The Six Most Important Positions In Football
Football is the ultimate team game, with 11 players per team on the field at all times. While even one player missing his assignment can lead to disastrous results, not all positions are equally important.
The players that touch the ball most frequently may be seen as most important; while that is true in the case of the quarterback, other players that rarely touch the ball can have a significant impact on the game.
Let’s break down the most important positions in football.
Position 1: Quarterback
Generally, quarterbacks are among the highest-paid players in the NFL. The quarterback touches that ball on every offensive play and is the field general for the offense. They have the most impact on the outcome of a football game. Most modern NFL quarterbacks have a combination of size, mobility, a strong arm, smart decision-making skills, and throwing accuracy.
He must be adept at reading defenses in a split second and changing calls at the line of scrimmage if necessary. A high football IQ is a must for a great quarterback. Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of the game, has never been the most athletic.
Still, his precise decision-making, brain, and accuracy have led to his unprecedented seven Super Bowl titles. All these factors together make the quarterback the most important position in football.
Position 2: Offensive Linemen
Starting on the left side of the line, the left tackle is the most critical position along the line. The offensive lineman must be able to protect the quarterback’s blind side (assuming the quarterback is right-handed).
A poor left tackle will eventually result in a turnover and possibly a quarterback injury from being nailed by a defensive lineman from his blind side. The left guard needs strength to move defensive linemen off the ball during runs and pick up pash rushers attempting to maul through the line. The center needs to be able to hike the ball consistently to the quarterback and, most importantly, read the defensive and call out the blocking assignments.
He also must be nimble and strong enough to ward off pass-rushing defensive tackles. The right side of the line needs to be able to cut through the second level of the defensive and open holes for running backs, as well as be strong enough to ward off blitzes from linebackers, safeties, and pass-rushing left ends.
Position 3: Defensive Lineman
Considering how important the quarterback position is, defenses must find ways to disrupt the quarterback’s timing in any way possible. The best way is to get a significant pass rush from the defensive line.
Every defense needs a game-changing defensive lineman, one that is capable of creating quarterback pressures, hurries, sacks, and perhaps forced fumbles. Blind-sided pass-rushing specialists are at a premium. Interior defensive linemen are important as well. While most don’t rack up big numbers in sacks and tackles, the pressure they can create upfront opens holes for linebackers to come through the line and make plays.
Pressure from defensive linemen can also force offensive linemen to commit holding penalties, often nullifying big plays and costing the team 10 yards in the process.
Position 4: Linebacker
The middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense, also known as “Mike” linebackers, are the quarterbacks of the defensive unit. They are the players who call the defensive plays after assessing the offensive formation, particularly when the offense calls an audible.
The primary goal of the middle linebacker is to shadow the quarterback, protect the middle of the field from passes to tight ends, stop the run, and occasionally blitz the quarterback. In a 3-4 defense, the two inside linebackers will have the same responsibilities as the middle linebacker. They are often known as “Sam” for a strong-side linebacker and “Will” for a weak-side linebacker. These linebackers generally have the most tackles than any other NFL position.
The outside linebackers are behind the defensive line and primarily cover tight ends and running backs in the passing game. However, they can surprise the offense with blitzes from the outside. A strong core of linebackers is crucial to keep running backs from breaking into the secondary for long gains.
Position 5: Cornerback
The NFL has become a primarily passing-oriented game. Therefore, defenses need top-notch cornerbacks to cover wide receivers. A defense often keeps their best cover corner to the side of the field that the opposing quarterback throws to most frequently. A shutdown cornerback can alter an entire offense by forcing the quarterback to look to the middle or other side of the field in the passing game.
On the other hand, a weak cornerback can be exposed over and over again to the point where an offense can move the ball at will. In some cases, the defense will use their top corner in all parts of the field, moving to match up with the opponent’s number-one wide receiver.
Position 6: Safeties
The safeties are the farthest away from the offensive line and the last line of defense, making them vital defensive unit members. A team has strong safety and free safety. The strong safety usually will be a bit closer to the line and will help in run support and cover running backs and tight ends in passing situations.
The free safety roams deep in the middle of the field and can cover receivers that get beyond the corners, knock down passes, intercept passes and pick up fumbles. Typically safeties are among the best athletes on the field and are interchangeable. Defensive coaches often covet playmakers at the safety position. High football IQ, ball instincts, and excellent tackling ability must be a top-flight safety.
What About Running Backs & Receivers?
One might wonder why running backs and receivers aren’t among the most important positions on a football team. They are important, but without a solid offensive line, the best running back won’t have a chance to gain yardage consistently. Without a quarterback who can read defenses and get the ball down the field, the best wide receiver will be rendered useless.
What Is The Most Difficult Position?
There is no denying that the quarterback is in the top position in football. The last nine NFL MVP award winners have gone to quarterbacks, and nearly 60 percent of Super Bowl MVP awards have gone to quarterbacks.
Ranking the other positions can vary depending on league trends. Intelligent general managers and coaches will understand the nuances of every position on the field. From a fan’s perspective, understanding won’t affect who will win the Super Bowl but will enhance your enjoyment of the game.