Does football confuse you?

I study the game (American Football), and play the position of Quarterback & Safety. One day I will hopefully coach. I am going to explain the basics of football in a simple manner. This guide will be great for anybody who is confused by the concept, or any fan that may need to brush up on his/her knowledge.

Lets start with the field.

Learning the exact dimensions of the field is not necessarily that important, but it is good to have a basic knowledge of the field itself.
• The playing field is 100 yards long.
• It has stripes running across the field at five-yard intervals.
• There are shorter lines, called hash marks, marking each one-yard interval. (not shown)
• On each end of the playing field is an end zone (red section with diagonal lines) which extends ten yards.
• The total field is 120 yards long and 160 feet wide.
• Located on the very back line of each end zone is a goal post.
• The spot where the end zone meets the playing field is called the goal line.
• The yardage from the goal line is marked at ten-yard intervals, up to the 50-yard line, which is in the center of the field.

After reaching the 50-yard line, the yardage markers start to descend (40, 30, 20, 10) every ten yards until they reach the opposite goal line.



• Each game features two teams playing against each other.
• Each team is allowed 11 men on the field at a time. Any more than 11 could result in a penalty.
• Unlimited substitution is permitted, but players may only enter the field when the ball is dead.
• Each team is comprised of an offense, defense, and special teams.
• If team A has possession of the ball, they use their offensive team to attempt to advance the ball toward the opponents endzone.
• If team B has the ball, team A will use their defensive team to attempt to stop team B from advancing the ball.
• If a kicking play is expected, both teams will use their special teams.


Basic Positions on Offense

The player who receives the ball from the center at the start of each play before either handing it to the running back, throwing it to a receiver, or running with it himself.

The quarterback is usually the player in charge of running the offense on the field. He is also the guy that usually informs the offense of the play while in the huddle.

An offensive player who lines up in the backfield and generally is responsible for carrying the ball on run plays. A running back's primary role is to run with the football, he is also used as a receiver at times.

An offensive player who lines up in the offensive backfield and generally is responsible for run-blocking for the halfback and pass-blocking for the quarterback.
Fullbacks are usually bigger than halfbacks, and also serve as short-yardage runners.

Wide Receiver
An offensive player who lines up on or near the line of scrimmage, but split to the outside. His primary job is to catch passes from the quarterback.

Tight End
An offensive player who serves as a receiver and also a blocker. The tight end lines up beside the offensive tackle either to the right or to the left of the quarterback.

Offensive Tackle
A member of the offensive line. There are two tackles on every play, and they line up on the outside of the offensive guards.

Offensive Guard
A member of the offensive line. There are two guards on every play, and they line up on either side of the offensive center.

The offensive lineman who hikes (or snaps) the ball to the quarterback at the start of each play. The center lines up in the middle of the offensive line, between the offensive guards.


Basic Positions on Defense

Defensive End
A defensive player who lines up at the end of the defensive line. The job of the defensive end is to contain the running back on running plays to the outside, and rush the quarterback on passing plays.

Defensive Tackle
A defensive player who lines up on the interior of the defensive line. The duties of a defensive tackle include stopping the running back on running plays, getting pressure up the middle on passing plays, and occupying blockers so the linebackers can roam free.

Nose Tackle
The defensive player who lines up directly across from the center. Also known as:the nose guard, the primary responsibilities of the nose tackle are to stop the run and occupy the offensive lineman to keep them from blocking the linebackers.

A defensive player who lines up behind the defensive linemen and in front of the defensive backfield.
The linebackers are a team's second line of defense. Each team has two outside linebackers. In a 4-3 defense, teams have one inside linebacker, usually referred to as a middle linebacker. In a 3-4 defense teams have two inside linebackers.

A defensive back who generally lines up on the outside of the formation and is usually assigned to cover a wide receiver.

A defensive back who lines up in the secondary between, but generally deeper than the cornerbacks. His primary duties include helping the cornerbacks in pass coverage.


Positions on Special Teams

The members of the special teams who specialize in racing downfield to tackle the kick or punt returner. The gunners usually line up on the outside of the offensive line and are often double teamed by blockers.

The player who catches the snap from the center and places it down for the placekicker to attempt to kick it through the uprights of the goalpost. On an attempted field goal, the holder must catch the ball and put it into a good kicking position, ideally with the laces facing away from the kicker.

Kick Returner
A kick returner is the player that catches kickoffs and attempts to return them in the opposite direction. He is usually one of the faster players on the team, often a reserve wide receiver.

Long Snapper
The center position as it would be played on offense, but this player specializes in making longer snaps for punts and field goal attempts.
A long-snapper generally has to snap the ball seven-to-eight yards behind him with the accuracy that allows the holder or punter to handle the ball cleanly.

The player who kicks the ball on kickoffs, extra point attempts, and field goal attempts. A placekicker either kicks the ball while it's being held by a teammate or kicks it off a tee.

The player who stands behind the line of scrimmage, catches the long snap from the center, and then kicks the ball after dropping it toward his foot. The punter generally comes in on fourth down to punt the ball to the other team with the idea of driving the other team as far back as possible before they take possession of the ball.

Punt Returner
The job of a punt returner is to catch the ball after it has been punted and run it back toward the punting team's end zone.


Object of the game

• The object of the game is to outscore your opponent by advancing the football into their endzone for as many touchdowns (7 points) as possible while holding them to as few as possible. There are other ways of scoring, such as a field goal worth 3 points (By kicking the ball through the yellow goal), or a saftey worth 2 points. (By tackling the opponent holding the football in his endzone)  After each touchdown the scoring team has the opportunity to either kick a field goal for an extra point, or try to advance the ball back into the endzone for 2 points (Two-Point Conversion).


The basics of beginning a game

• Before each game, the captains from each team and the referee meet at the center of the field for the coin toss.
• The winner of the coin toss has the option of starting the game by kicking the ball to the other team or receiving the kickoff from the other team.
• The game begins when one of the teams kicks off to the other.
• The receiving team must catch the ball and try to advance it as far back toward the kicking team as possible.
• The play ends when the player with the ball is knocked to the ground (tackled), or makes it all the way to the kicking team's endzone (touchdown).
• The spot where the kick returner was tackled becomes the line of scrimmage. The line of scrimmage is a term for the place the ball is spotted before a play is run.
• Once this starting point is established, the offensive squad of the receiving team will come in and try to move the ball toward the opposition's end zone.


Down and Distance

What is Down and Distance?
Understanding down and distance is probably the biggest key to understanding football, so make sure you really understand this part before moving on to the next section.
• Basically, a down is a play. From the time the ball is snapped (put into play), to the time the play is whistled over by the officials, is considered one down.
• A team's offense is given four downs (plays) to move ten yards toward the opponent's end zone.
• Distance is the number of yards a team needs to get a new set of four downs.
• If they make the ten yards needed within four downs, they are given a new set of downs. This is called getting a first down.
• If they don't make it the required ten yards, the other team's offense takes possession of the ball.

An Example
• The first play of a series is called first-and-ten because it is the first down and ten yards are needed to receive a new set of four downs.
• Suppose on the first play, the team on offense picks up three yards. The next play would then be second-and-seven, because it is the second play of the set and they still need seven yards to get a first down.
• If they were to pick up six yards on the second play it would leave them one yard shy of the first down marker, therefore setting up a third-and-one situation. Third-and-one because it would be the third play of the series and they would still need one yard to get a first down.
• If the team with the ball can pick up one yard or more on the third-down play, then they will be given a first down, which means they get to start all over with a new set of four downs.
• A team can continue moving the football down the field as long as they continue to pick up first downs.

Fourth-Down Strategies
If a team fails to gain the required yardage on third down, several things could happen on fourth down:
• A team can elect to "go for it" on fourth down and try to pick up the remaining yardage, but they run the risk of turning the ball over to the other team if they do not get to the first down marker. If they do not get the required yardage, the other team takes  of the ball at the spot of the last tackle and now has four downs to move ten yards back in the other direction.
• The majority of the time, teams will elect to "punt" the ball away on fourth down. A punt is simply a form of kicking the ball that gives possession of the ball to the other team, but also pushes them back considerably farther away from the end zone.
• Another option is to kick a field goal. If a team feels they are close enough to kick the ball between the upright bars of the goal post in their opponent's endzone, they may attempt a field goal, which is worth three points when converted successfully.


I hope this information was useful!

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides
Choose a template