Learning any new sport can be a challenge, especially when it isn't mainstream in the UK.
This page will offer guides to the rules and positions in American Football to help you on your way to learning this incredible sport.
Arguably the most important player on the pitch, the quarterback is responsible for calling plays and marshalling the offensive players on the field. The quarterback needs to have a good throw, excellent vision and concentration and the ability to run if required. In passing situations, the QB will throw the ball to the wide-receivers while, in running situations, the QB will hand the ball off to the running back.
The running back is one of the main points scorers on an American football team. Typically quick enough to leave defenders in their wake, but strong enough to go through them if needs be, the running back is often one of the most athletic and versatile members of the team.
Along with the QB and the RB, the wide receiver is one of the main point scorers in American football. The wide receiver's job is to run different routes, providing the QB with different passing options. Once the ball has been thrown, it is the wide receiver's task to ensure that ball is caught. Wide receivers are also required to block on running plays. WR's need, therefore, to be quick and strong, with good, safe hands.
These are the big boys of the offence. The O-Line consists of two Offensive Tackles, two Offensive Guards and the Center, who starts each play by 'snapping the ball'. The O-line serves two key purposes. First, they protect the QB from defenders on a pass play, allowing him time to throw the ball. Second, they manoeuvre the defenders to create 'holes' that the running back can run through. The O-Line are typically the tallest and largest members of the Offense and, as such, possess great upper-body and leg strength.
The defensive tackle is typically the biggest player on the field. Tasked with breaking through the offensive line to get to the QB, or stop runs through the middle, the DT or Nose Tackle, should be a massive presence with real strength and the ability to stand their ground regardless of who is coming at them!
The defensive end is the main threat that the D-Line poses to the QB. The D-End, should be strong and quick enough to get past the Offensive Tackles to try and hit the QB on a passing play, whilst maintaining a strong sense of positioning to enable containment on running plays.
Typically, there are three line backers on the field at any one time. There is the Middle Linebacker (MLB / Mike) and the two Outside Linebackers (Strongside - Sam / Weakside - Will). The MLB can be asked to blitz (though they often blitz less than the outside linebacker), cover, spy the quarterback, or even have a deep middle-of-the-field responsibility.
The Strongside LB is often the strongest linebacker, possessing the ability to withstand, shed, and fight off blocks from a tight end or fullback blocking the backside of a pass play. The SLB should also have strong safety abilities in pass situation to cover the tight end in man on man situations. He should also have considerable quickness to read and get into coverage in zone situations.
The Weakside LB is often the fastest of the three, because he is the one called into pass coverage. He is also usually chasing the play from the backside, so the ability to manoeuvre through traffic is a necessity. The WLB usually aligns off the line of scrimmage at the same depth as the MLB. Their responsibility is more pass rush based but often involves run stopping (gap control) and pass coverage.
The Cornerback (CB) is a defensive back responsible for covering receivers, defending against pass offenses and making tackles. The cornerback position requires speed and agility. A cornerback's skillset typically requires proficiency in anticipating the quarterback, back-pedalling, executing single and zone coverage, disrupting pass routes, shedding blockers, and tackling.
The safety is the last line of defence for the team, though there are, in fact, two different kinds of safety; Strong Safety (SS) and Free Safety (FS).
The Strong Safety tends to be somewhat larger and stronger than the free safety, though the word strong is actually used because he is assigned to cover the "strong side" of the offense, the side on which the big, powerful tight end lines up on offensive plays. The strong safety tends to play closer to the line and assist in stopping the run. He may also be responsible for covering a player, such as a running back, who comes out of the backfield to receive a pass.
The free safety tends to be smaller and faster than the strong safety. His job tends to be to keep some distance from the line of scrimmage, watch the play unfold, and follow the ball. On pass plays, the free safety is expected to assist the cornerback on his side and to close the distance to the receiver by the time the ball reaches him. If the Offense puts a receiver in the slot, then the free safety may be called upon to cover that receiver. Free safeties occasionally blitz as well. When this happens, the pressure on the quarterback is often very severe since a blitz by a defensive back is not usually anticipated. Free safeties, because of their speed and deep coverage, are often prone to catching interceptions.