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Typical offensive formation:

TE T G C G T . . . WR

QBFB . . . . FLTB

C = Center: the guy who snaps the ball between his legs to the QB

G = Guards: blockers

T = Tackles: blockers

Every offensive formation must have seven men on the line of scrimmage, consisting of a center, two guards, two tackles, and two "ends" who are eligible receivers. An end who lines up right next to the tackle is a tight end (TE), while one who leaves some separation is a split end (SE), and one who lines up far across the field is a wide receiver (WR). Tight ends tend to be strong blockers, while wide receivers are valued for speed.

The quarterback (QB) receives the snap from the center. He may then hand the ball to another player, run with it, or pass it forward (provided he has not crossed the line of scrimmage).

The other players who line up in the backfield with the QB are all eligible receivers. The fullback (FB) is generally huge and lead-blocks for the tailbacks (TB) behind him. Halfbacks (HB) used to line up between the QB and FB but such formations are rarely used anymore. Flankers (FL) are pass receivers who can line up anywhere, as long as they are at least a yard off the line.

Defensive formations can be radically different, but here's a fairly typical "4-3" defense:



. . FS SS

DT = Defensive tackle: tries to plow through the offensive live

DE = Defensive end: generally tries to run around the offensive line

OLB = Outside linebacker: outside containment, either run-stoppage or pass coverage

MLB = Middle linebacker: covers everything :-)

CB = Cornerback: one-on-one coverage of the receivers

SS = Strong safety: usually covers the offensive backs

FS = Free safety: faster, usually assists in pass coverage

The cornerbacks and safeties are collectively referred to as "defensive backs."

Other defensive formations include a "3-4" (ony three on the defensive line and four linebackers), or a "Nickel" (replacing one linebacker with a fifth defensive back).

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