What are the 11 Defense Positions in Football?
These are the 11 Defense Positions in Football for the most common and best Youth Football Defenses in American Football. The purpose of the Defense is to stop the Offense from scoring by tackling the Offensive running backs and or intercepting passes or recovering fumbles. Most youth football players prefer to play Defense because it is so much fun. Everyone is involved on the Defense vs Offense it is primarily the RBs that get all the glory. On Defense any Defensive player can make a huge play.
- Defensive Guard
- Defensive Tackle
- Defensive End
- Outside Linebacker
- Inside Linebacker
- Middle Linebacker
- Rover / Monster / Nickel
- Free Safety
- Strong Safety
Below is a hybrid Defense diagramming the most common defense positions in football. There are Defensive Line positions in orange, Linebacker positions in Red and the Defensive Secondary positions in blue. I’ll explain the defense positions in football for American FB below.
Defensive Positions in Football Diagram
Defensive Line Positions
The Defensive Line is responsible for controlling the Line of Scrimmage. D-Linemen are very big and strong to control the Line of Scimmage.
The Noseguard is responsible for any A gap up the middle run. The NG position is usually played in an Odd Front Defense like the 5-3 Defense. They are usually aligned head up or just shaded on the Offensive Center in the 0 / A Gaps. The Noseguard is a very big and powerful Defensive lineman. He is usually playing a 2 gap technique and bullrushing Offensive lineman in a Double Team against the NG.
The Defensive Guard or Guards are very similar to the Noseguard. In a 62 Defense there are usually 2 DGs. They will usually be aligned in the A or B Gaps. They are responsible for runs up the middle. One of the DGs might be a quick linebacker type and the other built more like a Noseguard.
Defensive Tackles are responsible for Defending the space around the Offensive Tackles usually the C and D gaps. They are very important in Defending the Off-tackle play. They are also key in the pass rush. Both Odd and Even Defenses have Defensive Tackles. Some Defenses may call them Defensive Guards if they play a Noseguard and sometimes they may be called Defensive Ends if there are Outside Linebackers that have contain responsibility.
The Defensive End is a hybrid player with defensive line and linebackers. In some Defenses the DE will be the contain force player to turn outside runs inside. In other Defenses they may play more like a Defensive Tackle. They may be asked to drop back and play like a LB on certain plays. In the 62 Defense they could easily drop into Outside Linebackers in a 4-4 look. They are usually tall players with long arm length.
Linebacker Positions on Defense
The Linebackers are responsible for reading the Offensive running backs and filling gaps in the Defensive Line. Linebackers are very tough and great tacklers.
Middle Linebacker / Mike
The Mike or Middle Linebacker is usually one of the best overall Defensive players on the Defense. The MLB is strong, very tough and a great tackler. The Mike linebacker will usually control the A and B Gaps and have the short middle pass Zone over the middle. The Mike will read one of the RBs and or the Guards. The Mike is usually part of an Odd Defense like the 5-3 or 5-2. Many players want to play this top defense positions in football.
Inside Linebackers are much like having two Mike Middle Linebackers. They are usually in a 62 Defense or a 4-4 Defense with Outside Linebackers flanking them. They are usually responsible for the open Gap not covered by the Defensive line, usually the ABC gaps. Playing LB is one of the most exciting defense positions in football.
Outside Linebackers play outside the Middle Linebacker and Inside Linebackers usually protecting the C and D gaps and may have force contain responsibility. They are usually faster and lighter than the inside LBs. They also may have more pass coverage responsibilities than the Inside Linebackers. The OLB position playing outside contain is one of the hardest defense positions in football.
Rover / Monster / Nickel LBs
The Rover, Monster or Nickel Linebackers are hybrid of Outside Linebackers and Defensive Secondary Backs. In some 52 Monster or Rover type Defenses the player might be more Linebacker, especially at younger ages. In a Nickel Defense they might be a another Strong Safety or a Linebacker dependent upon the play call substitution. They will Blitz and or drop back for coverage. The Monster back is one of the most fun defense positions in football.
Defensive Secondary Positions
The Defensive Secondary is responsible for pass Defense and assisting with the run game. DBs must be very fast, maybe the fastest defense positions in football.
Cornerbacks are 2 of the 3 main Defensive Back positions. They are responsible for pass coverage for fast outside receivers and also have run Defense responsibilities. Some say the CB defense position in football is the hardest to play. CBs are very fast and great at covering receivers in man coverage.
The Free Safety is the last line of the Defense. They are usually the main pass coverage Defensive back, especially at the younger youth football levels and the deep fast linebacker to save the long touchdown run. Many times the FS is reading the Quarterbacks eyes and shoulder and roaming free over the top until the play unfolds. Some youth football Coaches will argue that the Free Safety defense position in football should be played by your best Defensive player to stop any long TD runs.
The Strong Safety is usually the second deep back in the Secondary defense positions in football. They will have more run responsibilities than the FS. In some Defenses the SS will be more like a fast linebacker than a Defensive Back. He may also have more Man coverage or specific Zone coverages than the Free Safety that is allowed to roam freely to the hottest spot on the field.
Rover / Monster / Nickel
In some Defenses the Strong Safety might act as the Rover / Monster Defensive back acting much like a Nickel DB.
Check out the 11 Offensive Positions in Football.
Conclusion about Defense Positions in Football
Defense wins Championships. Many Coaches believe stacking your Defense with the best players is a great strategy. For youth football I make sure my DE/OLB contain players, Inside Linebackers, Cornerbacks and Defensive Tackles are very good players for these defense positions in football.
Here is an article on how I teach position names and hole numbering to youth football players.
I hope you enjoyed this youth football coaching article on American Defense Positions in Football. Leave me a comment below if I left something out or you find an error. Thanks!
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