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The following terms are used in American football and Canadian football, but see also the glossary of Canadian football.

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3-3-5 defense
A variation of the Nickel formation with 3 linemen (2 De & 1 DT), 3 linebackers (2 OLB & 1 MLB), and 5 defensive backs (3 CB, 1 SS & 1 FS). Often called a 3-3 stack. Also called the "Rule Breaker" due to the fact that it often changes blocking schemes for the offensive line.
3-4 defense
a defensive formation with 3 linemen and 4 linebackers. A professional derivative in the 1970s of the earlier Oklahoma or "50" defense, which had 5 linemen and 2 linebackers. The 3-4 outside linebackers resemble "stand-up ends" in the older defense.
4-3 defense
a defensive formation with 4 linemen and 3 linebackers. Several variations are employed. First used by coach Joe Kuharich and Tom Landry.[1][2]
4-4-4 Defense
Illegal participation (name so derived from the fact that 4+4+4=12 men on the field; each team is limited to 11). Coined by coach and color commentator John Madden.
46 defense
(pronounced forty-six defense) a formation of the 4-3 defense (four linemen and three linebackers) in which 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 while with the Chicago Bears and popularized by the Super Bowl XX Champion 1985 Chicago Bears.
50 defense
a once popular college defense with 5 defensive linemen and 2 linebackers. Also known as the "Oklahoma Defense," it is structurally very similar to the 3-4. In the 50-defense, the team uses a nose tackle (NT), 2 defensive tackles(DTs) lined up over or slightly inside the offensive tackles(OTs), and 2 defensive ends (DEs) lineup over or outside the tight end (TE). It maximizes size along the line of scrimmage and is mostly used only in high school against teams that run the ball a lot.


A-11 offense
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.
Air Raid
an offensive philosophy derived from the West Coast Offense but adapted to the shotgun formation. In this offense the running game is heavily de-emphasized while the quick pass, medium pass, and screen game are highly developed.
all-purpose yardage
the sum of all yards gained by a player who is in possession of the ball during a play. This includes rushing and receiving yards gained on offense, yards gained on returns of interceptions and fumbles, and yards gained on kickoff and punt returns.
a play called by the quarterback at the line of scrimmage to make a change from the play that was called in the huddle.
automatic first down
for several of the most severe fouls against the defensive team, a first down is awarded to the offensive team even if the result of the penalty does not advance the ball beyond the line to gain. In the NFL and NCAA, the fouls include pass interference and all personal fouls. Under NFHS (High School) rules only roughing the snapper, holder, kicker, or passer and forward pass interference by the defense are penalized with an automatic first down.


A position behind the offensive and defensive linemen. Offensively, mostly used for running plays: Running back, Tailback, Quarterbacks, Halfback, Fullbacks and Wingback. Defensively, generally faster players with some or all responsibility to cover receivers: Linebackers, Cornerbacks and Safeties.
A second string player who does not start the game, but comes in later in relief of a starter.
backward pass
a pass thrown to the side or backward. Also called "onside pass" in Canadian football. There is no limit to the number of backward passes or where they may be thrown from. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "lateral".
Any player who attempts to advance the ball during a rushing play, or any player in possession of the ball and attempting to advance it on the ground.
ball security
The ability of a player to maintain control over the football during play and thus avoid a fumble.
a defensive maneuver in which one or more linebackers or defensive backs, who normally remain behind the line of scrimmage, instead charge into the opponents' backfield. However, in the 3-4 defense, one linebacker typically rushes the passer with the three down linemen. This is not considered a blitz. If an additional linebacker is sent, bringing the total number of rushers to five, it is a blitz.
when a player obstructs another player's path with his body. Examples: Cut block, Zone block, Trap block, Pull block, Screen block, Pass block, Double-team block.
blocking back
Early name for quarterback
blocking sled 
a heavy piece of practice equipment, usually a padded angular frame on metal skids, used for developing strength and blocking techniques
A game in which one team dominates another in scoring from an early point in the contest.
a long pass
an offensive play predicated upon misdirection in which the quarterback pretends to hand the ball to another player, and then carries the ball in the opposite direction of the supposed ballcarrier with the intent of either passing or running (sometimes the quarterback has the option of doing either). A naked bootleg is a risky variation of this play when the quarterback has no blockers pulling out with him. Contrast with scramble, sneak, and draw.
the box
an area on the defensive side of the ball, directly opposite the offensive linemen and about 5 yards deep; having 8 players in the box means bringing in a defensive back, normally the strong safety, to help stop the offensive team's running game
term often used to refer to a player, usually one drafted in the first day of the NFL Draft, who failed to meet the expectations of the drafting team. (Ex : Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Tim Couch )
buttonhook (hook,dig)
The buttonhook route is when a receiver runs straight upfield a certain distance and then plants hard and runs straight back towards the quarterback. Often simply called a hook route or a dig route. In some cases, a dig route is considered a very long buttonhook, such as 15+ yards downfield. Hence the receiver must dig his cleats in hard to stop and come back at the quarterback after running so far and fast.


or carries is a statistic referring to the number of times a rushing player attempts to advance the ball. A ballcarrier 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. The middle lineman is not always the snapper.
a trick play (made famous by the film M*A*S*H) wherein at the snap, the entire offensive line is to one side of the center so that he is on the end and therefore is an eligible receiver.
Canadian "center"
the 10-yard long chain that is used by the chain crew (aka "chain gang") to measure for a new series of downs.
chuck and duck
A degrading way to refer to the Run And Shoot offensive strategy.
The checkdown pass is when the quarterback has to complete a short pass to a running back or tight end as a last resort to avoid a sack. Handling a checkdown situation is for a running back to catch these short pass, then use his speed, agility and power to run for extra yardage.
an illegal block in which the victim is blocked from the back and at or below the waist; the penalty is 15 yards. Originally, clipping was defined as any block from 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. A punter, if he is 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 the player runs straight upfield a specified number of yards (could be a short or medium route), plants hard, and turns and runs back towards the sideline at a 45 degree angle. Often confusingly named, a wide receiver doesn't come back towards the quarterback, instead he tries to catch the ball and guarantee getting out of bounds.
completion percentage
the percentage of passes thrown by a player that are completed. For example, if a running back throws one pass all season and completes it his completion percentage would be 100%.
a defensive assignment. On outside runs such as the 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 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 in the passing game, and to contain the rusher on rushing plays.
There are two general schemes for defending against the pass:
  1. Man-to-man, where each eligible receiver is covered by a defensive back or a linebacker.
  2. Zone, where certain players (usually defensive backs and/or linebackers, though occasionally linemen as well) are assigned an area on the field (Flat, Hook, Curl and Deep) that they are to cover.

Common types of coverage:

  1. Cover Zero - Strict man-to-man coverage with no help from safeties (usually a blitz play with at least five men crossing the line of scrimmage)
  2. 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.
  3. Cover Two - Zone coverage with the safeties playing deep and covering half the field each. Can be Cover 2 man, where every receiver is covered by a defensive player, or Cover 2 Zone (Also know as Tampa 2), where CB covers Flat zone, OLB Hook Zone and MLB Curl Zone.
  4. Cover Three - Zone coverage as above, but with extra help from Strong Safety/Cornerback, so that each player covers one-third of a deep zone.
  5. 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.
a running play in which the running back will take a step in the apparent direction of the play (ie, the direction the line is moving), 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), but not necessarily. 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 him.
  1. 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 ground, making them unable to pursue a running back for the short time needed for the back to find a gap in the defense. The technique is somewhat controversial, as it carries a risk of serious leg injuries to the blocked defenders.
The San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s and early 90's were noted for their cut-blocking (and leg-whipping, which is illegal), a tactic that was later adopted in mid-90's by the NFL's Denver Broncos. The Broncos gained a degree of notoriety for their cut-blocking techniques (often called "dirty" play by their opponents) which produced the NFL's best rushing attack for a decade, but also resulted in several defensive players opponents of the Broncos being injured by cut blocks. In a Monday Night Football game in 2004, defensive lineman Anthony Williams of the Cincinnati Bengals was lost to the season on a block (by the Broncos tackle George Foster), and in 2005, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Paul Spicer was badly injured on block by Broncos tackle Matt Lepsis. Responding to the criticism, in 2004 Broncos coach Mike Shanahan showed local reporters some NFL game film (only seen and used by coaches) that demonstrated how nearly every team in the NFL uses cut-blocking.


dead ball 
a ball which is no longer in play.
defensive back 
a cornerback or safety position on the defensive team; commonly defends against wide receivers on passing plays. Generally there are 4 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. Also known as Rush.
defensive tackle (DT)
a player position on defense on the inside of the defensive line and which principal function is to contain the run. When a defensive tackle lines up directly across from the center, he is known as a nose tackle, often the heaviest player on the defense. When a defensive tackle lines up between offensive guard OG and Offensive tackle OT, he is known as a 3-gap technique tackle.
defensive team 
the team that begins a play from scrimmage not in possession of the ball.
delay of game
a 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. Penalty: 5 yards.
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 the presumed ball carrier by the center. Contrast with an indirect snap play in which the ball is first handed to the quarterback, who will then pass or hand it to the eventual ball carrier. Also used to refer to formations that use a direct snap, such as the single wing.
a play in which the ball hand off to the running back and 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 2 tight ends & 2 wingbacks in which the snap is tossed by the center between his legs to the quarterback or halfback moderately deep in the backfield.
double wing(ed)-T 
a formation with 2 tight ends & 2 wingbacks in which the center hands the ball to the quarterback, who holds his hands between the legs of the center.
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, and 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 or after certain penalties.

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 himself. Contrast with scramble
  • A continuous set of offensive plays gaining substantial yardage and several first downs, usually leading to a scoring opportunity.
  • 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.
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 receivers 
players who may legally touch a forward pass. On the passer's team, these are: the ends (see below), the backs, and (except in the NFL) one player in position to take a hand-to-hand snap, i.e. a T quarterback; provided the player's shirt 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.
an illegal action by a player: to cross the line of scrimmage and make 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/moves into the backfield as the ball is snapped to take the handoff and runs around the opposite end from where he 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" below.

down box: The post used with the chain gang to mark the line of scrimmage and designate the current down.


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. A 5-yard penalty was once enforced, but was eliminated in the 2008 NFL's Owners Meeting.
false start 
The sudden movement of the offense in an effort to draw the defense offsides.
fair catch 
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, if he gains possession of the ball it is dead immediately and opponents will receive a fifteen yard penalty for hitting him.
fantasy football (American) 
A game in which the participants (called "owners") each draft on their own or with the aid of software[3] 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 
score of 3 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: "good field position" would mean the offense has less distance to cover.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 half back is lined up about 7 yard deep, and the fullback is lined up about 5 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 Strong I Slot Right, in which the halfback is lined up 7 yards deep behind the quarterback, the fullback is 5 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 doesn't 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, 5 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.
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 kick 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. These are comparatively uncommon. If a team is close enough, 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, or if the team is trailing by a significant amount (likelihood of such a try increasing as it gets later in the game).
four-point stance
a down lineman's stance with four points on the ground, in other words, his two feet and his 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).
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.
a ball that a player accidentally lost possession of; in Canadian football the term includes muffs.


a surface in space marked by a structure of two upright posts 18 feet 6 inches apart extending above a horizontal crossbar whose top edge 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
the end zone in Canadian professional football.
goal line
the front of the end zone.
either (a) the field of play; a football field; or (b) the game itself, now often used to distinguish among football (soccer), rugby union, rugby league, and American 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. See also Gridiron football
OG one of two player positions on offense — see linemen.
Term for a quarterback who plays with an aggressive and decisive manner by throwing deep, risky passes. These quarterbacks usually possess the strong arm needed to throw deep effectively.
The widest player on the line in a punting formation.


Hail Mary
a long pass play, thrown towards a group of receivers near 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.
halfback (HB)
a player position on offense. Also known as a tailback.
halfback option play
a trick play in which the halfback has the option to throw a pass or run
halo violation
From 1983 until the end of the 2002 season, in the NCAA (college football) the halo rule was a foul for interference with the opportunity to catch a kick. The so called halo rule stated that no player of the kicking team may be within two yards of a receiving team player positioned to catch a punt or kickoff (before that person has touched the ball). The rule was abolished beginning in the 2003 season.
In a hand-off, the quarterback can hand the ball to the running back
(also known as backward pass) a player's handing of a live ball to another player. The hand-off goes either backwards or laterally, as opposed to a forward pass. Sometimes called a "switch" in touch football. (Note different usage of term from its rugby meaning.)
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 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 and punt the ball away
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.
a player listed in a roster or depth chart as a fullback but with better athletic / pass-catching abilities and playing as a hybrid of a fullback and a tight end
a term used by the Penn State football team to refer to the strong safety.
synonym of "snap" - the handoff or pass from the center that begins a play from scrimmage.
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.
there are two kinds of holding: offensive holding, illegally blocking a player from the opposing team by grabbing and holding his uniform or body; and 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)
Home and away
a method of scheduling opponents, such that the two teams play one game at each team's home stadium. In college football, conferences such as the Big12, where a team does not play all the other teams each year, use a "home and away" schedule to play an opponent two years in a row and then rotate to another opponent. Teams also use this method to schedule non-conference opponents of roughly equal skill so that ticket revenue is split evenly. When scheduling teams of a lower calibre, the higher-rated team usually plays at home and provides a cash payout to the other team.
hook and lateral (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. One of the most famous uses of this play was by Boise State in its epic 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.
an on-field gathering of members of a team in order to secretly communicate instructions for the upcoming play.
Hurry-Up Offense
An offensive strategy designed to gain as much yardage as possible 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.


I formation
A formation that includes a fullback and tailback lined up with the fullback directly in front of the tailback. If a third back is in line, this is referred to as a “full house I” or “Maryland I.” If the third back is lined up along side the fullback, it is referred to as a “Power I.”
illegal formation
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.
illegal motion
On offense, a player may be in motion but cannot be going forward at the time of the snap (except in Arena football where one player is allowed to do so), and a lineman must be set for one second before the snap. Otherwise it is an illegal motion.
illegal shift
On offense, only one person is allowed to be in motion at the snap. If not, it is an illegal shift.
incomplete pass
a forward pass of the ball which no player legally caught.
inbounds lines
the hash marks.
indirect snap
a play in which the ball is handed to the quarterback rather than thrown directly to the ballcarrier by the center as in a direct snap play. So named because the quarterback acts as an intermediary in relaying the ball to the ballcarrier. Also used to refer to formations that use such a snap, as most modern formations do. Indirect snap formations exploded in popularity after World War II.
ineligible receiver
Certain players on the offense are not allowed to catch passes. For example, in most situations offensive linemen cannot be receivers and they may cause their team to be penalized if they catch the ball. An exception is if the ball has already been tipped by a different player. In six-man football all players are eligible receivers.
  1. of a player's path: relatively close (in reference to the sides of the field) to where the ball was snapped from. Thus, a ballcarrier's path in crossing the neutral zone may be said to be "inside" of an opponent, or an "inside run" in general, and a rushing defensive player may be said to put on an "inside move" or "inside rush".
  2. of the movement of the ball between players: directed toward a player who cuts between a player in the backfield who throws or hands the ball and the place from which it was snapped. Thus, an "inside pass" or "inside handoff". An "inside reverse" (sometimes called a scissors play) is a reverse play via an inside handoff.
intentional grounding
A type of illegal forward pass; thrown without an intended receiver and no chance of completion to any offensive player, for the sole purpose of conserving time or loss of yardage. This foul costs the offense a loss of down and 10 yards. If it occurs 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage, then the 10 yards is taken from the spot of the foul. If the foul is committed in the end zone the penalty is a safety. Intentional grounding is not called in the case of a spike after a hand to hand snap or if under NFL or NCAA rules, the quarterback was outside the tackle box, (the imaginary area between each tackle) at the time of the pass, provided that the ball travels at least to the line of scrimmage. The Tackle Box is also known as the Pocket. nfl rules
the legal catching of a forward pass thrown by an opposing player.


Interior Linebacker (ILB) of the 3-4 formation, that plays in the weak side of the formation. Also know as Mo.
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 (the New England Patriots use Mike Vrabel this way - he has 6 career regular season TDs) or 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.


as a verb, to strike the ball deliberately with the foot; as a noun, such an action producing a punt, place kick, or drop kick
kicker (K)
player who specializes in placekicking (i.e. field goals and kick offs).
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.
a low risk play in which the player in possession of the ball kneels down after receiving the snap, ending the play. Used to run out the clock. (Also called "take a knee".) Most commonly, the quarterback will down the ball immediately after the snap in the time after the two-minute warning. Another notable situation is for a player to give up a touchdown run, take a knee to run down the clock because the opposition has no timeouts left, then they can keep the ball, run down the ball and preserve the lead. Most recent example was Brian Westbrook vs. Dallas Cowboys.


see backward pass
a player who has been awarded a "letter" for excellence in an activity, especially a varsity sport. The specific requirements vary by school and by sport.[4][5]
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 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 1 to 6 yards behind the defensive linemen and are the most versatile players on the field because they can defend both run and pass defense or called to blitz. There are two types of LB: Middle Linebacker (MLB) and Outside Linebackers (OLB). In 3-4 formation Outside Linebacker (OLB) may be designated as a "rush linebacker", rushing the passer on almost every play.
a defensive or offensive position on the line of scrimmage.
  • On offense, the player snapping the ball is the center. The players on either side of him are the guards, and the players to the outside of him 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 5 or 6 linemen, the inner most linemen are known as guards. This is rare in professional football except for goal-line defense, but is sometimes seen in high school or college.
live ball
any ball that is in play, whether it is 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.
loose ball
any ball that is in play and not in a player's possession. This includes a ball in flight during a backward or forward pass.
lost gems
A term coined for undrafted free agents that have played well, much like steals, but steals have been drafted, lost gems never did, so they were signed after 'Mr Irrelevant' was drafted. Notable examples are Kurt Warner, Jake Delhomme, Aaron Stecker, Greg Camarillo.


man coverage
same as man-to-man coverage
a player on offense who is moving backwards or parallel to the line of scrimmage just before 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.
man-to-man coverage
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 coverage.
margin of victory
the total difference in points in a game, expressed as possessed by the winning team.
Marty Ball
a conservative gameplan which involves an offense based around the use of halfbacks with use of the passing game only to advance the running game, and a great emphasis on defense. Popularized term for Marty Schottenheimer's approach to coaching.
An I formation with three running backs aligned behind the quarterback in a straight line.
max protect
a modification used on pass plays (usually combined with a shotgun formation) which keeps the tight end and both backs in behind the line of scrimmage to pass protect rather than run a pass route. This is used in obvious blitzing situations to give the quarterback "maximum protection" in the pocket. Although good for holding off a blitz, it leaves the quarterback with only two receivers to throw to (and therefore only two players for the secondary to defend). Some of the logic behind this play might stem from a player's supposed lack of defensibility: when a receiver (such as Randy Moss) or quarterback-receiver duo (such as the historic Joe Montana-and-Jerry Rice) is of the caliber that a completion is likely even when the receiver is closely guarded by defenders. Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs is known for having used a two tight end formation to protect his QB from the nearly unstoppable blitzer Lawrence Taylor.[6][7]
Mike (MLB)
the middle linebacker in 4-3 formation. In the 3-4 formation Mike is the Interior Linebacker(ILB) that play in the strong side of the formation. Mike has the responsibility to defend the interior gaps and the Curl Zone. Mike is the leader of the defense and has to be as bright as Quarterback because often he calls the audibles on defense.
Mr. Irrelevant
The final player that is drafted within a class of draftees.
Also known as Jack. The Interior Linebacker (ILB), 3-4 formation, that plays in the weak side of the formation.
The movement of offensive players prior to the snap.
loose ball that is dropped or mishandled while the player is attempting to gain possession.
muffed punt
occurs when there is an "uncontrolled touch" of the football after it is punted. May be recovered but not advanced by the kicking team.


National Football League (NFL)
the largest professional American football league, with 32 teams.
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
principal governing body of college sports, including college football
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
another governing body of college sports, including college football, whose member schools tend to be smaller than those of the NCAA
neutral zone
the region between the lines of scrimmage or between the free kick restraining lines
the National Football League
NFL Europa
the NFL's former 6-team European spring league, which folded after its 2007 season.
nickel back
an extra, or fifth, defensive back. Named after the coin, worth five cents. Popularized by the Miami Dolphins in the 1970s, now common.
no good
unsuccessful. Often said of an unsuccessful field goal attempt.
no-huddle offense
a tactic wherein the offense quickly forms near the line of scrimmage without huddling before the next play.
nose tackle
a tackle in a 3-man defensive line who lines up "opposite the center's nose".


offensive team
the team with possession of the ball
  • 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 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 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 back may either pass or run
Option offense
  • an offense heavily relying upon the option run and variations thereof.
opposite of inside


Point After Touchdown. See try.
the group of players on the field for a given play. For example, the Nickel Package substitutes a cornerback for either a linebacker or a defensive lineman (the latter is referred to as a 3-3-5 Nickel), or the Jumbo package substitutes a wide receiver with a tight end.
a particularly hard block that leaves the blocked player lying flat on the field. This statistic is not recorded in NFL, but in NFL computer games, they are the statistics used to determine who is a good blocker.
Catching a pass
pass interference
when a player illegally hinders an eligible receiver's opportunity to catch forward pass.
passer rating
(also 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.
passing play
a play in which a forward pass is made.
pass protection
the use of blocking by the offensive line and backs to allow the quarterback time and space to throw the ball.
use of one player to block a second player. Also used to describe an interception of a pass, e.g. a pass by the offense can be "picked off" by the defense. A "pick 6" is a nickname for an interception returned for a touchdown.
pistol formation
a hybrid version of the shotgun in which the quarterback lines up about 3 yards behind the center and the running back lines up directly behind the quarterback.
place kick
kicking the ball from where it has been placed stationary on the ground or, where legal, on a tee.
see down.
the plan of action the offensive team has for each snap, for example a running play or pass play
play action
a tactic in which the quarterback fakes either a handoff or a throw in order to draw the defense away from the intended offensive method
play clock
a timer used to increase the pace of the game between plays. The offensive team must snap the ball before the time expires, or receive a 5 yard delay of game foul. Currently, the NFL uses 40 seconds (60 seconds after a time out).
playing field
see field of play
an area on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage, where the offensive linemen attempt to prevent the defensive players from reaching the quarterback during passing plays
pooch kick
a punt or kickoff that is deliberately kicked with less than full force. It is often used in an attempt to limit the ability of the return team to return the ball.[8][9]
a place where a player plays relative to teammates, and/or a role filled by that player
(a) having the ball on offense for a number of downs, ultimately resulting in either a score, a turn-over, or the end of the half. (b) physical control of the ball after a pass or fumble.
In the NFL, games (in or around August) that do not count toward the final team standings. These games are used to pick final team rosters. Star players often have limited playing time during preseason.
prevent defense
a defensive strategy that utilizes deep zone coverage in order to prevent a big pass play from happening down field, usually at the expense of giving up yards at shorter distances. Often used against Hail Mary plays, or at the end of the game when the defending team is protecting a lead. Disparaged by many fans. John Madden, legendary player, coach, and commentator, has been quoted as saying, "The only thing a prevent defense prevents is a win."
pro set
offensive formation using two backs, lined up side-by-side 2-3 yards behind the quarterback, with one on either side of the quarterback
a term used to describe an offensive lineman who, instead of blocking the player in front of him, steps back and moves down the line("pulls") to block another player, usually in a "trap" or "sweep."
pump fake
when the quarterback fakes a pass and keeps the ball in his hand in an attempt to fool the defensive team.
a kick in which the ball is dropped and kicked before it reaches the ground. Used to give up the ball to the opposition after offensive downs have been used, as far down the field as possible.
punt return
when a punt is fielded by the receiving team and advanced for better field position. The punt returner generally attempts to move the ball as far up the field as possible. Alternatively, they can signal for a fair catch or allow the ball to go into the end zone for a touchback.
punter (P)
a kicker who specializes in punting as opposed to place kicking.


one of four periods of play in a standard American football game. A quarter lasts for fifteen game clock minutes in most adaptations of American football but may take longer in elapsed time, since the clock does not run continuously. A tie at the end of four quarters may result in overtime.
quarterback (QB)
an offensive player who lines up behind the center, from whom he takes the snap.
Quarterback controversy
a public outcry from fans or the media when a starting quarterback(sometimes injured and old) is performing under par and the back-up quarterback is performing better or beyond expectation. Examples in history include San Francisco's Steve Young and Joe Montana, Washington's Doug Williams and Jay Schroeder, New England's Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe, and Buffalo's Rob Johnson and Doug Flutie.
Quarterback rating
see Passer rating.
Quarterback scramble
see Scramble.
quarterback sneak
a play most commonly used in very short yardage or goal line situations. The Quarterback quickly snaps the ball and runs right behind or beside the center.
quarter defense
defensive formation with seven defensive backs, three down linemen and one linebacker.
quick kick
an unexpected punt.

post pattern: Sprint 8 to 10 yards, fake, look back at QB, then sprint deep at 45 degrees, the opposite pattern is the flag route Pop Warner League: youth football leagues similar to Little League Baseball leagues


Short for Run After Catch. Amount of yardage gained after successful pass reception. A quarterback's length of pass is the distance from where the line of scrimmage is, to where the receiver caught the ball, plus RAC, and can then also include YAC. YAC is the distance the ball carrier ran after contact with a defender is/was made. Screen plays boosts RAC effectively due to the short passes, and the receiver has to run to increase yardage. Not to be confused with YAC (Yardage after Contact) where the ball carrier (receiver in this example) gains additional yardage after contact with/by a defender; often a measure of strength/toughness.
when a player catches (receives) the ball.
red flag
a weighted red marker thrown onto the field by a coach to tell the officials that he wants a certain play reviewed. Sometimes referred to as "challenge flag."
red zone
the area between the 20 yard line and the goal of the defensive team.
referee (R)
the official who directs the other officials on the field, He is 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.
restraining line
a team's respective line of scrimmage
at a free kick, the line the ball is to be kicked from (for the kicking team), or a line 10 yards in advance of that (for the receiving team)
the act of progressing the ball down the field after a change of possession, such as a kick or interception. (E.g. "He returned the interception for a touchdown".)
return yards
are those 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.
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. Contrast to 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.
Road game
a game played in the opponent's home stadium. Games at neutral sites are generally not considered road games although they are "away from home".
a hybrid safety that has duel responsibilities as a defensive back and a Linebacker. This is more commonly seen in college football more so than NFL, CFL, or AFL football. A perfect example this in use is in West Virginia's or Air Forces's 3-3-5 schemes.
run and shoot
an offensive philosophy 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 & Gun'.
running back (RB)
a player position on offense. Although the term usually refers to the halfback or tailback, fullbacks are also considered runningbacks.
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 quarterback kneels.
running play
a play where the offense attempts to advance the ball without a forward pass.
run out of the gun
running the ball out of the shotgun formation, which is primarily a pass formation.
1. an attempt to tackle or hurry a player before he can throw a pass or make a kick.
2. a running play.
rushing average
(also 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 to go out of bounds, behind the line of scrimmage on an apparent intended forward pass play. The term gained currency ca. 1970.
In Madden NFL series, a sack also mean, for an offensive lineman, being flattened by the defensive lineman, therefore unable to hold off his defensive tackle or defensive end, the worst that could happen is to contributing to conceding an interception or a quarterback sack.
  1. a player position on defense — see free safety and strong safety.
  2. a method of scoring (worth two points) by downing an opposing ballcarrier in his own end zone, forcing the opposing ballcarrier 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.
    A safety scored during a try scores 2 points (1 point in the NFL) and is followed by a kickoff as for any other try.
safety valve
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.
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 himself.
screen pass
a short forward pass to a receiver who has blockers in front of him. 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.
see: play from scrimmage
refers to the defensive "backfield", specifically the safeties and cornerbacks. Primarily responsible for pass coverage/defense.
shield punt
when 7 men line up on the line of scrimmage and immediately start to cover the punt while 3 offensive players stay to guard the punter.
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
shotgun formation
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 the center.
  1. one of the lines marking each side of the field
  2. as adjective: on the field near a sideline
side zone
the area between a hash mark and a sideline
single wing
a term used to describe 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.
single wing(ed)-T
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 up field 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 before turning.
a particularly gruesome tackle or hit.
The area between a split end and 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.
the handoff or pass from the center that begins a play from scrimmage.
snap count
the "hut" sound the quarterback will use to signal for the snap to be made.
an offensive play in which the quarterback, immediately on receiving the snap dives forward with the ball. The play is used when a team needs a very short gain to reach either the goal line or the line to gain.
special teams
the units that handle kickoffs, punts, free kicks and field goal attempts. Often manned by second and third team players.
a play in which the quarterback throws the ball at the ground immediately after the snap. Technically an incomplete pass, it stops the clock. Note that a spike is not considered intentional grounding if it is done with the quarterback under center and immediately after the snap; the only "penalty" is that one down is sacrificed. Running a spike play presumes there will be at least one play by the same team immediately afterward; occasionally there is so little time left in the half or game that a quarterback whose first choice was to spike the ball may have to run a regular play instead, because the spike would run the clock out. There is at least one case of a quarterback in the NFL doing just that, although that quarterback's regular play failed. (In the January 1998 Rose Bowl, Ryan Leaf spiked the ball and inadvertently ran the clock out on that play.)
T formation in which the gaps between offensive guards & tackles are nearly twice as large as the gaps between the center & the guards.
the distance between the feet of adjacent offensive linemen. Said to be wide, if there is a large gap between players, or narrow, if the gap is small.
split end
a player position on offense. A receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage, several yards outside the offensive linemen. The term is now rarely used in American Football, having been long since replaced by the wide receiver or wideout, with no distinction between whether the receiver is on the line or not.
squib kick
a type of kickoff in which the ball is intentionally kicked low to the ground, typically bouncing on the ground a few times before being picked up. This is done in the hopes of preventing a long return, as the ball is often picked up by one of the upmen as opposed to the designated kickoff returner.
a player who is the first to play his position within a given game or season. Depending on the position and the game situation, this player may be replaced or share time with one or more players later in the game. As an example, a quarterback may start the game but be replaced by a backup quarterback if the game becomes one-sided. A running-back may start the game but share time with another running back in specific situations or to provide the opportunity for rest during the game.
In case of players, they are the opposite of a bust, they are either:
  1. Players that are drafted later (or later than expected) in the draft or not drafted at all, but ended up being great players, for example: many of the Buffalo Bills such as Jason Peters, Brian Moorman, and Trent Edwards. Perhaps the modern-day archetypal example would be Tom Brady.
  2. Unexpected players that was drafted into the first round, most notably punter Ray Guy, when normally, even a great punter or kicker would never be drafted earlier than mid- to late-round two.
the pole attached to the end of the 10-yard chain that is used by the chain crew to measure for a new series of downs — i.e. the line to gain a new "first down".
stiff-arm or straight-arm
a ballcarrier warding off a would-be tackler by pushing them away with a straight arm.
strong i
a formation wherein the tailback is lined up deep directly behind the quarterback, and the fullback is lined up offset to the strong side of the formation.
strong safety (SS)
a kind of safety on defense, as opposed to a free safety. This is a central defensive back; originally, the term indicated that he lined up on the strong side of the field and covered the tight end. However, the modern usage of the term now indicates a central defensive back with responsibility for run and pass support, slightly favoring run support.
strong side
simplistically speaking, the side of the field (left or right) that has the most players, but it depends on the formations of the teams. When a team uses one tight end, the strong side is the side of the field where the tight end lines up. If the offensive package uses no tight end, or more than one tight end, the strong side is the side of the field with the most offensive players on or just behind the line of scrimmage.
A tackle of a ball carrier on a running play, behind the line of scrimmage. Compare to sack.
a tactic used by defensive linemen in which they switch roles in an attempt to get past the blockers. Both defenders will start with power rushes, with the stunting defender getting more of a push. The other lineman will then go around him, ideally using him as a pick to get free from his blocker.
a running play in which several blockers lead a running back on a designed play to the outside. Depending on the number of blockers and the design of the play this is sometimes referred to as a "power sweep" or "student-body-right" (or left).


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 the white (#7, #11) are tackling the ball carrier (#10)
take a knee
see kneel.
tackle box
the area between where the two offensive tackles line up prior to the snap.
tackle eligible
a lineman that lines himself up in the position of an eligible receiver.
tailback (TB)
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.
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.
three-point stance
a down lineman's stance with three points on the ground, in other words, his two feet and one of his hands
three-point conversion
A novelty play, in leagues such as the XFL and the proposed New USFL, that is nearly identical to the two-point conversion. A play that advances the ball into the end zone from the 10-yard line (as opposed to the 2 or 3 yard line in a two-point conversion) earns 3 points.
tight end (TE)
a player position on offense, often known as Y receiver, lines up on the line of scrimmage, next to the offensive tackle. Tight ends are used as blockers during running plays, and either run a route or stay in to block during passing plays.
time of possession
the amount of time one team has the ball in its possession relative to the other team. Since there are 60 minutes in a non-overtime game, and one team or another always has possession of the ball, the two teams divide up the time with which they have the ball out of the 60 minutes. If one team has it 40 minutes the other will have it 20 and so forth. A time of possession advantage is seen as a positive thing and is highly correlative with a win or loss. Teams that dominate time of possession usually have good defenses (that can keep the opposing team's offense from mounting many long drives) and solid offenses (usually with good running games as running plays keep the clock running more often than passing plays).
total offense
is a statistic that combines yards rushing and yards passing.
the act of downing the ball behind one's own goal line on a kickoff or punt after the ball had been propelled over the goal by the opposing team. This can be accomplished by one of several ways: the receiving team player catching the ball in the endzone and dropping down to one knee; by the ball touching any part of the endzone; the ball carrying out of the endzone in any way without being possessed by either team. After a touchback, the team that downed it gets the ball at their own 20-yard line.
a play worth six points, accomplished by gaining legal possession of the ball in the opponent's end zone or by the ball crossing the plane of the opponent's goal line with legal possession by a player. It also allows the team a chance for one extra point by kicking the ball or a two point conversion; see "try" below.
a basic blocking pattern in which a defensive lineman is allowed past the line of scrimmage, only to be blocked at an angle by a "pulling" lineman. Designed to gain a preferred blocking angle and larger hole in the line.
true freshman
a player who is one year out of high school. This contrasts with a redshirt freshman who has practiced with the team for one year but who has not played yet in any games.
trick play
Any of a variety of plays that use deception to catch the other team offguard. Famous trick plays include the fake punt (kick), "Statue of Liberty", flea-flicker, center-eligible, surprise on-side kick and halfback pass plays. These plays are often dangerous, as most upper level teams have too much skill and experience to be fooled for long.
a formation in which 3 wide receivers are lined up on the same side of the field, with one on the LOS and usually the others flanking the WR one yard off the LOS (as in Slot or Wing, though only one yard off the WR, each way.
A try is a scrimmage down which is neither timed nor numbered, awarded to a team who has just scored a 6 point touchdown, from close to their opponent's goal line (2-yard line in the NFL, 3 yard line NCAA & NFHS). The try allows the offense (and in some codes, the defense) to score an additional 1 or 2 points. Also called "try-for-point", "conversion", "convert" (Canadian), "extra point(s)", "point(s) after (touchdown)" or PAT.
turn the ball over on downs
When a team uses all four of their downs without either scoring or making a first down, they must relinquish the ball to the other team
The loss of the ball by one team to the other team. This is usually the result of a fumble or an interception.
a player that plays 2 or more positions because he is a very gifted athlete who could not possess enough size for one position or enough quickness for another.
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" above


unbalanced line
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.
under center
refers to the quarterback lining up directly behind the center to take the snap. Contrast with shotgun formation.
a player who enters the NFL Draft but is not selected by any team in the draft's seven rounds. Undrafted players are free agents and can sign with whatever team he so chooses if that team is willing to take them.
a player, in a scrimmage kick (punts and field goals) or kneel formations, who lines up behind the offensive line. An upback's primary duty is to block oncoming defensive players in a kick formation and to recover any fumbles in a kneel formation. They can receive direct snaps, and upbacks are eligible receivers.
during a kickoff, every player on the return team is called an "upman" with the exception of the one or two designated kickoff returners, who stand furthest away from the starting point of the kicking team.
utility player
a player capable of playing multiple positions


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).


in college, a non-scholarship player. I.e., a player who is not receiving a scholarship to play football.
weak i
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 the formation.
weak side
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. Was invented in Cincinnati under coach Paul Brown in the mid 1970s. Is now widely used in the NFL but originally made popular by San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh. The original west coast offense was actually a term used by Don Coryell and after a Sports Illustrated article that accidentally confused Coryell's title with the offense being used by Walsh, the title stuck and Coryell's offense was known instead as "Air Coryell" through the 1980s. The basis of Walsh's offense is to use short routes for receivers, delivering the ball on time and accurately and using short passes to replace runs. It relies heavily on RAC yardage, using many eligible receivers on plays to maximize quarterback options, and spreading the ball to many targets to keep the defense confused.
wheel route
a pass route in which the receiver, often a running back, travels parallel along the line of scrimmage and then takes off up the field.
adjective meaning towards the sidelines. Example: A kick that is "wide right" has missed to the right side of the field from the perspective of the offense.
wide receiver (WR)
a player position on offense. He is split wide (usually about 10 yards) from the formation and plays on the line of scrimmage as a split end (X) or one yard off as a flanker (Z).
the weak side linebacker
The ratio of wins to loses, usually expressed as a pair of numbers. For example, 6-1 means 6 wins and 1 loss.
wing back (WB)
a player position in some offensive formations (Flexbone). Lines up just outside the tight end and one yard off the line of scrimmage. A versatile position that can be used as a receiver, blocker, and/or runner of reverses.
a formation involving three running backs lined up behind the quarterback in the shape of a Y, similar to the shape of a wishbone.


Term used in play calling that usually refers to the split end, or the wide receiver that lines up on the line of scrimmage. For example, "Split Right Jet 529 X Post" tells the X-receiver to run a post route.


Short for Yards After Contact. Amount of yardage gained after initial contact with/from a defender. Not to be confused with RAC (Run after Catch): A quarterback's length of pass is the distance from where the line of scrimmage is, to where the receiver caught the ball, plus RAC, and can then also include YAC. YAC is the distance the ball carrier ran after the initial contact is/was made with/by defender. Screen pass plays boosts RAC effectively due to the short passes, and the receiver has to run to increase yardage.
Term usually used in offensive play calling to refer to the tight end. For example, "Buffalo Right 534 Boot Y Corner" tells the Y-receiver to run a corner route.
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.
The amount of yards gained or lost during a play, game, season, or career.
Yards gained
(see yardage)
Yards from scrimmage
The amount of yards gained by the offensive team advancing the ball from the line of scrimmage.
Yellow flag
a weighted yellow marker thrown onto the field by the officials to signify that a foul has been committed by either the offensive or defensive team (or sometimes both). Commonly referred to only as "flag."


a term used in offensive play calling that usually refers to the flanker, or the wide receiver that 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.
a colloquial term for an official, referring to their black-and-white striped uniform.
zone defense
a defense in which players who are in pass coverage cover zones of the field, instead of 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 tail back 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 himself.

See also


  1. ^ "Building America's Team". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved on 2007-01-29.
  2. ^ "Describing 'The Innovator'". The Sporting News. Retrieved on 2007-01-29.
  3. ^ The Coordinator - Fantasy Football Draft Software
  4. ^ "Letterwinner". Encarta. Retrieved on 2007-01-05.
  5. ^ "Ahtletics Policies Manual". University of Delaware. Retrieved on 2007-01-05.
  6. ^ The Polian Corner,, September 20, 2006, accessed March 25, 2007.
  7. ^ Charles, Nick. Taylor made: 'L.T.' has a date with Canton, destiny,, August 12, 1999, accessed May 25, 2007.
  8. ^ Template error: argument title is required. 
  9. ^ Mallory, Bill and Don Nehlen. Complete Guide to Special Teams. American Football Coaches Association. ISBN 0-7360-5291-7. 



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Published - January 2009

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