Football Basics – The Offense

The Offense NFL

This week we’re channeling our inner Christina Aguilera circa 2006 and getting back to the basics. Yes, we’re finally getting around to our long overdue detailed posts on the different position groups in football – the offense, the defense, and special teams.

These posts will be linked in our Football for Beginners section on the site, so you can easily find them if you need them during the season.

Before we get in too deep here, let’s just remind ourselves that at any given time, there can only be 11 players from each team on the field. That goes for offense, defense, and special teams.

OK, here it goes.

The offense is responsible for putting points up on the board. They get control of the ball and it is their job to move down the field and get the ball into the other team’s end zone so they can put some points up on the board. When one team’s offense is on the field, the other team’s defense is also on the field, trying to keep them from scoring points.

These are the dudes that make up the offense:

Quarterback (QB) – The quarterback gets paid the most because as the leader of the offense, he’s responsible for a lot of things.

  • He receives the play call from the coaches and is responsible for communicating the play to the rest of the offense so they all know what to do once the ball is snapped.
  • The quarterback receives the ball when it is snapped (oh snap!) from the center, who is an offensive lineman that stands in front of him. Yes, the quarterback touches the center’s butt sometimes during ball hand-off. We can only assume this makes for a really close friendship.
  • When not getting up close and personal with the center, the quarterback is responsible for making adjustments to the play at the line of scrimmage if he notices something funky about the way the defense is lined up.
  • Once the quarterback has the ball, he will either throw it, hand it off for someone to run, hold onto the ball and run with it himself, or unfortunately, sometimes he will not have time to do any of those things and will get hit by a very large man from the opposite team.

Quarterbacks can have jersey numbers 1 – 19. Famous quarterbacks you may recognize include: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Tony Romo.

Offensive Line (OL a.k.a. O-Line, includes Center, Guard, Tackle) – These are the guys that stand in a line in front of the quarterback. Their primary job is to protect the quarterback. This involves a lot of blocking of defensive players. Offensive linemen also create open spaces for running backs to run through. Except for the center, who snaps the ball, these guys usually don’t touch the ball during the play.

Offensive Line NFL

Generally speaking, the order of the offensive line is tackle, guard, center, guard, tackle, but that can change with different formations. It’s easy to remember that the center stands in the center of the line, but how do you remember that guards stand next to the center? Well, it sounds obvious, but since they are standing closer to the quarterback than the tackles, I always think about how they are guarding the quarterback. Here are some more details about each type of offensive lineman:

  • Center (C) – Centers snap the ball from the line of scrimmage back to the quarterback to start the play. They block defensive players. Centers can have jersey numbers 50-59, or when those are unavailable 60-79. Famous guards you may know include Alex Mack, Jason Kelce, and Mike Pouncey.
  • Guard (G) – If a quarterback is throwing a ball, it is the guard’s job to make a wall to protect him so that he can take his darn sweet time. If the quarterback hands the ball off to a running back, the guards move wherever they need to in order to create running lanes for the running backs. Guards can have jersey numbers 60-79. Famous guards you may know include Josh Sitton, Marshall Yanda, and Kyle Long.
  • Tackle (T) – Tackles are big boys and they usually have very long arms because sometimes they need to grab a defensive player who is sneaking around the outside to hit the quarterback. Tackles can have jersey numbers 60-79. Famous tackles that you may know include Joe Thomas, Tyron Smith, and Ryan Clady.
    • Left Tackle – The left tackle protects the blind side of the quarterback. If a quarterback is right-handed, he will turn to the right when throwing the ball. This means the quarterback has his back turned to the left side and can’t see when a very large man from the defense is coming to crush him. Left tackles have to be very good at their jobs because no one likes to see their quarterback on the ground. This position is generally paid pretty well.

Running Backs (RB) – On running plays (also known as rushing plays), the quarterback hands off the ball to a running back, and shocker, the running back runs with it. They are usually shorter in stature, but speedy because they need to be able slip past defenders. They are also pretty muscle-y because sometime they need to push their way through a crowd while everyone is trying to pull them down or rip the ball out of their hands. Some running backs specialize in 3rd down situations, where they are really good at powering through and getting the one or two yards needed for the first down. A lot of times you will see running backs line up near the quarterbacks before the ball is snapped because they need to be in close proximity for the hand-off. There are a few subcategories of running backs:

  • Tailback – Usually the primary running back on a play, they can also catch short passes.
  • Fullback (FB) – They can run the ball, but are usually bigger in size and will do some blocking. These are dying breed in the NFL.

NFL Running back training camp

Running backs can have the jersey numbers 20-49. Famous running backs you may know include LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch (a.k.a. Skittles), and Arian Foster.

Wide Receiver (WR) – The quarterback throws the ball and the wide receivers are supposed to catch it and run down the field with it. They are usually standing the furthest away from the quarterback when lined up at the start of the play. They are responsible for running different routes across the field. Some receivers are more of a deep threat – they are used in situations where the quarterback wants to throw the ball really far down the field and they need someone speedy to run down there to get it. Slot receivers line up between the big boys on the offensive line and the tall, lanky outermost wide receiver. They generally catch shorter passes.

NFL Wide Receiver

Wide receivers can have the jersey numbers 10-19 and 80-89. Famous wide receivers you may know include Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demariyus Thomas, Jordy Nelson, and Calvin Johnson (Megatron).

Tight End (TE) – This is my favorite position, and not only because of how the position’s name lends itself to so many inappropriate jokes. Tight ends can do a lot of things, which is what makes them so interesting. Some tight ends are primarily blockers and will stand closer to the offensive linemen. Others can primarily act as pass catchers. And then there’s Gronk, who is really just in a world of his own, both as a football player and a human being.

Gronk Tight End NFL

Tight ends can have the jersey numbers 10-19, 80-89, or 40-49 if others are taken. Famous tight ends you may know include Rob Gronkowski (Gronk spike!), Jimmy Graham, and Greg Olsen.

If you are still struggling with some of these concepts, check out this video from the Football Wife:

OK, there you have it. That’s the offense.

(Yes, we know that most of our pictures comes from a certain team. If you would like to see other teams appear in our images, please feel free to send us game tickets.)

– Michelle

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One thought on “Football Basics – The Offense

  1. Pingback: Football Basics – The Defense | The Snap

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