Football Positions & Roles

There are many football positions who have obvious roles, like the quarterback. But when it comes to telling the difference between the fullback and running back, it may not be as easy.

Football is the undisputed heavyweight champion of all team sports, so it’s often assumed that most know the fundamentals of the game. But for others, their knowledge of ‘offsides’ is off-base and rather than scoping the field, they’re too busy fielding questions. What are the 11 positions on a football team? What is the job of a linebacker? What is a quarterback’s job exactly?

Understanding what each player on the field does can be tough. Luckily, this position primer is here to help. Locally, CAYFL rules can further restrict how or what players can do and, where appropriate, we’ve listed some of these differences.

PART 1: Offensive Players

This section will help you score some insight on the players whose primary role is to score touchdowns. There are 11 players on offense at a time. Through a series of plays that involve passing and running the ball, they want to work their way down the field until they get into the end zone. The offense consists of:

  • Quarterback (QB) – The field general. He calls the plays, initiates action and handles the “snap.” He either hands the ball to the running back or passes the ball to a receiver. He may also run with the ball. The quarterback’s must be able to throw the ball with power and accuracy.
  • Running Back (RB) – Also known as the Halfback. This player does it all. Lining up either behind or beside the quarterback, he runs, he catches, he blocks and he’ll even throw a pass from time to time. A running back is normally a player who is a quick runner and thrives on contact.
  • Fullback (FB) – Like a heartier version of the RB, but in the modern game usually more of a lead blocker out of the backfield. Fullbacks are normally good runners with exceptional strength.
  • Wide Receivers (WR) – Wide receivers, for the most part, are known as pass catchers. They start the play split out wide from the rest of the formation, at or near the line of scrimmage (an imaginary line that extends from sideline to sideline at the point where the ball is placed) and run pass routes awaiting a pass from the QB. On running plays, they will throw blocks and occasionally take a handoff. Those in the wide receiver position normally have a combination of blazing speed and strong hand-eye coordination.
  • Tight End (TE) – This player is a hybrid between a receiver and an offensive lineman. Generally, he lines up next to the LT or RT or he can “split out” like a wide receiver. His duties include blocking for both the quarterback and the running backs, but he can also run into the field and catch passes. Tight ends can catch like a receiver, but has the strength and size to dominate on the line.
  • NOTE:  In CAYFL, all of the above positions have to be at or under the weight restriction to play their position.  Players are weighed with their pads on before each game.
  • Offensive Line – There are five offensive linemen. In order from left to right, generally they are: the Left Tackle (LT), Left Guard (LG), Center (C), Right Guard (RG) and Right Tackle (RT). It is their job to either pass block for the QB so he has time to throw or run block for the RB or FB. Most of the time, with the exception of the Center “snapping” the ball to the QB, offensive linemen do not touch the ball. The offensive line is usually made up of the biggest, strongest players on the team.  In CAYFL, any player can play on the offensive line and is not restricted by weight.

PART 2: The Defensive Players 

Part two is here to help you tackle the roles of the defense. Like the offense, there are 11 defensive players on the field. Their job is to prevent the offense from scoring by tackling players or causing turnovers.

  • NOTE:  In CAYFL, no defensive player is restricted by weight.
  • Defensive Line – This is the first line of defense and consists of three or four players who line up opposite the offensive line. They are two Defensive Ends (DE) on either side and one or two Defensive Tackles (DT). Their job is to shed the blocks of the offensive linemen and tackle ball carriers, usually running backs coming through the line or quarterbacks dropping back to pass. If a player is on the defensive line, they are generally big and strong.  Note: In CAYFL, Levels D, JVC, C require at least 4 or 5 players on the defensive line for each play.
  • Linebacker (LB) – As the name implies, the Linebackers back the defensive line. Depending on the defensive alignment, there are usually three or four on the field. Outside linebackers (OLB) stand to the sides of the DEs and Inside linebackers (ILB) or middle linebackers (MLB) stand behind the DTs. LBs are usually responsible for shadowing RBs, TEs and sometimes WRs; rushing the passer; and tackling ball carriers. Those who are linebackers are likely strong and fast.  Note: In CAYFL, Linebackers for the D, JVC and C levels are to start the play 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
  • Cornerback (CB) – Cornerbacks are usually the fastest player on the defense. They support the run, and might be asked to blitz the QB, but spend most of their time covering wide receivers. This means they try to break up passes, tackle players who catch passes, and try to intercept passes coming their way. There are usually two to four CBs on the field at a time. Cornerbacks should be really fast and capable tacklers.  Note: In CAYFL Cornerbacks for the D, JVC and C levels are called Outside Linebackers and are also required to be 5 yards off of the line of scrimmage.
  • Safety (S) – There are two S positions: The Strong Safety (SS) and the Free Safety (FS). The strong safety is usually, well, strong, and fast. They are usually responsible for covering TEs, RBs, and WRs and playing down the field but are often expected to come up in run support. The Free Safety has similar duties but is commonly considered the center fielder, and thus the last line of the defense. A safety should be fast and strong, and be a capable tackler.  Note: CAYFL requires for the D, JVC and C levels that there are 2 Safeties and they line up 10 yards off the line of scrimmage.
  • Note: There are other restrictions for defenses the D, JVC and C levels and can be found in the rules of operation at

PART 3: Special Teams

Specialty players take the field during field goals, punts and kick-offs. These players consist of:

  • Kicker (K)– The kicker is responsible for kickoffs and field goals. They are strong-legged players who can kick accurately from a tee on kickoffs and from a holder on field goals.  Note: a Kicker attempting an extra-point or Field Goal is required to be under-weight.  Any player may attempt a Kickoff.  Extra-point kicks are worth 2 Points in CAYFL league play.
  • Punter (P)– The punter is responsible for kicking the ball away if the offense fails to get a first down and usually punts on 4th  Note:  In CAYFL, there are no punts on the D level.  Instead, a 20 yard advance is given and the ball given to the opposing team.   JVC and C teams can opt for a “Free-Punt” where the ball is handed to the punter by the referee instead of snapped backwards from the center.  All Punters in CAYFL must be underweight.

Understanding the roles of each player on the football field can be a doozy. But with this guide, you should be on your way to having a strong grasp on strong safeties, full familiarity with fullbacks and so much more.