What Is a DB In Football? Everything You Need To Know


What Is a DB In Football?

A DB in American football is a “defensive back.” The players at these positions are the last line of defense between the offense and scoring a touchdown.

Defensive backs are among the most energetic, athletic players on the field and can bring spectators to their feet with big plays that can make a difference in the outcome of a game.

Let’s take a closer look at the position.

Why are Defensive Backs So Important

The defensive back is one of the most maneuverable players on the defensive side of the ball. A defensive coordinator has many options as to how many DBs to have in the game and where to position them. Typically, the game has four defensive backs, but this varies depending on the situation.

Different Defensive Positions on the Field

There are 11 players on the field on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. These 11 men need to cover the entire field on defense, providing multiple layers between the offense and the end zone.

The first line of defense is the defensive line which consists of defensive tackles and defensive ends. The next layer is the linebackers, and the final layer is the defensive backs, which are made of multiple positions.

Popular Defensive Schemes

American football’s most basic defensive schemes are the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. In both of these schemes, there are four defensive backs. These numbers indicate the number of defensive linemen and linebackers in the game.

The nickel defense is a scheme with five defensive backs, and the fifth defensive back is called a nickel back. This player can help cover extra receivers in obvious passing situations.

The game has six defensive backs in the dime defense, and it is used when the team is significantly ahead; the opposing team needs to pass on every play. This defense provides optimal pass coverage.

Since a defense can only have 11 players on the field at any time, a defensive coordinator needs to know when to use more or fewer defensive backs. The more DBs in the game, the fewer players near the line of scrimmage to stop the run.

Different Types of Defensive Backs in American Football

The defensive back positions are the cornerbacks, strong safeties, and free safeties. Each player has specific skill sets, so it’s vital to know their similarities and differences.


The cornerback plays closest to the line of scrimmage out of any of the players in the secondary. Their main job is to cover receivers and prevent them from catching passes.

If the receiver does catch a pass, the cornerback needs to tackle him as soon as possible. They can also be a part of blitz schemes or get close to the line of scrimmage to disrupt running plays, creating a turnover.

Strong Safety

The strong safety is generally bigger than the two safety positions and plays closer to the line of scrimmage. They can be an instrumental line of defense and usually plays on the offense’s strong side, the side with the tight end, or multiple receivers.

Free Safety

Free safety is the last line of defense. They usually play out in a vast space in zone coverage. They must be fast runners to cover a large part of the field. A free safety can also see the entire play take shape before them. It’s the job of the free safety to recognize the play and be in the correct position to help pass plays or make tackles. 

What Makes a Good Defensive Back in American Football?

Defensive backs should be complete athletes with unique skill sets compared to others on the field. They also must have the strength to interact with big, strong receivers when contesting a pass.

One skill needed is the ability to move back quickly while still keeping their eyes in front of them, so backpedal is a key skill to master.

How Many DBs are in the NFL Hall of Fame?

As of the beginning of the 2022 calendar year, there were 36 defensive backs in the NFL Hall of Fame. These players were not only among the best in league history, but their style of play and propensity to make the big play made them favorites among the fans.

Qualities Of a Good Defensive Back

The defensive back is one of the most important positions on a football team. They are responsible for stopping the opposing team’s passing plays and keeping the ball in bounds.

There are a few key things that a good defensive back must do to be successful.

1. Good Footwork

Good footwork means being able to quickly change directions and keep their balance. They also need to stay low and maintain their center of gravity.

2. Be Able To Read The Quarterback’s Eyes

Meaning watching the quarterback’s head and shoulders to see where he is looking and anticipating where the ball will be thrown.

3. Good Hands 

This means catching the ball when it is thrown their way. They also need to be able to swat away or intercept passes that are intended for the other team.

4. Ability To Make Quick Decisions

This means seeing the whole field and knowing who their responsibility is on each play. They need to react quickly and decide to stop the opposing team’s offense.

5. Have Excellent Stamina

This means being able to run long distances and being able to maintain their focus for an entire game.

Who are Some of the Most Famous DBs in the NFL Hall of Fame?

Ronnie Lott: Lott was one of the hardest hitters in NFL history, who started his career as a cornerback before moving to free safety. He helped lead the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl titles and was a 10-time Pro Bowler. Lott had 63 career interceptions, twice leading the league in interceptions. 

Deion Sanders: Sanders was one of the most popular and dynamic cornerbacks of all time. He had 53 interceptions during his career, dabbled as a wide receiver, and was an excellent punt and kick returner. Sanders was such a great athlete that he also had 558 hits and 186 stolen bases as a Major League Baseball player over nine seasons.

Troy Polamalu: The legendary Pittsburgh Steelers was dynamic in that he could attack the line of scrimmage with a blitz and hurdle over the offensive line to create havoc. His wild hairstyle matched his aggressive style of play, making him one of the most recognizable defensive players on the field.

Darrell Green: Green spent his entire 20-year NFL career (1983-2002) with Washington. Although diminutive in size, Green was one of the best cover cornerbacks in league history. He made up for size with blazing speed, had 54 interceptions, and won two Super Bowl rings.

Charles Woodson: Woodson spent two decades in the NFL between the Oakland Raiders and the Green Bay Packers. Steady as they come, Woodson played all the defensive back positions at one time or another, made nine Pro Bowls, had 65 interceptions, and returned 11 for touchdowns.


Defensive backs are among the most popular players on the field for spectators due to their athletic ability and propensity for making big plays. They are the last line of defense, so they need a wide range of skills to help prevent the opposing team from scoring touchdowns. 

Keep an eye on the defensive backs, and you’ll see some of the most gifted athletes making game-changing plays on the football field.