The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.
0–9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z See also References
A type of nickel formation with two linemen (two DEs or one DE and one
DT), four linebackers (two ILBs and two OLBs), and five defensive
backs (three CBs, one FS and one SS). More common among teams with 3-4
base defenses than the 3-3-5, because all four starting linebackers
remain on-field while the defensive linemen -- the slowest players on
the defense -- come out. This maximizes versatility for the defense
against three- and four-WR offensive sets. a safety will often cover
the fourth receiver, and a linebacker will cover the tight end or
halfback, leaving three to patrol the middle of the field. The 2-4-5
is most often used against the two-minute offense, when substituting
players may be difficult.
A variation of the nickel formation with three linemen (two DE and one
DT), three linebackers (two OLB and one MLB), and five defensive backs
(three CB, one SS and one FS).
A defensive formation with three linemen and four linebackers. A
professional derivative in the 1970s of the earlier Oklahoma or 50
defense, which had five linemen and two linebackers. The 3-4 outside
linebackers resemble "stand-up ends" in the older defense. It is
sometimes pronounced thirty-four defense. The 3-4 also was spun off
from the Miami Dolphins' "53 defense" named for the jersey number worn
by linebacker Bob Matheson, who was often used by the Dolphins as a
fourth linebacker in passing situations.
A defensive formation with four linemen and three linebackers. Several
variations are employed. First used by coaches Joe Kuharich[citation
needed][dead link] and Tom Landry. It is sometimes pronounced
Usually pronounced forty-six defense, a formation of the 4-3 defense
(four linemen and three linebackers) featuring several dramatic shifts
of personnel. The line is heavily shifted toward the offense's weak
side; both outside linebackers tend to play on the strong side outside
of the defensive linemen; and three defensive backs (the two
cornerbacks and the strong safety) crowd the line of scrimmage. The
remaining safety, which is the free safety, stays in the backfield. It
was invented by
Buddy Ryan during his tenure as defensive coordinator
An offensive philosophy designed to appear as if all 11 players are
eligible receivers. The offense exploits a loophole in the American
football rulebook to technically make the formation a scrimmage kick,
and the offensive line is spread across the field, all wearing numbers
of eligible receivers, in an effort to confuse and deceive the
defense. It was banned in 2009.
An offensive philosophy developed by
San Diego Chargers
Any position not typically aligned on the line of scrimmage
(exception: defensive linemen are off the line in Canadian rules, but
are not backs). Offensively: running back, tailback, quarterback,
halfback, flankerback, fullback and wingback. defensively: linebacker,
cornerback, rover, defensive halfback and safety.
The area of an
carry or carries A statistic referring to the number of times a rushing player attempts to advance the ball. A ball carrier can be any player that attempts to advance the ball during an offensive play, regardless of position. center (C) A player position on offense. The center usually snaps the ball. center-eligible A trick play where the entire offensive line is to one side of the center at the snap, so that the center is an extra lineman on the end, and therefore an eligible receiver. centre Canadian center chain The 10-yard long chain that is used by the chain crew (aka "chain gang") to measure for a new series of downs checkdown When a quarterback has to complete a short pass to a running back or tight end as a last resort to avoid a sack. chip shot A very short field goal, usually of 25 yards or less, that is almost certain to be successful. Named after the golf term of the same name (see wedge (golf)), for the ball's high and short trajectory. chop block Similar to a cut block in which one offensive player blocks a defensive player below the knees and another blocks them above the waist. It is illegal to block low if a team mate is already engaged with the defensive player blocking high, to prevent knee and ankle injuries. clipping A penalty called for an illegal block in which the blocked player is hit from behind at or below the waist; the penalty is 15 yards. Originally, clipping was defined as any block to the back, but is now restricted to blocks at or below the waist. Other blocks from the back are now punished with 10-yard penalties. coffin corner The corner of the field of play between the end zone and the 10-yard line. A punter, if they are close enough, will often attempt to kick the ball out of bounds close to the receiving team's goal line and pin them back near their own end zone. comeback route A receiver or tight end route where a player runs straight upfield a specified number of yards, plants hard, turns and runs back towards the sideline at a 45 degree angle. Despite the name, a wide receiver does not come back towards the quarterback; instead they try to catch the ball and guarantee getting out of bounds. completion percentage The percentage of passes completed from passes attempted contain A defensive assignment. On outside runs such as a 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. cornerback (CB) A defensive back who lines up near the line of scrimmage across from a wide receiver. Their primary job is to disrupt passing routes and to defend against short and medium passes, and to contain the rusher on rushing plays. cover An attempt to prevent a receiver from catching a pass. There are two general schemes for defending against the pass:
Man-to-man – each eligible receiver is covered by a defensive back or a linebacker Zone – certain players (usually defensive backs and linebackers, though occasionally linemen) are assigned an area on the field that they are to cover.
Common types of coverage:
Cover zero – strict man-to-man coverage with no help from safeties (usually a blitz play with at least five players crossing the line of scrimmage) 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. Cover two – zone coverage with the safeties playing deep and covering half the field each. Can be "cover two man", where every receiver is covered by a defensive player, or "cover two zone" (also known as "Tampa two"), where a CB covers the flat zone, "OLB hook zone" or a "MLB curl zone". Cover three – zone coverage as above, but with extra help from the strong safety or a cornerback, so that each player covers one-third of a deep zone. 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".
counter A running play in which the running back takes a step in the apparent direction of the play, only to get the handoff in the other direction. Weak side linemen will sometimes pull and lead the back downfield (sometimes called a "counter trap"). The play is designed to get the defense to flow away from the action for a few steps as they follow the linemen, allowing more room for the running back. crackback block An illegal block delivered below the opponent's waist by an offensive player who had left the area of close line play and then returned to it, or was not within it at the snap. The term is also used to describe a legal block (delivered from the front, or from the side with the offensive player's helmet in front of the blocked player) by a wide receiver on a player who lined up inside of them. cut A sharp change of direction by a running player. Also called a "cutback". cut blocking A blocking technique in which offensive linemen, and sometimes other blockers, block legally below the waist (i.e., from the front of the defensive player) in an attempt to bring the defenders to the ground, making them unable to pursue a running back.
dead ball A ball which is no longer in play dead-ball foul A penalty committed by either team before or after the play. If it is after, the result of the play stands and the penalty is assessed from the current position of the ball. Pre-snap penalties on the defense do not require the play to be blown dead unless a defensive player has a clear path to the quarterback. On the offense, some penalties stop the play before it begins and some do not. A dead ball foul that does not stop play cannot be declined. A frequent dead ball foul is delay of game. defensive back A cornerback or safety position on the defensive team; commonly defends against wide receivers. Generally there are four defensive backs playing at a time; but see nickel back and dime back. defensive end (DE) A player position on defense who lines up on the outside of the defensive line and which principal function is to deliver pressure to the quarterback. defensive tackle (DT) A player position on defense on the inside of the defensive line and which principal function is to contain the run. A defensive tackle who lines up directly across from the center is known as a "nose tackle", often the heaviest player on the defense. A defensive tackle who lines up between an offensive guard and offensive tackle is known as a "three-gap technique tackle". defensive team The team that begins a play from scrimmage not in possession of the ball delay of game A five-yard foul which occurs when the offensive team does not put the ball in play before the play clock runs out. There are also less common occurrences which result in a delay of game foul, such as a defensive player holding an offensive player on the ground to prevent them from lining up during a two-minute drill. dime back The second extra, or sixth total, defensive back. Named because a dime has the same value as two nickels. See nickel back direct snap A play in which the ball is passed directly to a player other than the quarterback by the center. Contrast with an indirect snap play in which the ball is first handed to the quarterback, who then passes or hands it of to the eventual ball carrier. Also used to refer to formations that use a direct snap, such as the single wing. dive A play in which the ball is handed off to the running back, who attacks the middle of the offensive formation (between the OG). This play is part of the triple option strategy double reverse A play in which the ball reverses direction twice behind the line of scrimmage; this is usually accomplished by means of two or three hand-offs, each hand-off going in an opposite direction as the previous one. Such a play is extremely infrequent in football. Some people confuse the double reverse with a reverse, which is a play with two hand-offs instead of three. double wing A formation with two tight ends and two wingbacks in which the snap is tossed by the center between their legs to the quarterback or halfback moderately deep in the backfield. double wing(ed)-T A formation with two tight ends and two wingbacks in which the center hands the ball to the quarterback. down A unit of the game that starts with a legal snap or legal free kick after the ball is ready for play and ends when the ball next becomes dead. First down is the first of the plays; fourth is the last down in American (third in Canadian) football. A first down occurs after a change of possession of the ball, after advancing the ball 10 yards following a previous first down and after certain penalties. down box The post used by the chain gang to mark the line of scrimmage and designate the current down down by contact When the player carrying the ball touches the ground with any part of his body other than the feet, hands, or arms as a direct result of contact with a player of the opposing team. In professional football a player must be down by contact in order for play to stop; if they trip and fall without being touched by an opposing player they are free to get up and continue advancing the ball. Exceptions to this rule that result in play stopping include when the player carrying the ball is on the ground but not downed by contact (e.g., after tripping and falling) and is touched by a member of the opposing team while still on the ground; or when the player with the ball intentionally kneels down on the ground and stops advancing—e.g., a quarterback kneel or touchback. This rule does not apply in collegiate and high school football where a player need not be downed by contact at these levels in order for play to stop. down lineman A player stationed in front of his line of scrimmage and who has either one (three-point stance) or two (four-point stance) hands on the ground. draw play A play in which the quarterback drops back as if to pass, then hands off to a running back or runs with the ball themself. See scramble drive 1. A continuous set of offensive plays gaining substantial yardage and several first downs, usually leading to a scoring opportunity. 2. A blocking technique – "drive block" – in which an offensive player through an advantaged angle or with assistance drive a defensive player out of position creating a hole for the ball carrier. drop kick A kick in which the ball is dropped and kicked once it hits the ground and before it hits it again; a half-volley kick. A drop kick is one of the types of kick which can score a field goal. Drop kicks are extremely rare due to the pointed nature of the ball. dual-threat quarterback A quarterback who is skilled at both passing and rushing the ball. These quarterbacks may be difficult to defend against since the defensive team cannot focus on one threat to the exclusion of the other.
eligible receiver A player who may legally touch a forward pass. On the offense, these are: the ends, backs, and (except in the NFL) one player in position to take a hand-to-hand snap; provided the player's jersey displays a number in the ranges allowed for eligible receivers. All players of the opposing team are eligible receivers, and once the ball is touched by a player of the opposing team (anywhere in American, or beyond the lines of scrimmage in Canadian, football), all players become eligible. encroachment An illegal action by a defensive player crossing the line of scrimmage and making contact with an opponent before the ball is snapped. end around A play, often confused with a reverse, where the quarterback hands the ball off to a wide receiver. The receiver motions into the backfield as the ball is snapped to take the handoff and runs around the opposite end from where they lined up. end zone The area between the end line (or deadline in Canadian amateur football) and the goal line, bounded by the sidelines. extra point A single point scored in a conversion attempt by making what would be a field goal during general play. See try
face mask The protective grill that forms part of the football helmet face mask, grasping A foul in which a player grabs the face mask or helmet opening of another player's helmet, usually in the process of making a tackle. It results in a 15-yard penalty. false start A foul (resulting in a five-yard penalty) in which an offensive player moves before the ball is snapped, potentially drawing defensive players offside. fair catch In American football, an unhindered catch of an opponent's kick. The player wanting to make one must signal for a fair catch by waving an arm overhead while the ball is in the air. After that signal, once the ball is possessed, it is dead immediately and opponents will receive a fifteen-yard penalty for any contact with the receiver. fair catch kick A free kickoff that takes point at the spot of a fair catch, if the catching team so chooses to execute it. It is very rare (in fact, college football does not even allow it), and most teams pass on the opportunity and take possession of the ball instead. fantasy football A game in which the participants (called "owners") each draft on their own or with the aid of software a team of real-life NFL players and then score points based on those players' statistical performance on the field. field judge The official traditionally in charge of timekeeping field of play The area between both the goal lines and the sidelines, and in some contexts the space vertically above it. field goal A score of three points made by place- or drop-kicking the ball through the opponent's goal other than via a kickoff or free kick following a safety; formerly, "goal from the field". A missed field goal can be returned as a punt, if recovered in-bounds by the defending team. In some leagues, four-point field goals can be scored under special circumstances. field position A relative measure of how many yards a team must travel in order to score. first down The first of a set of four downs. Usually, a team which has a first down needs to advance the ball 10 yards to receive another first down, but penalties or field position (i.e. less than 10 yards from the opposing end zone) can affect this. flag A weighted yellow cloth thrown by a field official to indicate that a foul has been committed. Also the weighted red flag that an NFL head coach throws onto the field to alert officials that they are challenging a call on the field. flanker A player position on offense. A wide receiver who lines up in the backfield outside of another receiver. The term is used infrequently in American football, having been long since replaced by the "Z" wide receiver. flat An area on the field between the line of scrimmage and 10 yards into the defensive backfield, and within 15 yards of the sideline. Running backs often run pass routes to the flat when they are the safety valve receiver. flea flicker A trick play in which a running back throws a backward pass back to the quarterback, who then throws a pass to a wide receiver or tight end. flexbone 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. formation An arrangement of the offensive skill players. A formation usually is described in terms of how the running backs line up (e.g. I formation, which refers to the situation where the halfback is lined up about seven yards deep, and the fullback is lined up about five yards deep, both directly behind the quarterback) or how the wide receivers line up (e.g. "trips left", in which three wide receivers line up to the left of the linemen). Frequently, the formation will allude to both, such as with a "strong I slot right", in which the halfback is lined up seven yards deep behind the quarterback, the fullback is five yards deep behind the guard or tackle on the strong side, and both wide receivers are lined up on the right side of the offensive line. There are rules limiting what is legal in a formation. All five offensive linemen must be on the line of scrimmage (a small amount of leeway is given to tackles when lined up for pass protection). Also, there must be one receiver (usually one tight end and one wide receiver) lined up on the line on either side of the offensive linemen (it does not matter how close they are to the tackles, as long as they are on the line), with a total of no fewer than seven players on the line, five of which must be numbered between 50-79. A numbering exception exists if the offense is in a scrimmage kick formation which allows a player whose number is 1-49 or 80-99 to take the place of a lineman numbered 50-79. A receiver who is on the line may not go in motion. 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. forward progress The location to which a ball carrier's forward momentum carries him before they are tackled. At the end of a play, the football is spotted at the point where the ball carrier's forward progress is stopped, even if they are pushed backward by the defenders. fourth down The final of a set of four downs. Unless a first down is achieved or a penalty forces a replay of the down, the team will lose control of the ball after this play. If a team does not think they can get a first down, they often punt on fourth down or attempt a field goal if they are close enough to do so. fourth down conversion The act of using a fourth down play to make a first down (also known as "going for it" [on fourth down]). These are comparatively uncommon. If a team is close enough to the goal posts, they will generally attempt a field goal on fourth down. Otherwise, they will usually punt. However, the coach may elect to try to get a new first down. This is more likely if the amount of yardage needed for the conversion is small (typically a yard or less), if the team is trailing by a significant amount (likelihood of such a try increasing as it gets later in the game), if a team is in a position on the field where a punt would likely result in a touchback but a field goal attempt is unlikely to succeed (usually between the opponent's 35- and 45-yard lines at the NFL level) or during overtime where the team must score on that possession. four-point stance down lineman's stance with four points on the ground, in other words, two feet and two hands; often a technique used in short yardage or goal line situations. free kick A kick made to put the ball in play as a kickoff or following a safety (the score; "safety touch" in Canadian football) or fair catch. free safety (FS) A player position on defense. Free safeties typically play deep, or "center field", and often have the pass defense responsibility of assisting other defensive backs in deep coverage (compared to strong safeties, who usually have an assigned receiver and run support responsibilities). front seven The defensive linemen and linebackers. The most common configurations of a front seven are 4-3 (four down linemen, three linebackers) and the 3-4 (three linemen and four linebackers). fullback (FB) A player position on offense. Originally, lined up deep behind the quarterback in the T formation. In modern formations this position may be varied, and this player has more blocking responsibilities in comparison to the halfback or tailback. fumble A ball that a player accidentally lost possession of; in Canadian football the term includes muffs. fumblerooski A trick play where the quarterback deliberately places the ball on the ground, technically fumbling so that another player (usually a lineman) can pick up the ball and advance it. This type of play is now banned by most football sanctioning groups.
game manager A type of quarterback, loosely defined, who makes a minimum number of mistakes for a team that relies on its defense and rushing offense to win games. goal A surface in space marked by a structure of two upright posts 18 feet 6 inches apart extending above a horizontal crossbar the top edge of which is 10 feet off the ground. The goal is the surface above the bar and between the lines of the inner edges of the posts, extending infinitely upward, centered above each end line in American, and each goal line in Canadian football. goal area Alternate term for end zone, used primarily in Canadian football goal line The front of the end zone goal line stand When a team's defense stops another team's offense from scoring a touchdown when the opposition's offense is near the goal line gridiron 1. The field of play; a football field 2. A generalized term for American, Canadian, arena, and other related forms of football, especially in contrast with rugby football (rugby union, rugby league) and association football (soccer). See also gridiron football The word derives from the same root as griddle, meaning a "lattice." The original field was marked in a grid of crisscrossed lines; the ball would be snapped in the grid in which it was downed on the previous play. In modern usage, a gridiron—whether in cooking or football—is considered a surface with parallel lines. American and related codes of football have lines spaced every five yards (as compared to 10-12 metres in rugby), giving the field a unique look among football codes. guard (OG) Two of the five offensive line positions. See lineman gunslinger Term for a quarterback who plays in an aggressive and decisive manner by throwing deep, risky passes. These quarterbacks usually possess the strong arm needed to throw deep effectively. gunner The widest player on the line in a punting formation. The gunner is often one of the fastest players on the team, usually a cornerback or wide receiver.
A long pass play, thrown towards a group of receivers near or in the
end zone in hope of a touchdown. Used by a team as a last resort as
time is running out in either of two halves (usually by a team
trailing in the second half). Refers to the Catholic prayer. The term
was first used during Roger Staubach's comeback victory in which he
threw such a pass to Drew Pearson to defeat the Minnesota Vikings in a
divisional round playoff game in 1975.
A player position on offense. In American football, it is a type of
running back; in Canadian football, it is a type of defensive back.
Also known as a tailback.
halfback option play
A trick play in which the halfback has the option to either throw a
pass or run with the ball
From 1983 until the end of the 2002 season, in the
In a hand-off, the quarterback (Colt McCoy, No. 12) is handing the ball to the running back (Jamaal Charles, No. 25)
handoff A move in which a player transfers the ball to another player, and the receiving player takes possession of the ball before it leaves the hands of the giver (thus the ball is never in flight). A handoff can occur in any direction. Sometimes called a "switch" in touch football. Alternately spelled "handoff". hands team A group of players, mostly wide receivers, that are responsible for recovering an onside kick. They line up as close as possible to the ten-yard neutral zone and their goal is to recover the ball immediately after, but only if, the ball crosses out of the neutral zone. hard count A strategy commonly used by offenses to convert on fourth down and less than five yards to go. An offense will take the full time on the play clock with the quarterback utilizing an irregular, accented (thus, the term "hard") cadence for the snap count in the hope that the defense will jump offside, giving the offense the five yards needed to convert the first down. However, if the defense does not go offside, the offense will take a five-yard penalty for delay of game or a timeout. hash marks Lines between which the ball begins each play. The lines are parallel to and a distance in from the side lines and marked as broken lines. If a play is blown dead while the ball is between the hash marks, the ball is spotted where it is blown dead for the following play. If the play ends outside the hash marks, the ball is spotted at the nearer hash mark. H-back A player listed in a roster or depth chart as a fullback but with better athletic or pass-catching abilities and playing as a hybrid of a fullback and a tight end hidden yardage Yards based on the difference in starting field position between the teams and penalty yardage. These yards do not show up in the statistics as yards gained by an offense, hence, hidden. This sometimes explains how a team with a significant advantage in yards gained loses the game since starting possessions deeper in a team's own territory on a regular basis means more yards need to be gained in order to score points and that teams that tend to commit many penalties will force the offense to gain more yards to score points or give the opposing offense free yards allowing them to score points with fewer yards needed. hike Synonym of "snap" – the handoff or pass from the center that begins a play from scrimmage holder A player who holds the ball upright for a place kick. Often backup quarterbacks are used for their superior ball-handling ability and in the event of a bad snap requiring a pass play, or punters for their ability to catch long snaps. holding There are two kinds of holding:
Offensive holding, illegally blocking a player from the opposing team by grabbing and holding their uniform or body Defensive holding, called against defensive players who hold offensive players, but who are not actively making an attempt to catch the ball (if the defensive player were to impede an offensive player in the act of catching the ball, that would be the more severe foul of pass interference)
hook and lateral or hook and ladder A trick play in which a receiver (usually a wide receiver) runs a hook pattern (i.e., moving toward the line of scrimmage to make a catch), and then laterals the ball to a second player (generally another receiver or a running back) going in a different direction. horse-collar A horse-collar is a type of tackle made by grabbing the back-inside of an opponent's shoulder pads or jersey. This type of tackle was banned in the NFL in 2005 and in college football in 2008. hot read When a quarterback sees a blitz coming and quickly passes to a receiver running a short route. This involves the quarterback adjusting their target and the "hot receiver" adjusting their route (for instance, breaking off a deeper route in favor of a slant or hitch). If a quarterback at the line of scrimmage reads the defense and identifies a blitz coming, they may call an audible to designate a receiver as a hot read or hot receiver. huddle An on-field meeting of team members to communicate instructions for the upcoming play hurry-up offense An offensive strategy designed to gain yardage 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. Hut A loud, repeated command by quarterbacks for the other players to move ("Hut! Hut! Hut!"). The command replaced "hike!" in the second half of the 20th century, probably as a result of players returning from World War II military service adapting the drill language they were familiar with (as in "Atten-hut!", "Hut, two, three, four!").
A formation that includes a fullback and tailback lined up directly
behind the quarterback while the quarterback is under center. By
definition, the fullback lines up in front of the tailback. Several
variations on this backfield formation exist, including the "offset I"
(in which the fullback lines up out of line to the left or right of
the quarterback and halfback; also known as the "strong" or "weak I"
depending on which direction the fullback is positioned), the
"Maryland I" and "power I" (in which an additional fullback is added
to the backfield, either next to in the power I or in front of in the
Maryland I, the fullback).
icing the kicker
When a team calls time out just before the kicker has the ball
snapped. A team is limited to calling one time-out on any given play
(thus a team cannot repeatedly call all of its time-outs to prevent
the game from continuing, or else a delay of game penalty or, more
rarely, a palpably unfair act penalty is imposed). It is thought that
kickers tend to miss after being iced due to nervousness, so icing the
kicker usually happens at the end of the game before a walk-off field
goal. There is evidence that this tactic does not work.
On offense, there must be exactly seven players lined up on the line
of scrimmage for at least one count before the ball is snapped. If
not, then it is an illegal formation.
On offense, a player may be in motion but cannot be going forward at
the time of the snap (except in arena and
interior offensive line Refers to the center and guards.
Jack Interior linebacker (ILB) of the 3-4 formation, that plays in the weak side of the formation. Also known as "Mo". jumbo An offensive package which includes two tight ends, a full back and a half back. Similar to heavy jumbo, in which either the half back or the fullback is replaced by another tight end. In a goal line formation, Miami package, often one or more of the tight ends is actually a linebacker or an offensive lineman. 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. juke To evade a tackler by deceptive moves, and thus without need of a stiff arm.
kick A punt, place kick, or drop kick kicker or placekicker (K) Player who specializes in placekicking (i.e. field goals and kick offs). In rare cases, the placekicker solely handles field goals while a kickoff specialist handles kickoffs. kickoff A free kick which starts each half, or restarts the game following a touchdown or field goal. The kickoff may be a place kick in American or Canadian football, or a drop kick in American football. kick returner A player on the receiving team who specializes in fielding kicks and running them back. kick six A field goal kick that is blocked and returned for a touchdown. Popularly used in reference to the 2013 Iron Bowl game. kneel A low risk play in which the player in possession of the ball kneels down after receiving the snap, ending the play while keeping the clock running. This is done to end the game sooner without needing to run a riskier play. The player kneeling is said to "take a knee", and thus is "taking a knee" or "taking the knee". The quarterback of the team in the lead will often take a knee on the first snap following the two-minute warning. Though long frowned upon – because it was not in accordance with the game's doctrine of "toughness" – taking a knee became an accepted way to run out the clock after the events of the Miracle at the Meadowlands. To this end, players will sometimes forgo scoring a touchdown and instead choose to run out the clock by kneeling short of reaching the end zone. This is usually done when the team with possession of the ball is in the lead, but not always.
lateral See backward pass leg whip An illegal block or tackle using the legs to trip the opponent line of scrimmage/scrimmage line One of two vertical planes parallel to the goal line when the ball is to be put in play by scrimmage. For each team in American football, the line of scrimmage is through the point of the ball closest to their end line. The two lines of scrimmage are called the offensive line of scrimmage and defensive line of scrimmage, often shortened to "line". In Canadian football, the line of scrimmage of the defensive team is one yard their side of the ball. line to gain A line parallel to the goal lines, such that having the ball dead beyond it entitles the offense to a new series of downs, i.e. a new first down. The line is 10 yards in advance of where the ball was to be snapped for the previous first down (or is the goal line, if it is not farther than 10 yards away). linebacker (LB) A player position on defense. The linebackers typically play one to six yards behind the DLs and are the most versatile players on defense because they can defend both run and pass plays or be called to blitz. There are two types of LBs: middle linebacker (MLB) and outside linebacker (OLB). In a 3-4 formation, OLB may be designated as a "rush linebacker", rushing the passer on almost every play. lineman A defensive or offensive position on the line of scrimmage. On offense, the player snapping the ball is the center. The players to their sides are the guards, and the players to the outside of the guards are the tackles. The players on the end of the line are the ends. This may be varied in an unbalanced line. On defense, the outside linemen are ends and those inside are tackles. If there are five or six linemen, the innermost linemen are known as guards. This is rare in professional football except for goal-line defenses, but is sometimes seen in high school and college. live ball Any ball that is in play, whether it is in a player's possession or not. The ball is live during plays from scrimmage and free kicks, including kickoffs. live ball foul A foul given for various infractions such as changing numbers during a game long snapper A center who specializes in the long, accurate snaps required for punts and field goal attempts. Most teams employ a specialist long snapper instead of requiring the normal center to perform this duty.
man in motion
A player on offense who is moving backwards or parallel to the line of
scrimmage at 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. In Canadian football, more than one back can be in motion,
and may move in any direction as long as they are behind the line of
scrimmage at the snap.
A defense in which all players in pass coverage, typically linebackers
and defensive backs, cover a specific player. Pure man coverage is
very rare; defenses typically mix man and zone coverages.
A conservative gameplan which involves an offense based around the use
of running backs with use of the passing game only to advance the
running game, and a great emphasis on defense. Popular term for Marty
Schottenheimer's approach to coaching.
National Football League
offensive team The team with possession of the ball offside An infraction of the rule that requires both teams to be on their own side of their restraining line as or before the ball is put in play. Offside is normally called on the defensive team during a scrimmage down and on the kicking team during free kick downs. In Canadian football, at the time a ball is kicked by a teammate, being ahead of the ball, or being the person who held the ball for the place kick one back formation A formation where the offensive team has one running back in the backfield with the quarterback. Other eligible receivers are near the line of scrimmage. onside kick A play in which the kicking team tries to recover the kicked ball option offense An offense heavily relying upon the option run and variations thereof option run or option Usually, a type of play in which the quarterback has the option of handing off, keeping, or laterally passing to one or more backs. Often described by a type of formation or play action, such as "triple option", "veer option", or "counter option". Teams running option plays often specialize in them. Less often, a play in which a running back may either pass or run.
PAT Point after touchdown. See try. package The group of players on the field for a given play. For example, a nickel package substitutes a cornerback for either a linebacker or a defensive lineman (the latter is referred to as a "3-3-5 nickel").
Catching a punt
A "pancake block"; sometimes shortened to "cake"; is a particularly
effective block where the player being blocked is pushed onto the
ground by a blocker, metaphorically "flattening" the opposing defender
into a "pancake". This is usually performed by an offensive lineman,
tight end, or fullback, and is considered an ideal block, designed to
completely eliminate the defender from the play.
An action performed by a player, using their arm to transfer the ball
to another player by throwing the ball through the air between them.
Every pass is classified as either a forward pass or a lateral pass,
depending on the direction the ball travels.
Also "passing interference" or "PI"; when a player illegally hinders
an eligible receiver's, or a defender's opportunity to catch a forward
The use of pass blocking by the offensive line, tight ends and various
backs to protect the quarterback from being sacked, and to allow the
QB time and space to throw the ball.
passer rating or quarterback rating
A numeric value used to measure of the performance of quarterbacks. It
was formulated in 1973 and it uses the player's completion percentage,
passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions.
A down in which a pass is likely to be attempted.
A play in which a pass is attempted.
Also "pass yards", "passing yardage", and "yards passing"; the
distance in total yards from scrimmage that a passer has thrown the
football plus the distance any receivers have run after catching the
One of four periods of play in a standard
reception When a player catches (receives) the ball past the line of scrimmage. If a reception is made behind the line of scrimmage, it is a lateral. red flag A weighted red marker thrown onto the field by a coach to tell the officials that they want a certain play reviewed; sometimes referred to as a "challenge flag". red shirt A college player who is forgoing a season to retain a year of eligibility. Student athletes have five years to play four after they enroll. A sixth year is occasionally granted to a player to play his or her four years under extenuating circumstances. red zone The area between the 20-yard line and the goal of the defensive team. The area is not literally colored red and the term is used mainly for statistical purposes; a team that has a high "red zone percentage" (number of touchdowns scored from within the red zone divided by number of drives in which the team enters the red zone) is capable of finishing drives with touchdowns on a regular basis. referee (R) The official who directs the other officials on the field: one of seven officials. regular season In college football, it is the portion of the season that is scheduled ahead-of-time by the schools. It excludes any bowl game, conference championship, or playoff games. In NFL football, the regular season is defined as weeks 1–17 (as of the 2010 season; the league is attempting to expand this by an additional two weeks). restraining line 1. A team's respective line of scrimmage 2. On a free kick, the line the ball is to be kicked from (for the kicking team), or a line 10 yards (five yards in the NFL, beginning 2011) in advance of that (for the receiving team) return The act of progressing the ball down the field after a change of possession, such as a kick or interception return yards Yards gained advancing the ball during play after a change of possession such as a punt or a kickoff or a turnover such as a fumble or an interception reverse An offensive play in which a running back carries the ball toward one side of the field but hands or tosses the ball to a teammate (almost exclusively a wide receiver) who is running in the opposite direction. This is slightly different from an end around, in which the ball is handed off directly to a wide receiver (usually the man in motion), so the direction of the play never reverses. rover A hybrid safety that has dual responsibilities as a defensive back and a linebacker. This is more commonly seen in college football than in NFL, CFL, or AFL football. An example of this in use is in West Virginia's and Air Force's 3-3-5 schemes. run and shoot An offensive philosophy in football 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 and gun". running back (RB) A player position on offense. Although the term usually refers to a halfback or tailback, fullbacks are also considered running backs. running out the clock A game strategy that involves repeatedly executing simple plays that allow the game clock to continue running in an effort to bring the game to a quicker end. This strategy is almost always employed by the leading team at the end of the game, and may involve one or more kneels. running play A play where the offense attempts to advance the ball without a forward pass. running up the score A generally discouraged practice in which a team, despite leading by several touchdowns (to the point that it is obvious that the team is going to win), continues to score as many points as possible in an effort to create as wide of a margin of victory as possible. run out of the gun Running the ball out of the shotgun formation, which is primarily a pass formation. rush 1. An attempt to tackle or hurry a player before they can throw a pass or make a kick 2. A running play rushing average or yards per carry average The quotient of a player's total rushing yards divided by the number of rushing attempts.
Tackling a ball carrier who intends to throw a forward pass. A sack is
also awarded if a player forces a fumble of the ball, or the ball
carrier goes out of bounds, behind the line of scrimmage on an
apparent intended forward pass play. The term gained currency circa
1. A player position on defense. See free safety and strong
2. A method of scoring (worth two points) by downing an
opposing ball carrier in his own end zone, forcing the opposing ball
carrier out of his own end zone and out of bounds, or forcing the
offensive team to fumble the ball so that it exits the end zone. A
safety is also awarded if the offensive team commits a foul within its
own end zone. After a safety, the team that was scored upon must kick
the ball to the scoring team from its own 20-yard line.
In the unusual event of a safety occurring during a try for extra
point or two points after a touchdown, this scores only 1 point and is
followed by a kickoff as after any other try. (In some codes, the
rules allow the defense in addition to the offense to score in this
A receiver whose job it is to get open for a short pass in case all
other receivers are covered.
The strong side outside linebacker
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.
scoop and score
A fumble recovered by the defense that results in a touchdown.
During practices, the portion of the team that attempts to emulate the
play style of the upcoming opponent based on scouting reports, so the
rest of the team can anticipate the opponent's play calls and defense.
Often includes players on the team's practice squad.
scramble or quarterback scramble
On a called passing play, when the quarterback runs from the pocket in
an attempt to avoid being sacked, giving the receivers more time to
get open or attempting to gain positive yards by running.
A short forward pass to a receiver who has blockers in front. The
receiver in this play is usually a running back, although wide
receiver and tight end screens are also used. Although they are both
called screen passes, the wide receiver screen and the running back
screen are used for very different reasons. In the case of a running
back screen, the play is designed to allow the pass rushers by the
offensive linemen, leaving the defender out of position to make a
play. The play is usually employed to defuse the pass rush in the case
of a running back screen. The wide receiver screen is a much faster
developing play, designed to catch the defense off guard.
1. An informal practice matchup, either between two teams
or between different units of the same team. Usually score is not
kept; often, each team will get 10 plays from the same yard line.
Sometimes played "seven on seven", with a full backfield and an
abbreviated offensive line.
2. Play from scrimmage
3. Line of scrimmage
Refers to the defensive "backfield", specifically the safeties and
cornerbacks. Primarily responsible for pass coverage defense.
When seven players line up on the line of scrimmage and immediately
start to cover the punt while three offensive players stay to guard
When two or more offensive players move at the same time before the
snap. All players who move in a shift must come to a complete stop
prior to the snap.
The action of a linebacker or defensive back to blitz
Formation in which offensive team may line up at the start of a play.
In this formation, the quarterback receives the snap 5-8 yards behind
1. One of the lines marking each side of the field
2. As an adjective: on the field near a sideline
The area between a hash mark and a sideline
simulating the (snap) count
When the defensive team calls out an imitation of the snap count in
order to disrupt the offensive team by causing some of them to act
early. This is illegal but difficult to police during most of the game
due to position of the game officials away from the line of scrimmage
where they may be unable to accurately determine the source of calls
or to even hear them.
A diverse set of formations, now out of fashion but highly popular
between 1906 and World War II, that typically used an unbalanced line,
direct snap, and one wingback.
A formation with 1 wingback & an adjoining tight end in which the
center hands the ball to the quarterback, who holds his hands between
the legs of the center.
A receiver route. In the slant route, a receiver runs straight upfield
a few yards, plants his outside foot hard while in full stride, and
turns 45 degrees towards the quarterback. A staple of the West Coast
offense (WCO) and the player may go as little as 2 yards or as many as
6 yards before moving inside for the pass. Variations include the
quick slant in which the player plants and turns at the snap instead
of running ahead first and the slow or zone route, in which the
receiver runs 10 to 15 yards downfield to get behind the linebackers
The area between a split end and the rest of 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.
An offensive strategy that relies on a strong running game, where most
of the offensive plays are handoffs to the fullback or the tailback.
It is a more traditional style of offense that often results in a
higher time of possession by running the ball heavily. Even though the
offense is run-oriented, passing opportunities can develop as defenses
play close to the line of scrimmage.
T formation A classic offensive formation with the quarterback directly behind the center and three running backs behind the quarterback, forming a 'T'. Numerous variations have been developed including the split-T, wing-T, and wishbone-T.
The players in white (#7,#11) are tackling the ball carrier (#10)
1. The act of forcing a ball carrier to the ground
2. A player position on the line, either an offensive
tackle (T) or a defensive tackle (DT). See lineman.
The area between where the two offensive tackles line up prior to the
A lineman that lines himself up in the position of an eligible
Player position on offense farthest ("deepest") back, except in
kicking formations. Also often referred to as the running back,
particularly in a one-back offense.
take a knee
take the top/lid off the defense
Forcing the defense to keep the defensive backs out of the box, where
they can provide support against the offense's running game, and in a
position to honor and protect against deep pass threats.
When an offensive team fails to gain a first down on the first three
plays of a drive, and thus is forced to punt on fourth down.
A novelty developed in the new millennium, used in leagues such as the
two-level defense A defense with only two, as opposed to the usual three, levels of defensive organization. Generally a much more aggressive defense than normal. two-minute warning A free time out given to both teams when there is two minutes left on the game clock in each half. Certain leagues may use different times for this warning. two-point conversion A play worth two points accomplished by gaining legal possession of the ball in the opponent's end zone, either via a run or pass, after a touchdown has been made; see try.
Usually refers to an offensive formation which does not have an equal
number of linemen on each side of the ball. Done to gain a blocking
advantage on one side of the formation; typically one tackle or guard
lines up on the other side of the ball. For example a common alignment
would be E-G-C-G-T-T-E.
Refers to the quarterback lining up directly behind the center to take
the snap. The person under center is considered ineligible in the NFL,
but an eligible receiver in the
vanilla offense An offense with very few plays and/or formations. Used primarily in exhibition games to prevent opposing coaches from gleaning any information from the team's playbook. So named because "vanilla" flavoring is considered plain. victory formation See kneel. Based on the most common game situation for a kneel, in which the team with the lead near the end of the game has the ball and wishes to run out the clock. veer A type of option offense using 2 backs in the backfield, one behind each guard or tackle (referred to as split backs), allowing a triple option play (give to either back or quarterback keep).
Before NFL rosters are reduced to 53 players for the regular season,
any injured non-vested veteran (defined as a player with less than
four years of experience) has to be placed on waivers before being
placed on injured reserve. If the waived/injured player is not claimed
by another team, then they are placed on the injured reserve of the
team that waived them. Once rosters are reduced to 53-players,
non-vested veterans can be placed on injured reserve without having to
be placed on waivers.
In college, a non-scholarship player. I.e., a player who is not
receiving a scholarship to play football
A formation wherein the tailback is lined up deep directly behind the
quarterback, and the fullback is lined up offset to the weak side of
When one tight end is used, the side of the field opposite the tight
end. In other offensive packages, the side of the field with the
fewest offensive players on or just behind the line of scrimmage.
West Coast offense
An offensive philosophy that uses short, high-percentage passes as the
core of a ball-control offense. It was invented in Cincinnati under
= ( w + ( 0.5 t ) )
( g )
displaystyle P_ w =(w+(0.5t))/(g)
displaystyle P_ w
is winning percentage,
is number of wins,
is number of ties, and
is number of games played. wishbone A formation involving three running backs lined up behind the quarterback in the shape of a Y, similar to the shape of a wishbone
X-receiver Used in offensive play calling, usually referring to the split end, the wide receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage. For example, "split right jet 529 X post" tells the X-receiver to run a post route.
YAC 1. Yards after catch – the amount of yardage gained after initial catch. A quarterback's length of pass is the distance from where the line of scrimmage is, to where the receiver caught the ball. YAC is the distance the ball carrier ran after the initial catch. 2. Yards after contact – the amount of yardage gained by an offensive player after the first defensive player makes contact Y-receiver 1. A designation used in play calling for the offense's third receiver in a play. This is usually either the slot receiver or the tight end, depending on the play. For example, "buffalo right 534 boot Y corner" tells the Y-receiver to run a corner route. 2. The offense's primary tight end in a play yard One yard of linear distance in the direction of one of the two goals. A field is 100 yards (120 when both end zones are included). Typically, a team is required to advance at least 10 yards in order to get a new set of downs. Identical in length to the standard unit of measurement (3 feet or 36 inches). yard Line A marking on the field that indicates the distance (in yards) to the nearest goal line yardage The number of yards gained or lost during a play, game, season, or career yards gained See yardage yards from scrimmage The number of yards gained by the offensive team advancing the ball from the line of scrimmage yellow flag See flag
Z-receiver Used in offensive-play calling, usually referring to the flanker, the wide receiver who lines up off the line of scrimmage. For example, "panther gun 85 slant Z go" tells the Z-receiver to run a go (also called a fly or streak) route. zebra A colloquial term for an official, referring to their black-and-white striped uniforms zone defense A defense in which players are in pass-coverage zones of the field, instead of covering individual players. Pure zone packages are seldom used; most defenses employ some combination of zone and man coverage. zone blitz A defensive package combining a blitz with zone-pass coverage. Allows the defense to choose the blitzer after the offense shows formation and pass-coverage requirements, and features unpredictable blitzes from different linebackers and defensive backs. Invented by coach Dick LeBeau. zone read A type of option offense where the quarterback and the tailback line up approximately side-by-side. After the quarterback receives the snap, the two players cross paths and go through the motions of a hand-off. Based upon reading the defensive reaction, the quarterback either completes the handoff or pulls the ball out and runs with it.
^ "Building America's Team". Dallas Morning News. Archived from the
original on August 23, 2004. Retrieved 2007-01-29.
^ "Describing 'The Innovator'". The Sporting News. Archived from the
original on December 1, 2005. Retrieved 2007-01-29.
^ "NFL Records". nfl.com.
^ Pappano, Lenny (May 26, 2014). "SCHAUF'S STILL CELEBRATING BLACK
MONDAY FIRING OF MIKE SHANAHAN". Draft Sharks. Archived from the
original on May 26, 2014. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
^ "NFL's Black Monday". CycloneFanatic. Archived from the original on
2012-02-20. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
^ "Moments, sports and otherwise, In Time: NFL's Black Monday
continues into Tuesday". Abriefsecond.blogspot.com. 2006-01-03.
^ "ProFootballTalk". ProFootballTalk. 2012-05-21. Retrieved
^ a b c d Hickok, 1977, p. 204.
^ "Fantasy Football Draft Software". The Coordinator. Retrieved
^ Stoltz, Jeremy. "Chalk Talk: the Zone Blitz". Scout.com. Retrieved 8
^ Weeks, Chris. "Football Terminology". fftoolbox.com. FullTime
Fantasy Sports LLC. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
^ Pennington, Bill (2018). "Hut! Hut! Hut! What?". The New York Times.
Retrieved 1 February 2018.
^ Zimmerman, Paul. "Icing on the cake"
Hickok, Ralph (1977). New Encyclopedia or Sports. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. ISBN 0-07-028705-8
v t e
American–Canadian comparison Burnside rules Glossary
Arena Indoor 9-man 8-man 6-man Flag Touch Street/Backyard Powderpuff Wheelchair Rules of gridiron football codes
Levels of play
Pop Warner AYF
Varsity Junior varsity
Hash marks Goal line Sidelines
Line of scrimmage
End zone Red zone Neutral zone Coffin corner Flat Gap Hole Pocket
Touchdown One-point conversion Two-point conversion Field goal Safety Single (rouge)
Fumble Interception Muffed punt Turnover on downs
First down Three-and-out Fourth down conversion Dead ball
Timeout Kneel Spike Time warnings
3 min. 2 min. 1 min.
Clock management Running out the clock Untimed play Garbage time
Total quarterback rating
Yards after catch
Yards from scrimmage
Two-a-days Oklahoma drill Three-cone drill Film session
Official (American, Canadian) Chain crew Penalty Penalty flag Instant replay
Running up the score
v t e
Glossaries of sports
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