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A formation in football refers to the position players line up in before the start of a
down Down most often refers to: * Down, the relative direction Body relative directions (also known as egocentric coordinates) are orientation (geometry), geometrical orientations relative to a body such as a human person's. The most common one ...
. There are both offensive and defensive formations and there are many formations in both categories. Sometimes, formations are referred to as packages.


Offense

At the highest level of play in the
NFL The National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rect ...
and
NCAA The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and o ...
, the one constant in all formations is the
offensive line Image:Linemen.svg, 350px, A diagram of the linemen, with defensive linemen (in 4-3 formation) in red and offensive linemen in green. In gridiron football, a lineman is a player who specializes in play at the line of scrimmage. The linemen of the ...
, consisting of the left and right tackle, left and right
guard Guard or guards may refer to: Professional occupations * Bodyguard, who protects an individual from personal assault * Crossing guard, who stops traffic so pedestrians can cross the street * Lifeguard, who rescues people from drowning * Prison gua ...
, and a
center Center or centre may refer to: Mathematics *Center (geometry) In geometry, a centre (or center) (from Ancient Greek language, Greek ''κέντρον'') of an object is a point in some sense in the middle of the object. According to the speci ...
. These five positions are often referred to collectively as the "line", and have the primary role of blocking. By rule there must be two additional players on the line of scrimmage called
ends ''Ends'' is a collection of science fiction Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction which typically deals with imagination, imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and te ...
. These players are
eligible receiver In gridiron football, not all players on offense are entitled to receive a forward pass. Only an eligible pass receiver may legally catch a forward pass, and only an eligible receiver may advance beyond the neutral zone if a forward pass crosses ...
s and may play near the linemen (
tight end The tight end (TE) is a position in American football, arena football, and Canadian football, on the offense (sports), offense. The tight end is often a hybrid position with the characteristics and roles of both an offensive lineman and a wide re ...
s) or farther away (
split end A wide receiver (WR), also referred to as a wideout, historically a split end, is an eligible receiver In gridiron football, not all players on offense are entitled to receive a forward pass. Only an eligible pass receiver may legally catch ...
or
wide receiver A wide receiver (WR), also referred to as a wideout, historically a split end, is an eligible receiver in gridiron football. A key skill position of the offense (American football), offense, WR gets its name from the player being split out "wi ...

wide receiver
). Most teams play additional players near (but still off) the line of scrimmage to act as extra pass receivers.


Offensive positions

Up to four players can be behind the offensive line, but one is always designated the quarterback (defined as the player who receives the ball from the center). Upon the snap of the ball, the quarterback becomes the ''ball carrier''. The ball carrier has five options: * He may keep the ball and run with it. * He may hand or pitch the ball sideways or backwards (also called a ''lateral'') to another player, who then becomes the new ball carrier. Multiple pitches are permitted on a single play, as long as all of them go backwards. * He may throw a forward pass to an eligible receiver, who then becomes the new ball carrier. Only 1 forward pass is permitted per play. The pass must be thrown from behind the original line of scrimmage, while the receiver can be anywhere on the field. A pass to a receiver who is also behind the line of scrimmage is still a forward pass as long as the pass travels forward. A forward pass is distinct from a pitch, and any number of pitches are permitted before or after a forward pass. * He may hold the ball for a place-kicker who attempts a field goal. * He may kick the ball himself, either by punting the ball to the other team, or by attempting a drop-kicked field goal (which is rare). The three other backs can be halfbacks (who primarily carry the ball), fullbacks (who primarily block), or they can play near (but not on) the line of scrimmage to act as extra
tight end The tight end (TE) is a position in American football, arena football, and Canadian football, on the offense (sports), offense. The tight end is often a hybrid position with the characteristics and roles of both an offensive lineman and a wide re ...
s or wide receivers. A tight end that fills the role as the 4th back is often called an "
H-Back An H-back is an offensive position in American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport A team sport includes any sport Sport perta ...
", and a wide receiver that fills that role is sometimes known as a "flanker" or a "slot" receiver (depending on where he lines up). Most formations have a "strong" side (the side with the tight end, or the side with more players) and a "weak side" (the side opposite the tight end, or the side with fewer players). The ends, which may be either
wide receiver A wide receiver (WR), also referred to as a wideout, historically a split end, is an eligible receiver in gridiron football. A key skill position of the offense (American football), offense, WR gets its name from the player being split out "wi ...

wide receiver
s or
tight end The tight end (TE) is a position in American football, arena football, and Canadian football, on the offense (sports), offense. The tight end is often a hybrid position with the characteristics and roles of both an offensive lineman and a wide re ...
s, may catch a passed ball or receive a handoff. Descriptions and diagrams to display offensive formations typically use the following symbols: * QB = quarterback (the player who leads and informs the offense the plays) * C = center (the player who begins the play with a snap on the line and blocks afterwards) * G = guard (the player who blocks on line beside the center) * T = tackle (the player who blocks on the line beside the guard) * TE = tight end (the player who often goes out for passes and often blocks on the line) * WR = wide receiver (the player who gets assigned a route and has to catch the ball when passed to) * HB = halfback (the primary ball carrier) * FB = fullback (the secondary ball carrier also used for blocking)


Rules

The offense is required to set up a formation before a play, subject to several rules: * The formation must have at least 7 players on the
line of scrimmage In gridiron football Gridiron football,"Gridiron football"
''Encyclop ...
. The 7 players are not required to be next to each other, so they may spread out across the width of the field, but this is rare; most offenses place at least 5 players together in a continuous line. Teams may place more than 7 players on the line, but only the player at each end of the line may be an eligible receiver, so generally this only occurs with the special formations used in kicking and punting situations. * The other players not on the line (usually 4 in number) may be positioned anywhere, but all must be at least 1 yard behind the 7 or more players on the line of scrimmage. The traditional saying is "7 on the line, 4 in the backfield" but this is something of a misnomer, as "backfield" usually refers to the area directly behind the offensive line. 3 of the 4 "backfield" players (i.e., the 3 not receiving the snap from center) may line up as wide receivers as long as they are behind the line of scrimmage; these are known as ''slot'' receivers if between the ends, and ''flanker''s if outside the ends. * Of the 7 (or more) players on the line of scrimmage, all except those at either end of the line are ''ineligible receivers'': these players may not touch or catch a forward pass (unless it is first touched by an eligible receiver, including a deflection by a defensive player), and on a forward pass play, they may not advance ''downfield'' (i.e., across the neutral zone) before the pass crosses the neutral zone. Ineligible receivers may advance freely on a running play or after a pass is thrown. These players typically have uniform numbers in the range 50-79 to indicate they are ineligible. * In the NFL, players with numbers 50-79 are considered ineligible by default. They must report to the referee if they line up in a position which would normally be considered eligible; failure to do so will result in a penalty to the offense. The referee will relay that information to the defensive captain, and he will generally announce it to spectators as well. After reporting as eligible, those players may line up at any legal position just as if they were normally eligible receivers. Offenses sometimes use this tactic in a short yardage situation to provide extra blocking, and some plays are even designed for a designated player (i.e.: with numbers 50-79) to receive a pass. * In
high school A secondary school describes an institution that provides secondary education Secondary education covers two phases on the International Standard Classification of Education The International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) is a ...
(NFHS) numbers 50-79 are always ineligible, and may not receive. In fact if one of these players bats, muffs, or catches a legal forward pass before it is touched by a defensive player, it is a penalty for illegal touching (5 yards plus loss of down). Typically you must have 5 players numbered 50-79 on the line of scrimmage, but there are exceptions to this rule when the offense is lined up in scrimmage kick formation (punt or field goal). * The offense must ''set'' before the play: all players must take their positions and remain motionless for at least 1 second before the ball is snapped. Typically, after the offense breaks the huddle and walks to the line, the quarterback will call "set" and then begin his regular snap count. The offense is allowed to shift in certain situations and reorganize, but they must again set once they assume new positions. Once set, offensive players may not move until the snap and may not flinch to simulate a snap (with the exception of the man in motion, described below). A violation is a ''false start'' penalty. * The offense may put one of the 4 backfield players ''in
motion Image:Leaving Yongsan Station.jpg, 300px, Motion involves a change in position In physics, motion is the phenomenon in which an object changes its position (mathematics), position over time. Motion is mathematically described in terms of Displacem ...
'' after the set but before the snap. The motion must be either parallel to or (if in the backfield) away from the line of scrimmage at the snap; certain types of football such as arena football allow forward motion at the snap. In
Canadian football Canadian football () is a sport Sport pertains to any form of competitive Competition is a rivalry A rivalry is the state of two people or groups engaging in a lasting competitive relationship. Rivalry is the "against each other ...

Canadian football
, all of the players in the backfield can be in motion, in any direction, at the time of the snap, as long as they have not crossed the line of scrimmage before the snap.


Defense

Two terms often heard in referring to defensive formations are ''box'' and ''secondary''. The ''box'' is defined as an area on the defensive side of the ball, within 5 yards of the
line of scrimmage In gridiron football Gridiron football,"Gridiron football"
''Encyclop ...
and framed by the offensive tackles. This area is most commonly occupied by defensive linemen and linebackers. The ''secondary'' can refer to the defensive backs as a group, or to the area behind the linebackers usually occupied by defensive backs. The two standard NFL defenses, the 4-3 and the 3-4, have 7 players in the box. The phrase "8 in the box" is used to indicate that 1 of the 2 safeties has moved into the box to defend against the run.


Defensive positions

The three basic defensive positions are: *
Defensive lineman 350px, A diagram of the linemen, with defensive linemen (in 4-3 formation) in red and offensive linemen in green. In gridiron football, a lineman is a player who specializes in play at the line of scrimmage. The linemen of the team currently i ...
(DL): Linemen play at the line of scrimmage, directly across from the offensive line. They are categorized as ''defensive tackles'' (DT) or ''defensive ends'' (DE). The 4-3 defense has 2 tackles and 2 ends; the 3-4 defense has 2 ends and 1 tackle, who is sometimes called a ''nose tackle'' (NT) to indicate the 3-4. Tackles line up inside and rely on power to stop the run, while ends line up outside and are faster and more athletic to allow them to pursue the quarterback. *
Linebacker A linebacker (LB or backer) is a playing position in gridiron football. Linebackers are members of the defensive team, and line up approximately three to five yards (4 m) behind the line of scrimmage and behind the defensive linemen. They re ...

Linebacker
(LB): Linebackers are positioned 2 to 4 yards behind the defensive line. The 4-3 defense has 3 linebackers, who are categorized as strong, middle and weak (SLB, MLB, WLB; also called Sam, Mike and Will). This is not an indication of strength; it instead refers to the positioning of the linebackers relative to the offense. Strong linebackers line up on the same side as the tight end, weak side away from the tight end. A 3-4 defense will use 4 linebackers, who are indicated by their side (right/left) and positioning (inside/outside). *
Defensive back In gridiron football Gridiron football,"Gridiron football"
''Encyclopæ ...
(DB): Defensive backs can include ''cornerbacks'' (CB), a ''strong safety'' (SS, lines up on same side as tight end) and a ''free safety'' (FS, so called because they are "free" to roam where needed). Cornerbacks are almost always responsible for defending against the pass, and particularly against wide receivers; often they are the fastest defensive players. Safeties also defend against the pass, matching up on tight ends and backs, but they are positioned in the center of the field to be prepared to stop the run as well.


Rules

Rules regarding defensive formations are not as complex or strict as their offensive counterparts. The defense may line up anywhere on its side of the neutral zone, and players are free to move at any time before the snap, but all defensive players must remain on their side of the neutral zone (defined as the length of the ball) before the snap. If they line up on the wrong side of the line, the offending players are
offside Offside, off-side or off side may refer to: Sport * Offside (sport), a rule in a number of field team sports designed to help ensure players move together as a team ** Offside (association football) ** Offside (American football) ** Offside (band ...

offside
. The exception is during a field goal attempt, PAT, or punt. The defense is only allowed a maximum of 6 players on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the snap. Having 7 or more players on the line on one side will result in an illegal formation penalty. The standard defensive formations in use at most levels of American football are the result of decades of experimentation, trial and error, along with rule changes in the 1950s that eliminated the
one-platoon system The one-platoon system, also known as iron man football, is a platoon system in American football where players play on both offense and defense. It was the result of smaller roster sizes in the early days of the game and rules that limited player ...
and gave greater prominence to lighter, faster
linebacker A linebacker (LB or backer) is a playing position in gridiron football. Linebackers are members of the defensive team, and line up approximately three to five yards (4 m) behind the line of scrimmage and behind the defensive linemen. They re ...

linebacker
s (prior to the 1950s, most defensive formations were mirror images of those used on offense). This formation assumes the offense is lined up strong side right (from the offense's point of view). This diagram could be matched up to an offensive formation diagram to make a complete 22 player football field.


See also

*
List of formations in American football The following is a list of common and historically significant Formation (American football), formations in American football. In football, the formation describes how the players in a team are positioned on the field. Many variations are possible ...
*
American football strategy Strategy forms a major part of American football American football, referred to simply as football in the United States and Canada and also known as gridiron, is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players on a rectangular American ...


References


External links


yourtactics.com
{{American football strategy American football terminology