Football Glossary


2-point Conversion – One of the options a team has after scoring a touchdown. Instead of kicking a PAT for one point, the scoring team can attempt a 2-point Conversion, where they run an actual play. If successful, it’s worth two points.

2-point Stance – When a lineman is only standing on the line of scrimmage and doesn’t have either hand on the ground, they are standing in a 2-point Stance. The number of ‘points’ refers to the number of spots that the player is making contact with the ground; in this case, it’s only two points of contact (the feet).

3-Point Stance – When a lineman has one hand on the ground and is crouched over that hand before the play starts, that lineman is in a 3-point Stance. The number of ‘points’ refers to the number of spots that the player is making contact with the ground; in this case, it’s three points (both feet, and one hand).

4-Point Stance – When a lineman has both hands on the ground and is crouched over them before the play starts, that player is in a 4-point Stance. The number of ‘points’ refers to the number of spots that the player is making contact with the ground; in this case, it’s four points (both feet, both hands).

7-on-7 Drill – This is a drill used in practice that focuses exclusively on the passing game. On defense, there are no linemen involved, only different arrangements of linebackers, corners and safeties. On offense, the only lineman involved is the center, whose only function is to snap the ball to the quarterback. The purpose of the drill is twofold: on offense, to work on the passing game between the quarterback and running backs, tight end(s) and wide receivers; on defense, to work on different pass coverages.


All-purpose yards – The number of total yards gained by a player, including rushing yards, receiving yards, and kick/punt return yards.

Angle of Pursuit – The angle by which a would-be tackler approaches the ball carrier. The key with finding the right angle of pursuit is that the defensive player must determine the shortest path that will put him immediately in front of the ball carrier. Too far in front leaves the ball carrier room to maneuver; too far behind and it becomes much more difficult to make a tackle.

Artificial Turf – A type of field surface that uses synthetic material made to mimic the properties of grass, and rubber pellets to mimic the properties of dirt. Artificial turf is commonly found on in-door fields.

Audible – A quick play-calling change made by the quarterback after the huddle is broken and both teams have lined up to start a play. Audibles are usually called when the quarterback sees something in the defensive formation that tells him/her either that the chosen play won’t work, or that a different play would work better.

Automatic First Down – The result of some penalties where the non-offending team is automatically awarded a new set of four downs regardless of the result of the previous play. An automatic first down can be awarded after several different penalties, but the most common are roughing the passer/kicker, defensive holding, and pass interference.


Back Side – Starting from the center, it’s the side of the field opposite from where the ball carrier is running. For example: if a running back took a handoff and ran toward the right sideline, the back side would be the area of the field toward the left side line. Also called the ‘off side.’

Backfield – The area of the field behind the offensive line. The quarterback and running backs line up in the backfield before a play begins.

Backs – A general term referring to non-lineman players who play in the ‘back field’ on both sides of the ball. On offense it refers to quarterbacks and running backs; on defense it refers to corners and safeties.

Balanced Line – When there are an equal number of offensive linemen on both sides of the center, usually one guard and one tackle on each side. The opposite is an unbalanced line.

Ball Carrier – The player who possesses the ball at any time during live play is the ball carrier.

Beat – When the ball carrier (usually a receiver) makes it past a defender. For example, “That corner got beat down the sideline for a huge gain.”

Black(ed) out – In professional football, when a game occurs but does not receive television coverage.

Blind side – On offense, the side of the field that a quarterback turns his/her back to when dropping back for a pass. A right-handed quarterback would drop back and turn his/her body to the right, so the quarterback’s back is facing the left sideline. This results in the quarterback not being able to see the left side of the field near the line of scrimmage well, making the left side the ‘blind’ side.

Blitz – On defense, when at least two players are responsible for rushing across the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible to tackle the ball carrier.

Block – Preventing an opposing player from going where they want to; mostly done by offensive linemen. There are many different kinds of blocks and blocking schemes, but basically a occurs when a player from one team legally prevents an opposing player from making a move in the direction that the defensive player wanted to.

Bomb – A deeply-thrown pass.

Bootleg – Instead of dropping back before a pass, the quarterback will instead

Bounce (to the inside/outside) – When the running back encounters a lack of running space and quickly moves in the opposite direction.

Box – On the defensive side of the ball, it’s the area of the field from one offensive tackle to the other and five yards into the defensive area. The ‘Box’ is most often referenced when dealing with the number of people to commit to preventing the offense from running the ball; the more people in the ‘Box’, the harder it’s supposed to be for the offense to run the ball.

Breakdown – The act of getting into the proper stance and body position immediately before attempting a tackle. The term ‘breakdown’ refers to the tackler literally breaking his stance down, moving from an upright running position to a tackling position.

Bull Rush – A term used to describe a straight-ahead run by one player into an opposing player, usually made by a defensive lineman. The term ‘bull rush’ comes from the fact that the action is intended to mimic a charging bull.

Bump-and-run – A technique used by defensive player covering offensive receivers; as soon as the play starts the defender(s) runs forward and bumps into the receiver in an attempt to prevent the receiver from quickly and correctly running his/her intended route. Usually the defender will line up to the inside of the receiver, forcing them slightly outside with the bump and ensuring that the receiver has to go around the defender to get away.

Burn a Timeout – To call a timeout.

Burn(ing) the Clock – When the offensive team purposefully plays in such a way that the maximum amount of time elapses after every play; often used towards the end of a game when the team with the ball is winning. By running the ball and staying in bounds, the offense can cause the game clock to continuously run. This strategy reduces the amount of time that the other team could potentially have, were they to get possession of the ball.

Busted Play – On offense, it occurs when something goes wrong with the play because of a mistake and/or miscommunication on the part of some offensive player(s). Also known as a broken play.


Cadence – A series of numbers and words the quarterback calls out immediately before the ball is snapped. Used both to communicate information to his/her teammates (for example, telling the wide receiver to run a different route that the play originally called for), and to confuse the defense about the play the offense is about to run.

Call (a play) – To call a play simply means to choose the next play to be run. The normal play-calling sequence is as follows: a coach on the sideline will signal/radio a specific play (or type of play if the coach wants the quarterback to make the final decision), then the quarterback will relay the call to the rest of the offensive team in the huddle.

Carry – A ‘carry’ is one occasion of a successful rushing attempt.

Center – The middle offensive lineman, responsible for starting every play by snapping the ball. Also responsible for ensuring the other linemen know their blocking responsibilities.

Chain(s) – Refers to the length of chain between the yardage measurement sticks used by the officials to keep track of the exact position on the field needed for a first down.

Challenge Flag – A red flag, similar to a penalty flag, thrown by the head coach of a team and indicating that something related to the previous play is being challenged.

Challenge/Coach’s Challenge – The head coach of a team can dispute the validity of certain calls made by the officials, referred to as ‘challenging the call.’ All challenged must be made between the end of the disputed play and before the start of the next; once the next play starts, the opportunity to challenge the previous play is gone. Each team gets two challenges per game, with a third possible only if the team has successfully won each of the previous two challenges. Challenges are often used for the following reasons: to dispute whether the ball carrier was down in a certain play; to dispute the placement of the ball after the end of a play; whether or not a player cleanly possessed the ball. Challenges are not allowed for any reason in the last two minutes of each half of the game.

Checkdown/ Checkdown Pass – The sequence that the quarterback goes through when evaluating the best receiver to throw the ball to during a passing play. For every passing play, there is a primary receiver/route that the play is designed around, but it’s never a guarantee that it would be smart to throw to that receiver. In instances where the primary receiver is covered, the quarterback will evaluate the other passing options, each of which is less favorable than the one before it. So the quarterback ‘Checks’ the first route, and if it’s not available moves ‘Down’ the list of options.

Chop Block – An illegal block that occurs when two offensive players block the same defensive player; one offensive player blocks the defender above the knees while the other blocks below the knees. The chop block was made illegal for its high potential of causing leg injuries to the player being blocked.

Clip/Clipping – A penalty that occurs when a player hits/blocks an opposing player from the back and below the waist.

Clock Management – The ability of a team to control the game clock, specifically deciding whether it should run or be stopped. Clock management is a crucial element in executing a successful Two-minute Drill.

Coffin Corner – The two corners of the field created by the sidelines and goal line. When punters are close to the end zone, they will often attempt a ‘Coffin Corner’ punt, where the ball is punted in such a way that it lands (and hopefully goes out of bounds) very close to the end zone. A successful Coffin Corner punt leaves the receiving team with very poor field position, both in that they’re very close to their own end zone (and therefore a greater threat of a safety) and that they have very little space in which to maneuver.

Complete Pass – A successful pass from the quarterback to any eligible receiver. The opposite is an incomplete pass, where the ball is never cleanly caught by a receiver after being thrown.

Completion Percentage – A statistic used to evaluate quarterbacks where the number of complete passes is divided by the number of passes attempted. For example, a quarterback who completed 15 passes out of 20 attempted would have a completion percentage of 75%.

Contain – The responsibility of a specific defensive player/players to ensure that the ball carrier stays ‘inside’—meaning the ball carrier does not get between the defensive player and the sideline, or ‘outside.’

Conversion – See Point After Touchdown.

Corner/Cornerback – One of the defensive back positions, often responsible for covering receivers/routes along the outside of the field.

Counter – On offense, a running play which is designed to start in one direction, then quickly changes direction and heads the opposite way. The purpose of the counter is to draw the defensive players away from the actual point of the offensive attack, done by the initial misdirecting movements at the start of the play.

Cover/Coverage – The formation or scheme of the defensive backs during a given play. Each coverage assigns defensive players both a specific position and set of responsibilities.

Cut/Cutback – Occurs during a running play, when the ball carrier starts running in one direction then quickly changes direction to run in the completely opposite direction. Often used during ‘Counter’ plays.


Dead Ball – When play has stopped for whatever reason, the football is no longer playable and commonly referred to as ‘dead.’

Defensive Back(s) – Made up of corners and safeties, they are the defensive players mostly responsible for providing coverage against various offensive receivers. They mostly defend against passing attacks, in other words.

Defensive End – Defensive linemen located on the outside of the defensive line. The defensive ends are located on either side of the defensive tackles, and usually line up opposite the offensive tackles. They have a variety of responsibilities, such as containing/preventing running backs from getting to the sideline, or covering an area of the field close to the line of scrimmage against passes.

Defensive Formation – Any arrangement of defensive players is considered a formation. Different formations are used to counter different types of offensive strategies or schemes. For example, in a 3rd and long situation the defensive formation would likely be one that mainly defends against a passing play, as the odds are in favor of the offense calling a pass play because of the yards they would need to get a first down.

Defensive Tackle – Defensive linemen located on the inside of the defensive line, between both defensive ends. Unlike defensive ends, defensive linemen don’t have quite the variety of responsibilities. Their main responsibility is to attack the middle of the offensive line, both to stop run plays and to prevent complete passes from being made.

Defensive Team – The team without the ball.

Delay of Game – A penalty called against the offensive team-specifically the quarterback- for not starting a play before the play clock runs out.

Dime Back – A 6th defensive back, used in certain defensive schemes or formations. Usually there are only four defensive backs, two corners and two safeties. Occasionally a 5th defensive back will be added, referred to as a nickel back (a nickel being worth 5 cents, and that player being the 5th defensive backer). When a 6th back is added, that player is referred to as a Dime Back (5th back/5 cents + another 5th back/5 cents = 10 cents, or Dime Back).

Direct Snap – A direct snap occurs when the center snaps the ball directly to the player who’s going to carry the ball, rather than to the quarterback first.

Dive – A dive is a type of offensive rush/run play where the quarterback gives the ball off to a running back, who then runs right up the middle of the line.

D-Line – Abbreviated version of Defensive Line.

D-Lineman – Abbreviated version of Defensive Lineman.

Double Coverage – When two defensive players are responsible for covering only one offensive player, the offensive player is considered to be double covered.

Double Reverse – An offensive running play that features two sequential reverse hand-offs. See ‘reverse’ for an explanation of what happens during a reverse.

Down – One play is the same as one down. The offensive team has four downs to score a touchdown, kick a field goal, or gain 10 yards. If the offense gains 10 yards, the get another set of four downs.

Down Box – Part of the equipment used by the line judges for keeping track of the distance needed to gain 10 yards for a new set of downs. The down box is specifically used to mark the current line of scrimmage and display the current down.

Down Lineman – Any linemen actually on the line of scrimmage and in a stance where the players are touching the ground are considered to be ‘Down Linemen.’

Draft Pick – In professional football, each team is given one draft pick in each round of a draft that takes place every April in which college players are pick by professional teams. Draft picks can also be used as bargaining chips in deals involving player trades/acquisitions.

Draw – An offensive play in which the quarterback drops back as though he/she is about to pass the ball, then hands the ball off to a running back. The fake pass movement is used to throw the defense off and keep them from expecting that the running back will get the ball.

Drive – A drive consists of any concurrent group of plays in which the offensive team advances the ball uninterrupted. Often used when referring to a ‘Scoring Drive,’ which refers to the number of yards and length of time it took for the offensive team to score points, either by touchdown or field goal.

Drop Back – When the quarterback maneuvers to throw a pass, he/she will usually drop back (retreat a certain number of steps) to create room between them and the line of scrimmage, both to see the receivers better and to increase the distance between themselves and defending players attempting to tackle him/her.


Eligible Receiver – Any offensive player who is legally allowed to touch or catch a pass. Different leagues have different rules about what makes a receiver eligible, but usually it’s any player who’s not an offensive lineman.

Encroachment – A penalty on a defensive player for being in the neutral zone when the ball is hiked. In youth and high school football, a defensive player is automatically penalized for encroachment, but in college, amateur/semi-pro, and professional football, if the defensive player moves out of the neutral zone before the ball is snapped there’s no penalty.

End Around – An offensive play where a wide receiver lines up normally, then turns and runs into the backfield to take the handoff from the quarterback as soon as the play starts. Often the wide receiver will be in motion, heading toward the quarterback before the play starts to get closer.

End Line – The field line marking the end of the end zone.

End Zone – The two areas at the end of the field into where players must cross to score a touchdown.

Extra Point – See Point After Touchdown.


Face Mask (equipment) – A series of interconnected metal (or sometimes plastic, in youth football) bars designed to protect the wearer’s face during contact. Attached to the helmet with a series of screws, the face mask comes in many different formats, offering varying degrees of protection for the face.

Face Mask (penalty) – A penalty called when a player’s hand comes into contact with the facemask of an opposing player. The severity of the penalty depends on the contact; touching the facemask briefly isn’t penalized as harshly as grabbing it and dragging a player to the ground.

Fair Catch – When one team punts the ball away, a player from the other team who is positioned to receive the kick can signal for a Fair Catch, which allows him/her an opportunity to catch the ball without worrying about being hit by an opposing player. However, when a fair catch has been signaled, the player catching the ball cannot advance it after it’s been caught. Also, signaling for a fair catch offers no protection if the player catching the punt fumbles the ball.

Fair Catch Kick – During a punting situation, the return man may signal for a fair catch. After the catch is made, the offensive team can choose to go for a fair catch kick from that spot — a field goal-type of scoring attempt. There are two characteristics that distinguish a fair catch kick from a normal field goal:

  1. The kick is made from the spot of the fair catch, and does not have to be snapped back to a holder.
  2. The defense must start 10 yards back from the spot of the kick, and cannot advance until the ball is kicked.
    All other normal field goal rules apply.

False Start – When an offensive player moves before the ball is snapped, which signals the official start of play. Exceptions to the rule are when running backs or receivers go in motion, or when the quarterback calls an audible.

Field Goal – An attempt at scoring three points by placekicking the ball through the uprights during normal play.

Field Judge – A member of the officiating crew, located on the defensive side of the field about 25 yards back from the line of scrimmage.

Field of Play – The area of the field located between both side lines and both end lines.

Field Position – The general term used to identify the degree to which the point where play is begun is beneficial. For example, if a team had to start on their own one-yard line, that would be very poor field position.

First Down – A First Down is awarded to the offensive team when they advance at least 10 yards from the spot of the beginning of the previous set of downs. While the number of yards needed to get a First Down always starts at 10, things like penalties and sacks can increase the number of yards needed for a First Down.

Flag – See Penalty Flag.

Formation – The arrangement of players for a play.

Forward Pass – When the offensive player with the ball throws it forward to another player. Basically a pass, though the same motion that’s used to pass the ball forward is used to lateral it as well.

Forward Progress – The spot on the field that marks the end of the ball carrier’s advancement. For example, if a running back ran ahead five yards but was driven backward two yards from the defensive player who tackled him/her, the ball would be placed at that spot five yards ahead of the line of scrimmage where the ball carrier stopped moving forward.

Foul – Any occasion of a player breaking a rule or acting in an illegal manner, according to the rules and regulations of that player’s league/organization. Though this act is commonly referred to as a ‘penalty,’ technically the term ‘penalty’ refers to the consequence of breaking a rule, not the infraction itself.

Four-point Stance – See 4-Point Stance.

Fourth Down – The last of four downs that the offensive team has to score or gain 10 yards. Often, the offensive team will punt the ball away on fourth down.

Fourth Down Conversion – When the offensive team elects to run a play on fourth down, rather than punt the ball.

Free Agent – In professional football, any player who is currently in a professional league but not under contract with a specific team.

Free Safety – One of two defensive safeties, usually responsible for assisting other defensive players with covering offensive players running deep routes.

Fullback – A type of running back, usually bigger and slower than other running backs. Fullbacks are often used to block defensive players who get into the backfield, or in situations where very little distance is needed to gain a first down or score.

Fumble – When the ball carrier loses possession of the ball, and it becomes playable by any player.


Gap – The space between two neighboring offensive linemen; also a reference point for an attacking defensive player concerning the actual point of attack.

Go(ing) for it – The act of running a normal play on 4th down rather than punting the ball or going for a field goal.

Goal Line – The field marking that designates the start of the end zone on both ends of the field. Technically considered part of the end zone, so the ball only has to cross into the goal line to be a touchdown.

Goal Line Stand – When the offense is within five yards of the opposing team’s end zone but cannot score a touchdown, the defense is said to have successfully performed a goal line stand.

Goalpost – See Uprights.

Gridiron – Nickname for American football. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the sport was still relatively new, it was referred to as ‘Gridiron Football’ to help deviate it from soccer football and rugby football, all of which deviate from the same ‘football’ game popular in previous years.

Guard – A position on the offensive line on either immediate side of the center. There are two guards on the offensive line.


Hail Mary – A pass play where the offensive team sends as many legal receivers as is legal very far down field close to the end zone, and the quarterback throws the ball down as far as he/she can in the hope that one of the receivers will catch the ball and score. Often used when the game is almost over and the offensive team is losing. It’s called a ‘Hail Mary’ because it’s a very low percentage play, and is usually accompanied by the offensive team praying it’s successful.

Halfback – One of the running back positions. The half back is often responsible for carrying the ball, where the full back is often responsible for blocking in the back field.

Hand-off – When the ball carrier directly gives the ball to a teammate. The most common hand-off is when the quarterback gives the ball to a running back on a rush play.

Hands Team – A group of players used on kick return to field an apparent onside kick. When the team kicking off the ball lines up in a formation that looks as though they’re going to kick the ball onside, the receiving team will often use a ‘Hands Team’ to increase the chances that they’ll recover the ball. Called the ‘Hands Team’ because the group of players in that group has better ball-handling skills, and an onside kick often bounces erratically on the ground.

Hang Time – The length of time the ball stays in the air. Often the punter will try to kick the ball so there is as much hang time as possible, giving his/her teammates as much time as possible to get down the field and prevent the player returning the punt from advancing the ball very far.

Hard Count – A technique used by the quarterback to try and draw the defense into committing an offsides penalty. A hard count is when the quarterback says certain parts of the cadence very loudly, hoping to make the defensive team think the play is about to start.

Hash Marks – Two series of lines, one yard long, that run perpendicular to the yard marker lines and set a certain distance from each side line, depending on the league. They are used to position the ball for the next play after the previous one ends. If the previous play ended outside the hash marks, then the ball is placed immediately inside the closest hash mark. If the previous play ended inside the hash marks, the next play starts right where the previous play ended.

Heisman Trophy – The award given to the overall most valuable D-1A college football player each season. It is considered to be the top individual award attainable.

Hike – The name for the action that takes place when the center moves the ball from where the ball was placed before the current play to the quarterback. Also see ‘Snap.’

Holder – The offensive player who catches the ball after it’s snapped and positions it for the place kicker to kick. The Holder is only on the field for Field Goals and PATs.

Holding – A penalty that’s called when one player illegally blocks an opposing player by grabbing them and preventing them from making a play.

Home Field Advantage – The intangible advantage that the home team has over the away team in a game. It’s basically an increased comfort level the home team has that comes with the security of playing on their field.

Home Game/Team – Whichever team is playing on their own field is the Home Team, and the game being played is considered a Home Game. The opposite is Away Team/Game.

Huddle – When the offensive team groups up before the next play is run. The quarterback often relays the next play to be run to the rest of the team while they’re in the huddle.

Hurry-up Offense – An offensive scheme where there is no huddle between plays, and instead the offensive team immediately lines up again after the previous play ends and the quarterback relays the next play via a series of code words. Commonly used when the offensive team is quickly trying to advance the ball and score. Strategically, the Hurry-up Offense is very similar to the ‘Two-minute Drill’ style of offense, though there is more of an emphasis on clock control when running a Two-minute drill.


Ice/Icing the Kicker – The act of calling a time out immediately before the other team’s place kicker attempts a field goal or PAT, in hopes that the sudden interruption will distract the kicker on the upcoming attempt. Often used when there is very little time left, and the ensuing kick would either tie the game or put the kicking team ahead.

Illegal Formation – A penalty called against the offensive team for their players being arranged incorrectly. For a formation to be legal, the offensive team must have at least seven players on the line of scrimmage before the play starts.

Illegal Motion – A penalty called when an offensive player goes in motion and begins moving forward/up field before the play starts. In certain leagues/organizations, this isn’t a penalty; the CFL, for example, often sends offensive players in forward motions before the play starts to help the running back build up momentum for running the ball.

Illegal Shift – A penalty called on the offensive team when two or more players are in motion when the ball is snapped. Only one player is allowed to be in motion at that time.

In Bounds – Any area of the field between the end lines and side lines. The part of the field where play takes place.

Incomplete Pass – A pass attempt that is unsuccessful, meaning that no offensive player caught the ball.

Ineligible Receiver – Any offensive player that cannot legally catch a pass. Almost always, the center, guards and tackles are considered ineligible receivers. However, if the ball is tipped by any player allowed to try and catch the ball on either offense or defense, then anyone is allowed to catch it.

Intentional Grounding – A penalty called against the quarterback for purposefully throwing the ball away specifically to conserve time or avoid losing yards. Different leagues have different rules for what constitutes Intentional Grounding; for example, in the NFL a ball intentionally ‘thrown away’ is legal as long as the quarterback is outside the tackle box and the ball makes it at least to the line of scrimmage.

Interception – When a defensive player catches a pass thrown by the other team’s quarterback.


Kick Return – The term used to describe both the formation of the team receiving the ball from a kickoff, and the action of advancing the ball once it’s been caught from a kickoff.

Kicker – Any player responsible for placekicking the ball, both on kickoffs and field goals/PATs.

Kickoff – The way a game is started and resumed after halftime, or when a team scores. A coin flip at the beginning of the game determines which team kicks/receives for which half of the game. After a score, the team that just scored kicks off to the opposing team.

Kneel – An action made by the quarterback to help the game clock continue to run out; also called ‘Taking a Knee.’ The quarterback takes the snap and immediately drops to a knee, which ends the play but allows the game clock to continue running. Often used at the end of a game when there’s not much time left, the defensive team has no time-outs (and therefore no way to stop the clock) and the offensive team is ahead. The strategy behind taking a knee is that it prevents the defensive team from regaining possession of the ball.


Lateral – Any pass made from one offensive player to another that is not thrown forward in any way.

Lay out (defense) – To hit an opposing player with a tremendous amount of force, causing that player to be knocked to the ground.

Lay out (offense) – To dive for a pass.

Line to Gain – A line that extends across the field perpendicular to the side lines and indicates the distance that needs to be covered, or the number of yards that need to be gained, for the offensive team to get a new set of downs.

Line(s) of Scrimmage – Two lines starting from each end/point of the football and running perpendicular to the side lines across the width of the field. The space between the two lines (considered the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage respectively) is called the neutral zone, as it technically is not part of either the offensive or defensive teams’ territory. The line(s) of scrimmage indicate the point at which the next play begins from.

Linebacker – A defensive player who is essentially a cross between a lineman and back. Linebackers are bigger than defensive backs, but also faster than linemen. They’re typically lined up approx. five yards behind the defensive linemen, and they are responsible for continually defending against both rushing and passing plays.

Lineman – Any player who lines up on the line of scrimmage in the ‘Tackle Box,’ or between the two offensive tackles. Generally the largest players on the field, ‘Linemen’ is the term used to generally describe the position type of the following positions: On offense-center, guards, tackles; On Defense- nose guard, tackles and ends.

Live Ball – The status of the ball during a play, designating that it can be moved. The opposite is ‘Dead Ball.’ The ball goes from ‘live’ to ‘dead’ at the end of a play, when it goes out of bounds, or after one team scores.

Long Snapper – The player on a team responsible for snapping the ball to the holder during field goals and PATs, and to the punter on punts. The Long Snapper uses both hands to snap the ball quickly and accurately backwards as much as 20 yards.

Look – A “look” refers to an instance of the quarterback throwing a pass to a particular offensive player. Commonly used to indicate the number and/or quality of passes thrown to a particular player. For example, “That wide receiver hasn’t gotten one good look all game!”

Loose Ball – When a live ball isn’t possessed by any player at a given time during a play. Loose Balls are usually the result of the ball carrier being hit hard enough that the ball comes out of the carrier’s hands, or any other time the ball is dropped and play still continues.


Man Coverage/Man-to-Man Coverage – A type of defensive strategy that assigns players responsible for defending against passing attacks (usually corners and safeties) to defend against specific receivers. The opposite is Zone Coverage, where defensive players are assigned a specific area of the field to cover instead of a specific receiver.

Man-in-motion – Any offensive player who goes into motion before the start of a play.

Margin of Victory – The difference in the number of points scored by the winning and losing teams after a game. For example: if Team A scored 35 points and Team B only scored 20 points, Team A’s Margin of Victory would be 15 points.

Midfield – The term used to generally describe the middle part of the field; technically, it’s the area of the field that the 50 yard line runs through, as the 50 yard line marks the exact middle point of the field.

Milk the clock – The act of waiting until the play clock is almost to zero before starting a play. Milking the clock is another way to burn the clock.

Motion – Any legal movement made by an offensive player before play starts, but after the offensive team has already lined up to begin the next play. Common types of motion include a wide receiver moving closer to the middle of the field, and a running back moving outside of the backfield.


NCAA – Acronym for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the organization that governs the athletic programs of over 1,200 colleges and universities in the United States.

Neutral Zone – The space between the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage, extending from one end of the football to the other.

NFL – Acronym for the National Football League, the largest professional football organization in the world.

Nickel Back – An extra defensive back, in addition to the normal set of defensive backs of two corners and two safeties. When a 5th defensive back is added to the defensive formation, that player is referred to as a nickel back (a nickel being worth 5 cents, and that player being the 5th defensive backer).

Nickel Defense – A defensive formation that uses five defensive backs instead of the typical four.

No Good – The call made when a PAT or field goal does not go through the uprights.

No-huddle Offense – A tactic used by the offensive team that does not utilize a huddle, and has the offensive team quickly line up after the end of the previous play. Once lined up, the quarterback quickly calls out a series of code words that communicate the next play to the rest of the team, and play is quickly started. Also see ‘Hurry Up Offense.’

Nose Tackle – A position on the defensive line located immediately opposite, or slightly to one side, of the center.


Offending Team – The team which has been flagged for a penalty.

Offensive Formation – The arrangement of the offensive players for any given play. The term ‘Offensive Formation’ refers to the number, and positioning, of the running backs, receivers, and quarterback on the field for the current play; the offensive linemen usually don’t deviate in positioning from one formation to the next.

Offensive Line – The term used to describe the five offensive linemen — center, two guards, and two tackles — as a group. It can also be used to refer to the line of scrimmage on the offensive side of the field.

Offensive Lineman – The term used to refer to any centers, guards, and offensive tackles; the term ‘lineman’ comes from the fact that these players line up right on the line of scrimmage.

Offsides – A penalty called when a defensive player is at all in front of the defensive line of scrimmage when a play starts. It’s also called during kickoffs if/when a player on the kicking team is in front of the ball before it is kicked.

O-Line – Abbreviated version of Offensive Line.

O-Lineman – Abbreviated version of Offensive Lineman.

Onside Kick – A unique kickoff strategy/formation designed to give the kicking team the best chance of recovering possession of the ball after it’s been kicked away. A kickoff must go at least 10 yards before the kicking team is allowed to touch the ball unless a player from the opposing team touches it first. The strategy comes from the way the ball is kicked; the kicker wants the ball to go at least 10 yards but not much beyond that, and/or touch an opposing player, so the ball is kicked to make it bounce multiple times along the ground. This is done in the hope that the ball’s erratic path will either make it the 10 yards before an opposing player recovers it, or bounces in such a way that it touches an opposing player and is then recovered by a player on the kicking team.

Open receiver – The term given to an offensive receiver who would be easily able to catch a pass because he/she is not being covered by a defensive player.

Option – A type of offensive play in which there are multiple ways that the play can be run. In an option, the quarterback receives the snap, then chooses one of the ways to steer the play. Often, there are two running backs involved in the ‘Option.’ The options inherent in the ‘Option’ (and where the play gets its name) are to give the ball to a running back who’s running something close to a dive, keep the ball and advance it, or pitch the ball off to the other running back (who’s usually running behind the quarterback at an angle that would make it easy for the quarterback to pitch the ball to him/her).

Out of Bounds – Any area outside the field of play. The boundaries between in and out of bounds are the end lines and sidelines.

Overload – An overload occurs when there is an unequal number of offensive players lined up in the box. Technically any formation with a strong side — such as when a tight end lines up next to a tackle — can be considered to use an overload. However, the term ‘overload’ usually refers to having four players lined up immediately to one side of the center, and only one or two players lined up on the other side.

Overtime – The period of time that a football game continues to be played after regulation time has ended. Overtime only occurs when the score is tied at the end of the fourth quarter, and extra time is needed to declare a winner.


Package – The term used to refer to a specific group of players that are assigned to a particular formation. For example, the nickel defense would include a ‘Package’ of five defensive backs; or a goal line ‘Package’ on offense would include two tight ends and a fullback.

Pancake Block – The action of legally blocking a player hard enough that the blocked player ends up on his/her back; these players are said to have been ‘flattened like a pancake.’

Pass Defender – Any defensive player who is responsible for covering receivers during a pass play.

Pass Interference – A penalty in which one player prevents an opposing player from having a clean attempt at catching a pass. Though this penalty can be called on both offensive and defensive players, it is much more commonly called against defensive backs who interfere with receivers. On rare occasions, a receiver will interfere with a defensive back if the pass was off-target and in danger of being intercepted.

Pass Protection – The ability of the offensive line to protect the quarterback from defensive players who’re trying to tackle him/her before the ball is thrown.

Pass Route(s) – The path a particular receiver is expected to run during a pass play. Different routes are designed to lead receivers to different parts of the field, so that the defensive players have a hard time anticipating where the pass will be thrown. Some examples of pass routes: Curl, Drag, Slant, Post, Flag, Out, Swing, Flat.

Pass Rush – A defensive strategy that seeks to very quickly put pressure on the quarterback during a pass play. The ultimate objective is to sack the quarterback, but if executed properly the pass rush can also work to scare the quarterback into making a poor throw.

Passer Rating – The statistic used to evaluate a quarterback’s overall player ability. The rating is the result of a mathematical formula that incorporates the following statistics: completion percentage; number of yards per attempted pass; number of touchdowns per attempted pass; and number of interceptions per attempted pass.

PAT – See Point After Touchdown.

Penalty – The consequence that occurs when a player breaks a rule or acts in an illegal manner, according to the rules and regulations of that player’s league/organization. The actual infraction itself is referred to as a ‘foul.’

Penalty Flag – A yellow marker thrown by an official indicating a penalty has been committed.

Personal Foul – A type of penalty that includes an element of purposefully trying to inflict harm on an opposing player. Common personal fouls are ‘Roughing the Passer/Kicker’ and ‘Unnecessary Roughness.’

Pick six – An interception that’s returned for a touchdown.

Pick/Picked Off – A different way of referring to an interception, or the act of intercepting the ball.

Pigskin – Archaic term referring to a football. Years ago, ball manufacturers used pigs bladders as the outside covers for balls.

Pitch – A type of lateral throw where the quarterback tosses the ball, usually in an underhand manner, to another offensive player.

Play – The general term for the collective actions of a team during one down. Also see ‘Down.’

Play Action Pass – A pass play in which the quarterback fakes handing the ball off to a running back, then passes the ball. Designed to try and make the defense believe that the ball is being run instead of passed.

Play Clock – A timer used to indicate the amount of time the offensive team has to run a play. The amount of time on the play clock varies by league/organization, but if the clock reaches zero and the offense hasn’t run a play, they are guilty of committing a ‘Delay of Game’ penalty.

Playoffs – The series of games played after the end of the regular season schedule. Playoff games determine which team achieves the overall first-place ranking of a particular league or organization.

Pocket – The space between the offensive line and the quarterback during a pass play. The offensive linemen want to keep the pocket from collapsing before the ball is passed, while the defense will likely use a pass rush to force the offensive linemen into making the pocket smaller to the point that the defenders can prevent the quarterback from cleanly passing the ball.

Point After Touchdown (PAT) – After a team scores a touchdown, they have an opportunity to score an additional point (called the Point After Touchdown) by attempting a place kick which is snapped from the two-yard line and usually kicked from around the 10-yard line. The scoring team must attempt the PAT during regulation play, but not in overtime.

Pooch Punt – A short-distance punting technique that attempts to pin the other team inside their 20-yard line. A pooch punt is often used when the offense had made it to mid-field, but is still too far away for a field goal.

Position – The general term for the spot a player occupies during a given play.

Possession – The general term that refers to having the ball, both when a player has a secure grip on it and in identifying the offensive team. The offensive team is said to have ‘possession’ when they have the ball, so when the offensive teams switches to being on defense (and vice versa) they no longer have possession of the ball.

Preseason – Any length of time before the official start of the regular season, before the outcome of games affects a team’s standing.

Pre-snap Read – When the quarterback analyzes the personnel and formation of the defense prior to the snap, hoping to gain insight about the type of coverage being used and gauge the possibility of a blitz occurring.

Prevent Defense – A defensive formation that concentrates mostly on defending against deep passes, often with extra defensive backs included. In the Prevent Defense, defensive backs play even further away from the line of scrimmage than they do normally; it’s relatively easy for the offense to successfully throw short to medium-range passes, as the Prevent is primarily concerned with long, deep passes. Usually only used at the very end of a half or game, when the offensive team is losing and needs to score quickly.

Previous Spot – The specific location of the ball prior to a play that had just been run; the spot on the field where the previous play started.

Pulling lineman – An offensive lineman who, instead of moving forward and blocking the closest defensive player, will turn and run toward one sideline or the other and block a defender in that area.

Pump Fake – The act of the quarterback faking a throw by making a throwing motion with his/her arm, but not actually releasing the ball. It’s used in an attempt to trick defenders, especially defensive backs who have a habit of watching a quarterback until the ball is thrown, at which point they reposition themselves according to where they think the ball will go.

Punt – An option the offensive team has on fourth down. Rather than use the last down to run another play and get a new series of downs (the odds of which are usually pretty low), the offensive team will choose to kick the ball away to the defending team, sacrificing that last opportunity to make a play for forcing the other team to start with (hopefully) poor field position.

Punt Return – The term given to the act of catching and advancing the ball after a punt.

Punter – The player who punts the ball on 4th down.

Pylon – A soft foam marker that stands at the exact junctions of the goal lines and sidelines, and the end lines and sidelines; it marks the official boundaries of each end zone.


Quarter – A game of football is broken up into two halves (first half and second half), and each half is broken into quarters (first quarter to fourth quarter). So a quarter is literally ¼, or a quarter, of the entirety of a game.

Quarter Defense – An example of a ‘Prevent’ defensive formation which utilizes seven defensive backs, one linebacker, and three linemen.

Quarterback – The player who takes the snap from the center. Arguably the most important position in football, the position of quarterback carries the most responsibility and importance out of all the different positions, both offense and defense.

Quarterback Sneak – A rushing play used in short yardage situations—when the offense needs to gain very little distance to either score or get a new set of downs—where the quarterback takes the snap and immediately launches him/herself forward, usually around one side of the center.


Read The Defense – The ability of the quarterback to evaluate the potential success of a play based on the defensive formation/package.

Receiver – Any offensive player for whom it is legal to catch the ball.

Reception – The act of catching a pass; for statistical purposes, one instance of catching a pass.

Recover the ball – The act of gaining possession of a loose ball.

Red Flag – See Challenge Flag.

Red Shirt – In college football, to be ‘Red Shirted’ means a player, while technically part of a team and allowed to practice, is not listed on the active roster and takes part in no games for one entire season.

Red Zone – The area of the field between the 20 yard line and the opposing team’s end zone.

Referee – A member of the crew of officials; the title given to the lead official. The term ‘referee’ is also used to generally describe any official on the field. Often shortened to ‘Ref.’

Regular Season – The period of time during which teams compete and the outcome of games determines the ranking of each team.

Regulation – The period of time between the start of the first quarter, and the end of the fourth quarter. Commonly referred to as ‘regulation time’. If a game is tied at the end of regulation, it is said to go into overtime.

Return – The act of advancing the ball after a punt, kickoff, fumble or interception.

Return Specialist – A player, usually among the fastest on the team, whose primary role is catching and advancing the ball during special teams situations. Though a return specialist may be involved with the offense or defense, he is usually only on the field to catch the ball after a punt or kickoff.

Reverse – A rush play in which the ball carrier runs in one direction, then either hands off or pitches the ball to a nearby teammate who’s running in the exact opposite direction. The ‘Reverse’ seeks to trick the defense into committing to the direction of the first run.

Ride the Bench – The term used to describe a player who doesn’t get onto the field much. For example, “He rides the bench because he never shows up for practice.”

Rip Move – A maneuver used by defensive linemen to evade an offensive lineman. To make a Rip Move, the D-lineman approaches the O-lineman, then when they’re about to make contact the D-lineman bends his inside arm 90 degrees and violently swings it up between himself and the offensive lineman. This move will simultaneously generate momentum for making it past the O-lineman, while also quickly reducing the D-lineman’s surface area which makes it harder for the O-lineman to block him.

Road Game – The opposite of a Home Game, when a team travels to another team’s field or stadium.

Roll Out – During a pass play, when the quarterback moves out of the pocket and runs parallel to the line of scrimmage. Quarterbacks will often roll out to change the angle between him/herself and the receivers, which can sometimes make it easier to complete a pass.

Route – See ‘Pass Route(s)’.

Run east-west – The act of running mostly perpendicular to the sidelines, as though the ball carrier was running along a line created by the east and west points of a compass. Used to refer to a play where the ball carrier did a lot of running without gaining many yards. The opposite of running north-south.

Run north-south – The act of running straight ahead towards the other team’s end zone, as though the ball carrier was running along a line created by the north and south points of a compass. The opposite of running east-west.

Running Back – An offensive player who lines up in the backfield, usually behind or to the side of the quarterback, and does the majority of the ball carrying.

Rush – One instance of an offensive player running with the ball.

Rushing Average – A statistic that shows the average number of yards a player gains in one rushing attempt.


Sack – When a defensive player tackles the quarterback before he/she can either hand off or pass the ball.

Safety – When the ball carrier is tackled inside their own end zone. A ‘Safety’ results in two points awarded to the defensive team, and instead of placekicking the ball to restart the game, the team that gave up the safety must punt the ball instead, giving the team that was awarded the safety better field position.

Scoring Drive – A summary of the number of plays, number of yards covered, and amount of time it took for the offensive team to score.

Scramble – When the defense pressures the quarterback to the point that he/she has to run with the ball to avoid being sacked.

Screen Pass – A specific type of pass play in which results in the intended receiver having several teammates in front of him/her as the ball is passed; that group of teammates acts as a ‘Screen’ which blocks defending players.

Scrimmage – See Line(s) of Scrimmage.

Secondary – The area of the defensive side of the field where the defensive backs usually line up.

Series (of downs) – The group of four downs the offensive team has to either gain 10 yards or score.

Shift – When two or more offensive players simultaneously move from their original positions before the ball is snapped. A ‘Shift’ often happens when an audible is called that requires the offensive players to rearrange themselves.

Shotgun Snap – The type of snap used when the quarterback lines up in the backfield; the type of snap used when the shotgun formation is employed.

Shotgun/Shotgun Formation – An offensive formation in which the quarterback lines up in the back field rather than under center, and the center snaps the ball back in a similar manner to a long snap, though nowhere near as hard or as far.

Sideline – One of two boundary lines running the length of the field that designates in and out of bounds. Also generally referred to as the area both teams occupy during a game; each team has their own side line.

Sidelined – To be removed from the game, almost always because of an injury.

Slot – The space between a wide receiver (lined up close to the sideline) and the tight end closest to that receiver.

Slot Receiver – A wide receiver who lines up in the Slot; also see ‘Slot’.

Snap – The name for the action that takes place when the center moves the ball from where it was placed prior to the current play backwards to the quarterback. Also see ‘Hike.’

Snap Count – Similar to the ‘Cadence,’ the Snap Count is the specific sequence of pre-snap words that leads up to the snap. The offensive players know that a specific number of words, or one particular word, will immediately precede the snap so they can quickly react.

Special Teams – The groups of players assigned to the following formations: Offense- Field Goal, PAT, Punt, Kickoff (including onside kick); Defense-Field Goal and PAT Block, Punt Return, Punt Block, Kick Return, Onside Kick Recover.

Spike (the ball) – An action made by the quarterback that immediately stops the game clock where the ball is downed immediately after the snap. Often used when very little time remains and the offensive team wants to stop the clock, but doesn’t have or doesn’t want to use a time out. Basically, the quarterback receives the snap and immediately throws the ball straight down, which is technically an incomplete pass (as long as it’s in front of the quarterback) and therefore both ends the play and stops the game clock.

Spiral – The description given to a well-thrown pass. When the quarterback passes the ball, it should rotate evenly throughout its center axis; when done, the ball spins in a very controlled manner and is much easier to catch. When thrown poorly, the ends of the football wobble and it becomes difficult to cleanly catch.

Spot – As marked by the officials, it’s the spot on the field that the previous play ended and the next play will begin.

Squib Kick – The place kicking version of a ‘Pooch Punt;’ a place kick designed to not travel very far and roll along the ground, making it difficult to quickly recover.

Stance – The specific body position a player puts himself in prior to the snap. The most common types of stances are the 2-point, 3-point and 4-point stance.

Sticks – Two metal poles used to maneuver the ‘Chain’ used to indicate the current placement of the 10 yards needed for a new set of downs. One pole marks the line of scrimmage where the current set of downs would begin, and the other would be exactly 10 yards away, marking the spot that would need to be crossed to gain a new set of downs.

Stiff Arm – An action made by the ball carrier that attempts to push away defenders with an outstretched arm.

Strong Safety – One of the two defensive safeties, usually lined up on the ‘strong’ side of the field.

Strong Side – The side of the field where the majority of offensive players are lined up. For example, if there were two wide receivers and a tight end to the right of the center, but only one wide receiver to the left, the half of the field to the center’s right would be considered the ‘Strong Side,’ and the left half would be the ‘Weak Side’ because it has fewer players.

Stuff – Unofficial term for a tackle made on a ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage. When the quarterback is the ball carrier, it’s a ‘Sack.’

Stunt – A strategy/tactic used by defensive linemen to overload the offensive line. A typical stunt would see one defensive lineman blocking an offensive lineman that’s lined up across a nearby defensive lineman, and that nearby defensive lineman will go around the first one in hopes that there will be a hole in the offensive line to run through.

Sudden Death – The regulation which stipulates that the first team to score any points wins the game. Sudden death is applied in overtime situations, and is not used in all forms of football.

Sweep – A type of rush play in which the quarterback pitches the ball to a running back, and the running back immediately heads toward a sideline in hopes that he/she will outrun the defensive players.

Swim Move – A maneuver used by defensive linemen to evade an offensive lineman with minimal contact. To make a Swim Move, the D-lineman approaches the O-lineman, turns so his upper body is facing the O-lineman, and then simultaneously ‘swims’ his rear arm up and over the O-lineman’s head while pushing him from behind with the front arm.


Tackle (action) – The act of at least one defensive player bringing the ball carrier to the ground, marking the end of that play.

Tackle (position) – One of two offensive lineman positions, located at the furthest ends of the offensive line.

Tailback – One type of running back position, very similar to a half back. Technically only present when there are two or more running backs in the backfield.

Take a Knee – See Kneel.

Territory – The half of a field being defended by either team. For example, Team A has to score by going through Team B’s territory, and vice versa.

Three And Out – The term for when the defensive team successfully prevents the offensive team from either scoring or gaining 10 yards on the offensive team’s first series of downs in a possession.

Three Point Stance – See 3-Point Stance.

Throw it away – A throw that intentionally puts the ball away from any defenders and usually out of bounds. Quarterbacks will throw the ball away when there are no open receivers, and scrambling won’t gain any yards.

Tight End – One of the receiver positions on offense. Tight Ends are bigger and stronger than Wide Receivers and Running Backs, and because they commonly line up immediately outside of the offensive tackles, they are responsible for blocking almost as often as they are for catching a pass.

Time of Possession – Out of a total of 60 minutes, the amount of time each team possessed the ball.

Total Offense – The total number of yards, both rushing and passing, gained by one team.

Touchback – When the ball is grounded in the receiving team’s end zone after a punt or kickoff. Touchbacks occur when the ball goes into the receiving team’s end zone before it’s been touched by a player on the receiving team, though a player can catch a kickoff in the end zone and take a knee for a touchback.

Touchdown – One way of scoring points in a game; a Touchdown occurs when the ball carrier takes the ball into the opposing team’s end zone. It is worth six points.

Trap – A running play in which one or more offensive lineman block at an angle to one side of the line, and the lineman opposite where the angle blocks are going to be pulls around the angle-blocking lineman to block any defensive players coming in the spot left by the angle-blocking linemen. The running back runs into that spot, known as a ‘Trap’ because it seeks to draw defensive players into the area of the angle-blocking linemen, then blindside them with a block from the pulling lineman.

Trenches – The area of the field along the line of scrimmage between both offensive tackles.

Try – The play that takes place after a touchdown which gives the scoring team an opportunity to score additional points. The most common kind of ‘Try’ is the PAT.

Turnover – When the offensive team gives away possession of the ball during normal play. Common turnovers occur when a pass is intercepted, or when a fumble is recovered by the defense. Punting the ball away on fourth down is not considered a turnover.

Turnover On Downs – When the offense chooses not to punt on fourth down, but is unsuccessful at both gaining the required number of yards for a new set of downs and scoring, possession of the ball goes to the defensive team at the spot that resulted from the end of the last play.

Two-minute Drill – An offensive style commonly used when there is approximately two minutes left in the half or game; the term ‘Two-minute Drill’ comes from the tendency of teams to specifically simulate situations where there isn’t much time left during practice sessions. Similar to the Hurry-up Offense, teams will run the Two-minute Drill in order to tightly control the game clock. This is accomplished by using several different tactics; some of the more common characteristics of the Two-minute Drill are repeatedly spiking the ball to stop the clock, pass routes that make it very easy for receivers to get out of bounds to stop the clock, and using a no-huddle offense where the QB calls plays at the line of scrimmage.

Two-minute Warning – In the NFL, the officials will stop play when the game clock hits two minutes, or at the end of a play occurring when the game clock has less than two minutes left. This occurs during both halves of a game.


Unbalanced Line – When the number of linemen on either side of the center are not equal.

Under Center – Where the quarterback normally lines up to receive the snap. As the name implies, the quarterback puts his/her hands between the center’s legs to receive the snap.


Weak Side – The side of the field opposite where the majority of offensive players are lined up. For example, if there were two wide receivers and a tight end to the right of the center, but only one wide receiver to the left, the half of the field to the center’s left would be considered the ‘Weak Side,’ and the right half would be the ‘Strong Side’ because it has more players.

Wheel Route – A passing route which has a receiver (usually a running back, but sometimes a wide receiver) turn and run towards the closest sideline at the start of a play, then quickly cut up field and run parallel to that same sideline.

Wildcat Offense – An offensive strategy/formation that utilizes a running back type player receiving a shotgun-style snap from the center, rather than a quarterback. The core principal of the Wildcat is that the player receiving the snap should have above average ball-carrying abilities, and is capable of running several different plays from each snap.

Win-Loss Ratio – The number of games a team has won compared to the number of games that team has lost. Used to calculate the ranking of a group of teams in a league.


YAC – Acronym for Yards After Catch. It’s the number of yards a receiver gains after he/she catches a pass.

Yard – Equal to three feet (or 36 inches) the yard is the standard unit of measurement used to mark the movement of the ball during a game. For example, at the start of a series of downs the offensive team needs to gain 10 yards for a new set of downs. The field is 100 yards long from goal line to goal line.

Yard Line – A series of lines that run perpendicular to the side lines, used to gauge the spot where plays end and begin; at five yard increments they run the entire width of the field and make it easier for spectators to clearly see the spot from which plays are begun. Staring at each goal line and moving towards the center of the field, the numbers start at 5 and end at 50. Each half of the field has its own yard line marking 5-45 yards, but because the 50 yard line marks the exact middle of the field, there is only one.

Yardage – A piece of statistical information, used to relate the number of yards in a specific situation. For example, a play in which the quarterback was sacked is said to have resulted in ‘Negative Yardage,’ as the number of yards needed for a new set of downs (as well as the distance to the other team’s end zone) increased rather than decreased, which is a negative (bad) thing.

Yards From Scrimmage – The number of yards the offensive team advanced the ball from the line of scrimmage.

Yards Gained – Similar to yardage, it’s the number of yards gained as the result of one play or series of plays. The opposite would be ‘Yards Lost.’


Zebra – Nickname for any member of the officiating crew. Officials wear shirts with black and white stripes, similar to how zebras are colored.

Zone Blocking – An offensive blocking scheme in which linemen are responsible for blocking whatever defensive players happen to be in a specific area (or zone) on the field, rather than being assigned to a specific defensive player. At the core of the zone blocking scheme is the understanding that players will often be required to double-team a defender, with one player from the double team splitting off to block a second defender. How these roles are assigned depends on the movements of the defensive players.

Zone Coverage – A defensive strategy in which players who are mainly responsible for defending against passing plays (usually corners and safeties) cover specific areas, or zones, of the field. The opposite of this is Man Coverage, where players cover specific offensive receivers.

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