What Is A Will Linebacker In Football?

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The Basics of a Will Linebacker  

A Will Linebacker is a defensive position in football that typically lines up on the weak side of the offensive formation—the side without the tight end or extra blocker. They usually line up on the outside shoulder of the last offensive player closest to that side. This is why they are also known as an “outside linebacker.” 

In most defenses, there are two linebackers playing together, one on either side of the field. The Will Linebacker plays alongside another linebacker, referred to as the “Mike,” or middle linebacker. Together, these two players form what is known as a linebacking corps. As part of this unit, they are responsible for defending against running and passing plays.   

Origins Of The Position

The will linebacker position was created by legendary coach Vince Lombardi when he introduced the “4-3” defense. Lombardi realized that having a smaller, faster player in this position would give his team an advantage in stopping the run. They have become an integral part of football defenses ever since.

They are often referred to as the “weakside” linebacker because they line up on the field side opposite the tight end. This allows them to flow toward the ball on running plays and provides additional support in pass coverage.

The Role of a Will Linebacker    

The Will Linebacker has several responsibilities within the defense structure, which include reading run or pass plays quickly, reacting quickly to changes in play direction or blocking schemes, dropping back into pass coverage when needed, and attacking the ball carrier when appropriate.

Furthermore, they must have great instincts and quick reactions to make plays on offense before getting set up properly in their defensive alignment. They must also be able to recognize screen passes that can catch them off-guard if they fail to react quickly enough. 

Qualities Of A Good Will Linebacker

Good Tackler: This is probably the most important quality for a Will Linebacker, as their primary responsibility is to stop the run. They will have good technique and be able to wrap up properly when tackling so that they can take down the ball carrier and not just knock them down.

Ability To Shed Blockers: This is especially important when they are trying to defend against the run. The offensive linemen often try to block them so that the running back can get past them and gain yardage. They will be able to use their hands to shed blockers and get to the ball carrier.

Good Instincts: This is important for defending the run and the pass. They need to be able to quickly diagnose what the offense is trying to do and then react accordingly. Often, the best way to defend against an offense is to anticipate what they will do before doing it.


The Will Linebacker is an important part of any defense team’s success. They must anticipate plays quickly and react accordingly to ensure their team stays ahead and prevents opponents from scoring points. It takes a special type of player with athleticism, intelligence, speed, and agility to play this position effectively.