidelines.
Qualifying Offer: A salary level predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players. Qualifying offers must be tendered to restricted and exclusive rights free agents in order for them to remain protected. If not, they then become unrestricted free agents.
Quarter Coverage: AKA Prevent Defense. Coverage with seven defensive backs instead of the standard four. All three linebackers or two linebackers and a defensive lineman are usually removed in favor of the extra three defensive backs in this coverage.
Quarterback Rating: A formula used to calculate a quarterback's effectiveness in the passing game. The quarterback rating takes into account such things as completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown passes, and interceptions.
Quick Count: A strategy where the quarterback calls the signals at the line of scrimmage very fast so as to throw off the other team or catch them by surprise.
Quick Kick: A play where the offense lines up in a formation as if they are going to run an offensive play, but the player taking the snap surprises the defense by punting the ball.
Railroad Tracks: A term used when explaining zone blocking. IE: "The player has to get on his railroad tracks and pick up anything that crosses his face."
Reach Block: When an offensive lineman reaches for the next defender, meaning that he doesn't block the opponent directly in front of him but moves for an opponent to either side. The reach block is common on run plays when the play calls for a guard to reach out and block and inside linebacker.
Reading The Defense: The act of recognizing defensive formations and keys. A quarterback who is good at reading the defense will often audible to a play he feels will be better against the defensive formation he sees.
Ready List: A short list of plays tailored specifically for an upcoming game. A head coach prepares a ready list of plays that he feels will be effective against a certain team's weaknesses.
Receiver: An offensive player whose job it is to catch the football. A team's receivers can consist of wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, and in special cases, even an offensive tackle.
Red Dog: AKA Blitz. A defensive strategy in which a linebacker or defensive back vacates his normal responsibilities in order to pressure the quarterback. The object of a red dog is to tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage or force the quarterback to hurry his pass. When a defensive line is having trouble putting pressure on the quarterback, the defensive coordinator may decide to help them out by sending one or more linebackers or defensive backs on a red dog.
Red Zone: The area of the field from the twenty yard line to the goal line when (1) the offensive team is in its opponent's territory, or (2) when the defensive team is defending in its own territory.
RedShirt: A college football player who skips a year of play without losing a year of eligibility. A player will often redshirt because of an injury or acedemic problem. A redshirt freshman is a player who is actually in his second year of school, but is playing his first season of football. A player can only be redshirted once.
Referee: The referee is the official that has control of the game and is generally the final authority in all decisions. Among his duties are:
• Announce all penalties
• Explain penalties to the offending team's captain
• Explain penalties to the head coach of the offending team and inform him of who it was called against
• Position himself in the backfield, approximately 10 yards behind the quarterback, before each snap
• Monitor illegal hits on the quarterback
• Watch for illegal blocks near the quarterback
• Determine whether the yardage chains should be brought on the field for a measurement
You can tell the referee from the other officials because he is the only one that wears a white hat. All other officials wear black hats.
Reserve/Futures Contract: This contract is made between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the official first day of the following season in March. A Player signed to “reserve/future” contract means he is being signed for the upcoming season even though that season does not officially begin until March. He does not count against the 53 man roster during the post-season. Only players who were not on any NFL team’s active roster when the previous regular season ended are eligible for such signings; if they were already under contract, then they would remain so until March. Players who were on practice squads at the end of a given season are eligible to sign with any team.
Restricted Free Agent (RFA): RFA's are players who have completed three accrued seasons of service (but not four or else they are unrestricted) and whose contracts have expired. The current team can match any offer and thus retain the player's rights. If the old club does not match the offer, it can possibly receive draft choice(s) compensation depending on the level of its qualifying offer. In order to remain a restricted free agent, a player must receive a qualifying offer from his team. A large qualifying offer carries with it a compensation package of 1st and 3rd round picks. Players tendered MINIMUM offers carry compensation equivalent to the round in which they were originally drafted. Players who were originally rookie free agents carry no compensation if a minimum qualifying offer is tendered.
Reverse: A misdirection running play where the running back receives the handoff from the quarterback and then runs laterally behind the line of scrimmage. The ball carrier then meets up with a receiver running toward him and then hands the ball to that receiver. The offensive line blocks as if the ball were intended for the halfback so that the defensive players follow him. After the receiver comes in motion and has the ball, he runs in the opposite direction, or against the flow of his own blockers. The play's success usually depends on the backside defender over-pursing and being out of position. If not, the play will probably be stopped for a loss or no gain.
Robber: Showing the quarterback one defensive coverage look and at the snap the player (usually a safety) goes to the middle of the field, 12 yards deep to "rob" any crossing pattern coming across the field.
Roll Out: The act of the quarterback moving left or right out of the pocket before throwing or running with the football. Teams usually have plays that allow the quarterback to roll away from pressure by the defense.
Rookie Free Agent: A player who was eligible to be drafted but was not and who is therefore free to sign with any club after the conclusion of the NFL Draft.
Roster: A list of the members of a football team. An NFL team is limited to just 53 players on its "active" roster during the season. The active roster excludes players on Injured Reserve. However, there is a stipulation that a team may only carry 45 players on its game day roster (i.e. only 45 players may "suite up"), so the team must decide each week on which 8 players (or 7 if they carry a 3rd QB) of the 53 will be inactive, (i.e. 46 players may "suit up" if the team carries a 3rd QB). In addition, an NFL team may carry an additional eight players on its "practice squad." At the end of the regular season, teams are allowed to start adding to their "Reserve/Future" lists. These are players that will not count on the active roster immediately, but at the end of the playoffs they become part of the active roster. During the off-season, the number of players on the active roster jumps to 80. After the third preseason weekend, rosters are required to be 65 players or below. And after the fourth and final preseason weekend, all NFL teams are required to have an active roster of no more than 53 players.
Roughing The Kicker: Flagrantly running into or hitting the kicker after the ball has been kicked. Roughing the kicker is a personal foul and results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team and an automatic first down for the kicking team.
Roughing The Passer: Flagrantly running into or hitting the quarterback after the ball has been released. Can also be called when a defender hits the quarterback in the head. Roughing the passer is a personal foul and results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.
Run And Gun: An offensive philosophy designed to force the defense to show its hand prior to the snap of the ball by splitting up receivers and sending them in motion. Receivers run patterns based on the play of the defenders, rather than a predetermined plan. Also known as 'Run & Shoot'.
Running Into The Kicker: Making incidental contact with a placekicker or punter after the ball has been kicked. A less serious version of the roughing the kicker penalty. Running into the kicker carries a five-yard penalty.
Rush:To run from the scrimmage line with the football. Also, to put pressure on the quarterback in an attempt to tackle him or force him into a bad throw.
Salary Cap: The salary cap is the absolute maximum each club may spend on player salaries in a capped year.
Sack: Any tackle of the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. The goal of a pass rusher is to sack the quarterback on pass plays.
Safety (scoring): A two-point score by the defense that occurs when one of its players tackles an opponent in possession of the ball in his own end zone. A safety is the rarest way of scoring during a game of football.
Safety (position): A defensive player who lines up in the secondary between, but generally deeper than the cornerbacks. A safety is usually a teams last line of defense.
Safety Valve: A short pass thrown to a running back when the quarterback cannot find an open receiver before the pass rush closes in. After throwing a block, a running back will often move into the flat as a safety valve in case the quarterback cannot find a receiver down the field.
Sam: Strong-side linebacker
Scatback: A running back that is generally very fast, and good at juking and making defenders miss as opposed to running them over on purpose like a 'power' back.
Screen Pass: A forward pass in which the defensive linemen are allowed to get through the offensive line while two offensive linemen run wide to a specific side of the field and then turn and block upfield for a running back who takes a short pass from the quarterback. A screen pass can be very effective against aggressive defenses who rush the quarterback.
Scrimmage: A simulated game. During training camp teams often scrimmage with other teams as a means of getting ready for the regular season.
Secondary: The defensive players who line up behind the linebackers and basically defend the pass. Also, the area of the field defended by the defensive backs. The secondary includes the cornerbacks, safeties, and any other defensive backs used in nickel and dime formations.
Seam Pass: A pass that attacks the vertical space or holes between defensive backs in the intermediate- to deep-middle of the secondary. A seam pass is throw to the tight end or wide receiver running straight down the hash marks.
Second Level: Downfield blocking.
Separate: The ability of a receiver to put distance between himself and the defender on a pass pattern.
Set The Center Of The Defense: An offensive lineman, usually the center, pointing out the middle linebacker for his fellow lineman. If the play breaks down after the snap, the offensive lineman on the left and right side of the ball are responsible for blocking and sealing every defender from their half of the line to the middle linebacker.
Series: The four downs that a team has to advance 10 yards. A new series starts every time a team gets a first down.
Shift: The movement of one or more players to a different position in a formation before the football is snapped. Shifts are often used on both sides of the ball to create confusion for the opposition.
Shotgun: When the quarterback sets up in the backfield instead of under the center before the snap of the football. Most often used in obvious passing situations. The shotgun formation allows the quarterback to scan the defense while standing back from the line of scrimmage.
Side Judge: The official that lines up 20 yards deep in the defensive backfield. His duties are essentially the same as the back judge:
• Make sure the defensive team has no more than 11 players on the field
• Watch all eligible receivers on his side of the field
• Watch the area between the umpire and field judge
• Rule on the legality of catches and pass interference penalties
• Watch for clipping on kick returns
Signals: The code that a team uses to call their plays. Signals are called both in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage and can consist of code words, numbers, and actions such as lifting a foot.
Single Wing Formation: A rarely used offensive formation devised by legendary coach Pop Warner that used three backfield teammates to block for the player carrying the ball. The single-wing formation is rarely used at any level anymore.
Site Adjustment: When a receiver, running back, or tight end changes his called pass pattern due to the type of coverage being employed by the secondary or the recognition of a blitz. Site adjustments are common in the West Coast Offense.
Slant Run: Instead of running straight toward the line of scrimmage, the runner slants his angle outside after he is handed the ball. A slant is used to take advantage of defenses that over-pursue, allowing the offensive linemen to be more effective by pushing the defenders to one side.
Slant Route: Quick route where the receiver breaks sharply to the inside of the defense, angling toward the sideline while running through the middle of the field.
Slide Block: When the entire offensive line slides down the line of scrimmage - a coordinated effort by the line to go either right or left. This technique is good when the quarterback prefers to roll or sprint out, running outside the tackle while attempting to throw the football. In that case, the line slides with the quarterback to give him extra protection to that side. Slide blocking is also sometimes used with a cutback run.
Slot: The area between a split end and the offensive line. A pass receiver lined up in the slot at the snap of the ball may be called a slotback or slot receiver.
Slot Receiver: A third wide receiver who lines up in the gap between the split end or flanker and the offensive tackle or tight end, respectively. Often referred to as the "Y" receiver.
Spearing: Hitting another player with the crown of the helmet. Spearing is illegal and results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.
Special Teams: The group of players who are on the field during kicks and punts. Special teams play on field goal and extra point attempts as well as punts and kickoffs.
Spike: A play in which the quarterback throws the ball at the ground immediately after the snap. Technically an incomplete pass, it stops the clock. Note that a spike is not considered intentional grounding if it is done with the quarterback under center and immediately after the snap; the only "penalty" is that a down is sacrificed. Running a spike play presumes there will be at least one play by the same team immediately afterward; occasionally there is so little time left in the half or game that a quarterback whose first choice was to spike the ball may have to run a regular play instead, because the spike would run the clock out. There is at least one case of a quarterback in the NFL doing just that, although that quarterback's regular play failed. (In the January 1998 Rose Bowl, Ryan Leaf spiked the ball and inadvertently ran the clock out on that play.)
Split-Back Formation: In the split-back formation, the runners are aligned behind the two guards about 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Teams use this formation because it's difficult for the defense to gauge whether the offense is running or passing. With split backs, the backfield is balanced and not aligned toward one side or the other, making it harder for the defense to anticipate what the play will be. The formation generally is a better passing formation because the backs can swing out of the backfield to either side more quickly as receivers.
Split End: The wide receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage on the weakside, but is split to the outside of the formation. Often referred to as the "X" receiver.
Split Route: Route where the receiver drives deep between a cornerback and the safety to his side of the field. The receiver takes a normal split and, on the snap, releases inside and prints to a point midway between the cornerback and safety.
Spot: The exact location on the field that a player's forward progress is stopped, as marked by an official. Officials also spot the ball when marking off penalty yardage.
Square In/Out: A pass pattern where the runner goes downfield then turns in/out at a right angle to the center of the field.
Squib Kick: AKA pooch kick. A low, line drive kickoff that often bounces around before it is fielded by the kick returner. A squib kick is often used against a team with a dangerous kick returner or as time is running out in the game or half. A squib kick is less likely to be returned for a touchdown and uses more time off the clock than a normal kickoff.
Stack the Point: To hold the point of attack and not get pushed back.
Statue Of Liberty: Trick play where the QB fakes a pass. With his arm extended back about to pass, a tailback sweeps behind the QB, grabbing the ball from his hands and running around the end.
Stemming: Stemming describes the action of the defensive backs when they move around after appearing to be settled in their alignments prior to the offense's snap of the ball. By stemming, they attempt to fool the quarterback and force him into making a bad decision about where to throw the football. The most successful stemming ploy by the secondary is to give the quarterback the impression that they're playing in man-to-man coverage when they're really playing a zone.
Sticks: The poles attached to the ends of the 10-yard chain that is used by the chain crew to measure for a new series of downs.
Straight-Arm: A ballcarrier warding off a would-be tackler by pushing them away with a straight arm.
Straight-Line Player: One who is effective running in a straight line but has trouble making cuts.
Striking An Official: No player may intentionally strike or push an official. Striking an official is a 15-yard penalty and the guilty player is automatically disqualified from the game.
Striking An Opponent: A player may not strike another with a fist. Striking an opponent is a personal foul and results in a 15-yard penalty, and the offending player can be disqualified from the game.
Strong Safety: A defensive player who generally lines up in the secondary to help stop the pass, but often aligns close to the line of scrimmage to help stop the run. In most defenses, the strong safety lines up over the tight end and is responsible for both playing the pass and supporting the run.
Strong Side: The side of the formation that the tight end lines up on. With a right handed quarterback, the strong side is usually the right side of the formation.
Stuff: A tackle of a ball carrier on a running play, behind the line of scrimmage. Compare to sack.
Stunt: A maneuver by two defensive linemen in which they alter their course to the quarterback, hoping to confuse the offensive linemen and maximize their strengths. In most stunts, one defensive lineman sacrifices himself in hopes of his teammate either going unblocked or gaining a physical advantage in his pursuit. For example, a defensive end could slant inside while the defensive tackle drops and circles around the end.
Suicide Squad: The group of players on the kicking team during kicks and punts who run down field to try to break through the wedge created by the return team.
Supplemental Draft: Another annual draft held after the regular draft. The supplemental draft is intended for those players who were not eligible, for whatever reason, for the regular draft, but who are eligible to enter the NFL before the next regular NFL draft in the following year. The players included in the supplemental draft are usually guys who graduate early and decide to relinquish their amateur status and forego their fifth year of eligibility. There could be other reasons a player is eligible for the supplemental draft, such as getting kicked off his team (for disciplinary reasons), getting caught dealing with a agent (and thereby losing NCAA-eligibility status), etc.
Sweep: A running play where two or more offensive linemen leave their stances and run toward the outside of the line of scrimmage (see "pull"). The ball carrier takes the handoff from the quarterback and runs parallel to the line of scrimmage, waiting for his blockers to lead the way around the end. The run is designed to attack the defensive end, outside linebacker, and cornerback on a specific side. The fullback often also leads for a sweep.
Swim Move: Pass rushing technique where defensive player (usually a defensive lineman) knocks a blocker off balance with one arm and then uses his other arm to "swim" past his opponent.
Swing Pass: Pass to a running back out of the backfield who cuts towards the sidelines at the snap of the ball and then heads up field after catching the pass from the quarterback. This is generally a touch pass thrown in the flat (the area outside the hash marks and close to where the numbers on the field are placed).
T-Formation: An offensive formation that features three running backs in the backfield. From above, the center, quarterback and running backs appear to be lined up in the shape of a T. The T-formation was made popular by the Chicago Bears George Halas.
Tackle Eligible: A lineman that lines himself up in the position of an eligible receiver.
Take On and Shed: A defensive player's ability to take on a blocker and defeat him, as opposed to running around him.
Three-Deep Man Coverage: Same as three-deep zone coverage, except the covermen are playing man-to-man defense rather than zone defense.
Three-Deep Zone Coverage: Coverage with three deep zone defenders (two cornerbacks and the free safety) with four short zone defenders (three linebackers and the strong safety).
Takeaway: When a defense forces a fumble and recovers the ball or registers an interception. One of the variables used to measure the quality of a defense is the number of takeaways they have recorded.
Too Many Men On The Field: Each team is allowed just 11 men on the field during a play. Having more than 11 is illegal. If a team has too many men on the field, a delay of game is called, resulting in a five-yard penalty.
Touchback: A play in which the ball is ruled dead on or behind a team's own goal line, generally after a kickoff, punt, interception, or fumble. After a touchback, the ball is spotted on the offense's 20-yard line.
Touchdown: A scoring play in which any part of the ball, while legally in the possession of a player who is in-bounds, crosses the plane of the opponent's goal line. A touchdown is worth six points, and the scoring team is given the option of attempting to add one or two bonus points on the next play.
Transition Player: A club must offer an unrestricted free agent designated as a transition player a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of last season at the player's position or 120 percent of the player's salary the previous year, whichever is greater. A transition designation gives the club a first refusal right to match within seven days of an offer sheet given to the player by another club. If the club matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.
Trap: A trap is a sucker run that, like the draw, is intended to take advantage of the defensive players' willingness to attack the offense and works well against aggressive defensive linemen and linebackers. On a trap, an offensive lineman deliberately allows a defensive player to cross the line of scrimmage untouched; then another offensive lineman will hit him from the opposite side or where he's not expecting it. The intent is to create a running lane in the area that the defender vacated. Once the defender surges upfield, across the line of scrimmage by a yard or two, an offensive lineman blocks him from the side. The trap block is also called an influence block and is a complicated maneuver and requires a lot of practice and a higher level of mobility in the trapping offensive lineman. Good passing teams tend to be good trapping teams because defenders usually charge hard upfield, hoping to reach the quarterback.
Triangle Numbers: Size, speed, and strength.
Tripping: Using a leg or foot to trip another player is illegal.Tripping results in a 10-yard penalty against the offending team.
Turk: The Turk is akin to the grim reaper. If you get a visit from The Turk, you're more than likely being put on the waiver wire.
Turn In/Out: A pass route where the player runs downfield then turns in/out toward the middle of the field.
'Tweener: A player who projected position in the NFL falls in a gray area between two positions.
Two-Deep Zone Coverage: Zone coverage where the two safeties have responsibility for the deep halves of the field. In this coverage, the cornerbacks and linebackers are responsible for covering the underneath areas in their respective zones. The cornerbacks will try to funnel their receivers inside on this type of coverage, where there is help. This type of coverage puts a lot of pressure on the safeties and leaves the deep middle of the field vulnerable to the seam pass.
Two-Gap: Refers to the ability of a defensive lineman to cover two gaps in the offensive line.
Two Point Conversion: A scoring play, immediately after a touchdown, in which a team can add two bonus points by running or passing the ball into the end zone on one play starting from the opponent's two-yard line.
Umpire: The umpire is the official that lines up approximately five yards off the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball. His duties include:
• Checking the legality of the players' equipment
• Making sure the offense has no more than 11 men on the field
• Monitor the legality of play on the line of scrimmage with a special emphasis on offensive holding and illegal linemen down field
• Assist the referee on decisions involving possession of the ball
• Record all timeouts
• Record all scores
• Record the winner of the coin toss
• Wipes the ball dry between plays on rainy days
Unbalanced Line: When the offensive line has more guys to one side than the other, tight ends generally do not make a line unbalanced. An unbalanced line is one where there are two guards or two tackles (or both) to the same side of the formation.
Unnecessary Roughness: An illegal play where a player, in the judgement of the officials, uses tactics that are above and beyond what is neccesary to block or tackle another player. Unnecessary roughness is a personal foul and results in a 15-yard penalty.
Unsportsmanlike Conduct: A dead-ball foul in which a player, in the judgement of the officials, taunts or otherwise acts in an unsportsmanlike manner. Unsportsmanlike conduct is a personal foul and results in a 15-yard penalty against the offending team.
Uprights: The vertical posts above the crossbar on the goalpost. For scoring purposes, the uprights are considered to extend upwards indefinitely. A field goal must go between the uprights to be successful.
Upside: Ability to improve; potential.
Undercoverage: Pass coverage intended to protect against the short passing game. Usually linebackers and the strong safety will be considered part of the undercoverage, but in certain defensive packages, the cornerbacks can also be called upon to cover the flats.
Underneath: Usually refers to attacking the undercoverage (see above), in front of the defensive backs.
Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA): UFA's are players who have completed four or more accrued seasons of service and whose contracts have expired. An UFA is free to sign with any team once the free agency period begins. If the current team loses the player, the league may award compensation in the form of a draft pick. See "Compensatory Draft Pick" for details. In the case of a lost unrestricted free agent, the compensatory pick would come form the league, not the signing team.
Veer: A quick-hitting run in which the ball is handed to either running back, whose paths are determined by the slant or charge of the defensive linemen. The term veer comes from the back veering away from the defense.
Vertical Attack: To stretch a defense from the line of scrimmage to end zone.
Waiver System: The procedure by which a player's contract or NFL rights are made available by his current team to other teams in the league (i.e., when a player is cut). During the procedure, the other teams either file a claim to obtain the player or waive the opportunity to do so. The claiming period is typically ten days during the off-season, but from early July through December, it lasts only 24 hours. If a player is claimed by two or more teams in this period, priority is based on the inverse, won-lost standing of the teams. The team with the worst record has priority. If no team selects this player, he is free to sign with any team, including his previous employer.
Weak-side: The side of the formation opposite the end that the tight end lines up on.
West Coast Offense: Offensive philosophy that believes a team can keep possession and move the ball down field with a multi-dimensional passing game. Spread the field out, present the defense with different looks, make more receivers available in a given area than can be covered, and get the ball to the open receiver. Often uses the passing game to set up the running game.
Wideout: AKA receiver, wide reciever, split end, flanker. An offensive player who lines up on or near the line of scrimmage, but split to the outside. His primary job is to catch passes from the quarterback.
Will: Weak-side Linebacker
Wild Card: The two playoff berths given in each conference to the two non-division winning teams that have the best record in the conference. A team that makes the playoffs as a wild card does not get a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Wish Bone Offense: AKA Triple-Thread Offense. An offensive formation that features a fullback and two halfbacks in the backfield. In the wishbone formation, the fullback lines up directly behind the quarterback and the halbacks line up behind him with one to each side (in the shape of a wishbone).
X: Another term for Split End.
Y: Another term for Tight End.
Z: Another term for Flanker.
Zone-Blitz: A relatively new defensive concept that tries to confuse opposing offenses by blitzing linebackers and/or defensive backs while at the same time dropping defensive linemen into coverage. Specifically designed to make a quarterback think a "hot" receiver is open, when in fact he is not. The best way to beat a zone blitzing team is to effectively run the football.
Zone Blocking: Just like it sounds; each offensive lineman protects a specific area or zone. Even if the defensive player leaves this area, the blocker must stay in his zone because the play or ball may be coming in that direction and the quarterback wants to see that area uncluttered. Blocking in a zone is generally designed to key on a specific defensive player who is disrupting the offensive game plan.
Zone Coverage: Coverage where the defensive backs and linebackers are called upon to cover certain areas of the field, rather than certain players. In virtually all zone coverages, two defensive backs play deep (12-15 yards off the line of scrimmage) and align near the hash marks.