American Football Terms And Definitions

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Adjustment: A change in strategy or formation in response to the opposing team's tactics.

After the Whistle: Any actions that occur after the play has been officially ended by the referee's whistle.

Air Yards: The total distance that a football is thrown beyond the line of scrimmage towards the receiver.

Alignment: The position of a player or group of players relative to the line of scrimmage before the snap.

All-Purpose Yardage: The total yards gained by a player from rushing, receiving, interception returns, punt returns, and kickoff returns.

Anchor: A player, typically a defensive lineman or linebacker, who is very strong against the run.

Angle Kick: A punt or kickoff aimed towards the sidelines to limit the returner's opportunity for a long return.

Angle Tackle: A tackle where the defender attacks the ball carrier at an angle rather than head-on.

Arm Tackle: A tackle attempt made by a defender using only their arms.

Assistant Coach: A coach who helps the head coach in various capacities, focusing on specific areas like offense, defense, or special teams.

Astroturf: A brand of artificial turf, often used as a generic term for any artificial playing surface.

Audible: A change in the play called by the quarterback at the line of scrimmage before the snap.

Automatic First Down: A first down automatically awarded following certain penalties against the defense.

Ace Formation: An offensive formation with one running back and four wide receivers.

A-Gap: The space between the center and the offensive guard on either side.

Against the Spread (ATS): Refers to the performance of a team in relation to the point spread.

Axe Man: A slang term for a player who is particularly aggressive in tackling or blocking.


Back Judge: An official who positions himself in the defensive backfield, responsible for pass interference and other penalties.

Backfield: The area of the field behind the line of scrimmage, typically where the quarterback and running backs are positioned.

Backpedal: A defensive maneuver where a player moves backward while facing the line of scrimmage.

Ball Carrier: The player who is in possession of the football during play.

Blind Side: The side of the field the quarterback cannot see when he drops back to pass.

Blitz: A defensive strategy involving rushing more players than usual to tackle the quarterback.

Block: The act of obstructing a defender or an opponent away from the ball carrier.

Blocking Back: A back whose primary task is to block for the running back or quarterback.

Bomb: A long, high-arching pass downfield.

Boot: Short for "bootleg," a play where the quarterback fakes a handoff and then runs with the ball.

Bootleg: A play in which the quarterback fakes handing off the ball and then runs with it in the opposite direction.

Boundary Side: The side of the field closest to the sideline.

Bowl Game: A postseason game in college football.

Box: An area typically occupied by the defensive line and linebackers, near the line of scrimmage.

Breadbasket: The area of a player's torso where it is easiest to securely catch a pass.

Breakdown Area: The area where a defender slows down and prepares to make a tackle.

Bubble Screen: A quick, short pass to a receiver who has blockers ahead.

Bull Rush: A technique used by defensive players to overpower offensive linemen.

Bullpen Quarterback: A backup quarterback.

Bump and Run: A defensive technique where a defender makes contact with a receiver at the line of scrimmage and then follows them closely downfield.

Bump Coverage: A type of pass coverage where a defender physically impedes a receiver at the line of scrimmage.

Brush Block: A light, quick block to slow down or redirect an opponent.

Busted Play: A play that goes awry and does not occur as planned.

Buttonhook: A pass route where the receiver runs straight downfield then quickly turns back toward the quarterback to catch the ball.

Bye Week: A week during the regular season where a team does not have a game scheduled.


Cadence: The rhythm and pattern of words the quarterback uses before the snap.

Call: The decision made by the quarterback or coach on which play to execute.

Carry: The act of running with the football.

Catch: When a player successfully receives a pass.

Center: The offensive lineman who snaps the ball to the quarterback.

Chain Crew: The group of sideline personnel who manage the yardage chains.

Chains: The 10-yard long chain used to measure for a first down.

Chop Block: An illegal block where one player hits a defender below the waist while another player engages the defender above the waist.

Clipping: An illegal block from behind below the waist.

Clock Management: The strategic use of the game clock and play clock.

Coin Toss: The pregame activity to determine which team will kick off or receive and which goal each team will defend.

Completion: A successful forward pass caught by a receiver.

Concussion Protocol: A set of procedures used to assess and handle a player's concussion.

Conference: A group of teams, typically in college football, that compete primarily against each other.

Contain: A defensive strategy to keep a play within the inside part of the field.

Conversion: The attempt to score one or two additional points after a touchdown.

Cornerback (CB): A defensive back who primarily covers wide receivers.

Count: The number of defensive players in a specific area or the timing signal from the quarterback.

Crackback Block: A block by a player who lines up outside the tackle box and blocks back towards the ball.

Crossbar: The horizontal bar that forms part of the goalpost.

Curl Route: A pass route where the receiver runs downfield and then turns back toward the quarterback.

Cut Block: A legal block where an offensive player blocks a defender at or below the waist.

Cutback: A running play where the ball carrier starts in one direction but changes direction to evade defenders.


Dead Ball: A ball that is not in play.

Deep Pass: A long forward pass down the field.

Defensive Back (DB): A player in the defensive secondary who primarily defends against pass plays.

Defensive End (DE): A player on the defensive line positioned at the end, typically responsible for rushing the quarterback and stopping runs.

Defensive Holding: A penalty where a defensive player illegally holds an offensive player.

Defensive Line: The group of players on defense that line up near the line of scrimmage.

Defensive Tackle (DT): A player on the defensive line primarily responsible for stopping the run and rushing the quarterback.

Delay of Game: A penalty for failing to snap the ball before the play clock runs out.

Dime Back: A sixth defensive back used in certain defensive alignments.

Dime Package: A defensive formation with six defensive backs.

Direct Snap: A play where the ball is snapped directly to a player other than the quarterback.

Double Coverage: When two defensive players cover a single receiver.

Double Team: When two players block a single opponent.

Down: A period in which a play occurs. A team gets four downs to advance the ball 10 yards.

Down and Distance: The current down and the yards needed for a first down.

Down by Contact: When a player with the ball is touched by a defender and is downed.

Down Lineman: A defensive player who starts the play in a position with his hand on the ground.

Draw Play: An offensive play that appears to be a pass play but is actually a running play.

Drive: A series of offensive plays leading to a score or change of possession.

Drop Back: When the quarterback moves back after receiving the snap.

Drop Kick: A type of kick where the ball is dropped and kicked as it touches the ground.

Dropped Pass: A pass that a receiver fails to catch.

Dual-Threat Quarterback: A quarterback skilled in both passing and running with the ball.


Eligible Receiver: A player who is legally allowed to catch a forward pass. This includes wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, and occasionally offensive linemen who have reported as eligible.

Encroachment: A penalty where a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage and contacts an offensive player before the snap.

End Around: A play where a wide receiver or tight end comes into the backfield to take a handoff and runs around the outside of the line.

End Line: The boundary line that runs along the back of each end zone.

End Zone: The area at each end of the field where touchdowns are scored.

Extra Point: A kick, typically after a touchdown, worth one point.

Extra Point Conversion: A play attempting to score two additional points from the two-yard line, following a touchdown.

Edge Rusher: A player who specializes in rushing the quarterback from the edge of the defensive line.

Eject: To remove a player from the game due to a penalty or misconduct.

Eligible Formation: An offensive formation where the number of players on the line of scrimmage and their positions comply with the rules regarding eligible receivers.

Encroachment Zone: The neutral zone or space between the offense and defense lines before the snap.

End Sweep: A running play where the ball carrier tries to run around the outside of the offensive line.

Engage: The moment when a blocker makes contact with a defender.

Even Front: A defensive alignment with an equal number of linemen on each side of the center.

Execution: The act of performing a play as it was designed.

Explosive Play: A play that gains a significant number of yards, usually 20 or more.

Extension: The act of a receiver stretching out their arms to make a catch.

Eye Discipline: The ability of a player, especially on defense, to focus on their assignment and not be distracted by the opponent's movements.


Fair Catch: A signal given by the return man on a punt or kickoff, indicating he will catch the ball without attempting a return, and is not allowed to be tackled.

False Start: A penalty where an offensive player moves illegally before the snap.

Field Goal (FG): A scoring play where the ball is kicked through the uprights of the goalpost for three points.

Field Position: The location on the field where the ball is placed for the next play.

First Down: The first of four attempts a team has to move the ball 10 yards forward.

Flag: The marker thrown by an official to indicate a penalty.

Flanker: A wide receiver who lines up behind the line of scrimmage.

Flat: The area of the field near the sidelines, short and to the side of the line of scrimmage.

Flea Flicker: A trick play where the quarterback hands off to a running back, who then pitches it back to the quarterback for a pass play.

Flop: When a player deliberately falls or stumbles to draw a penalty, often considered unsportsmanlike.

Fly Route: A straight route run by a receiver, usually down the sideline, intended to outrun the defense.

Formation: The arrangement of players on the field before the snap.

Forward Pass: A pass thrown towards the opponent's goal line.

Four-Point Stance: A stance used by linemen where they are on all fours.

Free Kick: A kickoff or punt, typically following a safety.

Free Safety (FS): A defensive back who typically plays the deepest in the secondary.

Fullback (FB): A position in the offensive backfield primarily used for blocking.

Fumble: The act of losing possession of the football while running or being tackled.


Gap: The space between the offensive linemen, often identified by letters (A gap, B gap, etc.).

Game Plan: The strategy devised by a team for a particular game.

Gang Tackle: When multiple defensive players tackle a ball carrier at the same time.

Garbage Time: The period towards the end of a game when the outcome is already decided and the regular starters may be substituted out.

Goal Line: The line marking the front of the end zone.

Goal Line Defense: A defensive alignment used when the offense is close to scoring a touchdown.

Goal Line Stand: When the defense successfully stops the offense from scoring a touchdown despite being near the goal line.

Goal Post: The uprights and crossbar used for field goals and extra points.

Go Route: A deep passing route where the receiver runs straight downfield.

Goal line Formation: An offensive formation used near the goal line, typically with extra blockers.

Good Field Position: When a team starts a drive closer to their opponent's end zone.

Gridiron: Another name for the football field, referencing the grid-like markings.

Guard: An offensive lineman position next to the center.

Gun Formation: A variation of the shotgun formation where the quarterback stands several yards back from the center.

Gunner: A player on punt and kickoff teams who specializes in running downfield quickly to tackle the returner.

Guts: Courage or determination, often used to describe a player's or team's attitude.

Game Clock: The clock that tracks the time remaining in each quarter of the game.

Game-Winning Drive: An offensive drive late in the game that results in the go-ahead score.

Gap Integrity: The responsibility of defenders to cover specific gaps between offensive players.

Gadget Play: An unusual or trick play.

Gather Step: A step used by receivers or defenders to change direction quickly.

General Manager (GM): The executive responsible for player transactions and overall roster management.

Give: A term for a handoff from the quarterback to a running back.

Goal-To-Go: A situation where the offense's goal is to score a touchdown, and they have a first down inside the opponent's 10-yard line.

Grass Drill: A drill used in practice for agility and tackling techniques.

Grip: The way a quarterback or punter holds the ball.


Hail Mary: A desperate long pass towards the end zone, usually attempted at the end of halves.

Halfback (HB): A versatile running back who lines up behind the quarterback, used for both running and receiving.

Halftime: The break between the second and third quarters of a football game.

Handoff: The act of a quarterback giving the ball directly to a running back.

Hang Time: The time a punted ball spends in the air.

Hash Marks: The lines on the field that mark each yard and where the ball is placed at the start of each play.

H-Back: A hybrid position that combines the roles of a tight end and a fullback.

Head Coach: The main coach responsible for the team's overall strategy and decision-making.

Heisman Trophy: An annual award given to the most outstanding player in college football.

Helmet-to-Helmet Contact: An illegal and dangerous hit where two players' helmets forcefully collide.

High Snap: A snap that is higher than expected, often causing timing issues in the play.

Hike: Another term for snapping the ball.

Holder: The player who holds the ball for a placekicker during field goal and extra point attempts.

Holding: A penalty for illegally grabbing and holding an opponent.

Home Field Advantage: The benefit a team has when playing in their own stadium.

Huddle: A gathering of players to discuss the next play.

Hurry-Up Offense: A fast-paced offensive approach designed to run plays quickly and with minimal time between them.

Hybrid Player: A player capable of playing multiple positions or roles on the field.

Hard Count: A strategy used by quarterbacks to try to cause the defense to jump offside by varying the cadence of the snap count.

Hit Stick: A term for a particularly powerful and effective tackle.

Hole: The space in the defensive line that a running back aims to run through.

Horse-Collar Tackle: An illegal tackle where a defender grabs the back collar of a player's jersey or shoulder pads to pull them down.

Hot Read: A quick pass to a predetermined receiver in response to a blitz.

Hot Route: An adjusted pass route to counteract a blitz.

Huddle Up: The act of players gathering in a huddle to receive the play call.

Hurry: A defensive statistic where a defender pressures the quarterback, causing a hurried throw.

Hybrid Defense: A defensive scheme that blends elements of both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses.


Illegal Formation: A penalty when the offensive team does not have the required number of players on the line of scrimmage.

Illegal Forward Pass: A penalty for a pass thrown from beyond the line of scrimmage or after the ball has crossed it.

Illegal Motion: A penalty when an offensive player is moving forward or is not set before the snap.

Illegal Procedure: A broad term for various procedural violations by the offense, such as a false start.

Illegal Shift: A penalty where two or more offensive players are moving after the formation is set and do not reset before the snap.

Illegal Substitution: A penalty for having too many players on the field or improper substitution.

Illegal Use of Hands: A penalty for using the hands or arms to push, hold, or hit in the face an opponent.

In the Grasp: A ruling where the quarterback is considered sacked when firmly held by a defender, even if not yet tackled.

Incomplete Pass: A forward pass that is not caught by a receiver and touches the ground.

Inside Run: A running play directed between the offensive tackles.

Interception: A pass that is caught by a defensive player, ending the offense's possession.

Interior Lineman: The center and guards on the offensive line or the tackles and nose guard on the defensive line.

Intentional Grounding: A penalty where the quarterback throws the ball away to avoid a sack without a receiver in the area.

Iso Play: Short for "isolation play," a running play designed to isolate a defender with a specific blocker.

I-Formation: A common offensive formation where the fullback and halfback line up directly behind the quarterback.

Ineligible Receiver Downfield: A penalty where an offensive player illegally goes downfield on a passing play.

Instant Replay: The use of video playback to review and potentially overturn an on-field decision by the officials.

Interference: The illegal hindrance of an opponent, such as pass interference or kick-catching interference.

Iron Man: A player who plays on both offense and defense.

Iso Block: A type of block in an isolation play aimed at a specific defender.


Jab Step: A quick, deceptive step by a player, usually a receiver or running back, to throw off a defender.

Jam: A technique used by defensive players, especially cornerbacks, to disrupt a receiver's route at the line of scrimmage.

Journeyman: A player who has played for several different teams during their career, often used to describe veterans who fill in gaps on a roster.

Juke: A quick and deceptive move by a ball carrier to evade defenders.

Jump Ball: A situation where the quarterback throws a high pass and both a receiver and defender have an equal chance to catch it, often in the end zone.

Jump Cut: A sharp, sudden cut by a ball carrier, usually to change direction and avoid a defender.

Jump Offside: When a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped, leading to a penalty.

Jump Pass: A pass thrown by the quarterback while jumping, often used to get the ball over defenders.

Jumbo Formation: An offensive formation that uses extra tight ends or offensive linemen to strengthen the running game, usually in short-yardage situations.

Jumbo Package: A personnel grouping in the jumbo formation, emphasizing size and power.

Junk Defense: A non-traditional, often improvised defensive strategy designed to confuse the offense.

Junk Time: The period in a game when the outcome is already decided, and the usual starters may be substituted out, similar to "garbage time."

Just-in-Time Tackle: A tackle made at the last possible moment, often preventing a big play or touchdown.


Kickoff: The action of starting each half and following each score by kicking the ball from a team's own 35-yard line.

Kick Return: The act of catching and returning a kickoff.

Kicker (K): The player who specializes in kicking field goals, extra points, and kickoffs.

Kickoff Specialist: A kicker who specializes in kickoffs, often with a strong leg for deep kicks.

Kickoff Team: The team that performs the kickoff.

Kickoff Return Team: The team receiving the kickoff.

Kicking Game: Refers to all aspects of kicking in football, including kickoffs, punts, field goals, and extra points.

Knee Down: When a player, usually the quarterback, intentionally kneels on one knee after receiving the snap to end the play, often to run out the clock.

Knockdown: A pass that is deflected or knocked down by a defender, preventing a completion.

Knockout Round: In playoff formats, the round where teams are eliminated after a single loss.

Knuckleball: A type of kick where the ball does not spin end over end, making it difficult to catch or predict its bounce.

Kick Coverage: The aspect of special teams play focusing on covering kickoffs and punts to prevent long returns.

Key: To focus on or watch a specific part of the opposing team's formation or a specific player to anticipate the play.

Key Blocker: A player whose block is crucial for the success of a play.

Key Play: An important play in a game that contributes significantly to the outcome.

Kill the Clock: Strategies used by an offense to consume as much time as possible, usually when leading near the end of the game.

Kneel Down: An intentional act by the quarterback to end the play safely, usually to conserve time or secure a win.

Knife In: When a defensive player quickly penetrates the offensive line to disrupt a play.

Knock-On Effect: The impact a play or decision has on subsequent plays or strategies.

Kicking Tee: A small stand used to hold the ball for kickoffs.

Kick Block: A defensive play where a player blocks or deflects a field goal or extra point attempt.

Kick Slide: A pass-blocking technique used by offensive linemen, particularly in pass protection.

Kick Through: The act of a kicker sending the ball through the uprights on a field goal or extra point.

Kick Trap: A defensive play designed to trap or corner the returner on kickoffs or punts.


Lateral: A pass thrown parallel to or backward from the line of scrimmage. It is allowed to be thrown anywhere on the field.

Line of Scrimmage: The imaginary line where the ball is placed and beyond which an offensive player cannot cross before the snap.

Linebacker (LB): A position on defense, these players line up behind the defensive line and are involved in tackling, covering receivers, and sometimes rushing the quarterback.

Lineman: Players who line up on the line of scrimmage. This includes offensive and defensive linemen.

Live Ball: A ball that is in play.

Long Snapper: A specialized center who snaps the ball on punts and field goal attempts.

Loose Ball: A ball that is not in the possession of either team, such as after a fumble or a botched snap.

Loss of Down: A penalty resulting in the loss of the right to repeat a down.

Lateral Movement: Movement parallel to the line of scrimmage.

Lead Block: When a player, often a fullback or tight end, blocks a defender to create a path for the ball carrier.

Lead Tackle: A type of tackle made by the first defender to reach the ball carrier.

Leaping: A penalty where a player jumps or steps on other players to block or attempt to block an opponent’s kick.

Left Tackle (LT): The offensive lineman responsible for protecting the quarterback's blind side, usually considered the most skilled pass protector.

Legal Formation: A formation where the correct number of players are on the line of scrimmage and eligible receivers are properly positioned.

Lob Pass: A pass thrown with a high arc, typically used to get the ball over defenders to a receiver.

Lock Down Corner: A cornerback who is so skilled in coverage that he can effectively "lock down" his side of the field against the passing game.

Log Block: A blocking technique where the blocker pins the defensive end who is trying to spill them, into the line of scrimmage.

Long Snap: A snap that travels a longer distance, usually in punting situations or field goal attempts.

Look-In Pass: A quick pass to a receiver running a short route.

Looping: A defensive maneuver where a lineman or linebacker takes a curved path to evade blockers or to execute a stunt.

Low Block: A block aimed below the waist, legal in certain situations but often regulated to prevent injuries.

Lurk: A defensive strategy where a player, often a linebacker or safety, patrols an area of the field to read the quarterback and make plays on the ball.


Man Coverage: A type of pass coverage where each defensive back is assigned to cover a specific receiver.

Man in Motion: An offensive player who moves parallel to the line of scrimmage before the snap.

Man-to-Man: A defensive strategy where each defensive player is assigned to guard a specific offensive player.

Marker: The physical marker that indicates the current line of scrimmage and the line to gain for a first down.

Muffed Punt: A fumbled or mishandled ball by the returner on a punt, which can be recovered by either team.

Muff: The act of failing to catch a punt or kickoff cleanly, but before the ball hits the ground.

Middle Linebacker (MLB): The linebacker who typically lines up near the middle of the formation and is often the leader of the defense.

Misdirection Play: A play designed to deceive the defense about the direction of the ball carrier.

Motion: The movement of an offensive player before the snap.

Move the Chains: To gain enough yards for a first down, resulting in a resetting of the down markers.

Multiple Formation: An offense that uses a variety of formations to confuse the defense.

Mush Rush: A defensive strategy focused more on containing the quarterback rather than aggressively trying to sack him.

MVP (Most Valuable Player): An award given to the player deemed the most valuable to their team or the league.

Midfield: The 50-yard line, the center of the field.

Mike Linebacker: Another term for the middle linebacker, often the player the offensive line focuses on for blocking assignments.

Mismatch: A situation where a player has a favorable matchup against an opponent, often due to differences in skill, size, or speed.

Monster Back: A defensive player, usually a strong safety, who has a significant role in run defense and pass coverage.

Motion Man: A player who is moving in motion at the time of the snap.

Mounting a Comeback: When a team is overcoming a significant deficit in the score.

Muffed Snap: A botched or mishandled snap from the center to the quarterback.

Muddle Huddle: A disorganized or hurried huddle, often used in a hurry-up offense.

My Guy Principle: A blocking principle where a player blocks a specific defender regardless of the defensive alignment.


Naked Bootleg: An offensive play where the quarterback fakes a handoff and then runs with the ball in the opposite direction without a lead blocker.

Narrow Split: When an offensive lineman lines up closer to the center than usual.

Necessary Roughness: A penalty for excessive physical force that is not necessary for the play.

Neutral Zone: The area between the two lines of scrimmage (the length of the football).

Neutral Zone Infraction: A penalty where a defensive player enters the neutral zone and causes an offensive player to commit a false start.

Nickel Back: A fifth defensive back used in the nickel defense, usually to defend against passing plays.

Nickel Defense: A defensive alignment with five defensive backs, typically used in passing situations.

Nose Tackle (NT): A defensive lineman who lines up directly opposite the center. This position is prevalent in a 3-4 defensive alignment.

No-Huddle Offense: An offensive strategy where the team quickly forms at the line of scrimmage without a huddle to keep the defense off balance.

Non-Contact Injury: An injury that occurs without contact with another player.

Nose Guard: Another term for the nose tackle, especially in certain defensive alignments.

Notch a Win: To achieve or record a win.

Neutral Zone Blitz: A defensive strategy involving a blitz from players lined up near the neutral zone.

NFC (National Football Conference): One of the two conferences of the NFL.

NFL (National Football League): The professional football league in the United States.

NFL Draft: The annual event where NFL teams select eligible college football players to add to their rosters.

NFL Scouting Combine: An annual event where college football players perform physical and mental tests in front of NFL coaches, general managers, and scouts.

No-Gain Line: The line of scrimmage, indicating where the ball must cross to gain yardage.

North-South Runner: A runner who moves directly up the field, emphasizing power and directness over agility and elusiveness.

Nose of the Ball: The tip or front end of the football.

Number One Receiver: The top wide receiver on a team, typically the most skilled and the primary target in the passing game.

Nutcracker Drill: A physical and often intense drill used in practice, primarily to improve tackling and blocking.


Offensive Line (OL): The group of players who block for the quarterback and running backs; typically includes the center, guards, and tackles.

Offensive Coordinator: The coach responsible for designing and calling offensive plays.

Offside: A penalty where a player is on the wrong side of the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.

Onside Kick: A strategic kickoff intended for the kicking team to recover the ball.

Option Play: An offensive play where the quarterback can choose to run, hand off, or pitch the ball based on the defense's actions.

Out Pattern: A pass route where the receiver runs forward then cuts towards the sideline.

Outside Linebacker (OLB): Linebackers who line up near the edges of the defensive formation.

Overtime (OT): An extra period played to break a tie at the end of regulation time.

Owner: The person or group that owns an NFL team.

Overthrow: A pass that is thrown too high or too far for the receiver to catch.

Ox: An informal term for a strong and powerful lineman.

Over/Under: A betting term referring to the total points expected in a game.

Overachiever: A player who exceeds expectations based on their physical attributes or draft position.

Overload: A defensive tactic of placing more players on one side of the line of scrimmage than usual.

Overpursuit: When defenders move too far or too fast in one direction, allowing the offense to exploit the space left behind.

Overtime Rules: The specific rules that govern the play of overtime periods.

Open Receiver: A receiver who is not closely covered by a defender.

Out of Bounds: The area outside the boundary lines of the field.

Out Route: A pass route where the receiver runs downfield then cuts outward towards the sideline.

Outside Zone Run: A running play designed to go around the outer edge of the offensive line.

Ownership Group: The collection of individuals or entities that own a professional football team.

Offensive Holding: A penalty where an offensive player illegally restricts a defender, often by grabbing.

Offensive Scheme: The overall strategy and style of play used by an offense.

Off-Season: The period of the year when regular games are not played.

Off-Season Training Activities (OTAs): Organized team activities during the off-season, including practices and meetings.


P.A.T. (Point After Touchdown): The extra point attempt after a touchdown, either a kick for one point or a scrimmage play for two points.

Package: A specific grouping of players used in particular situations, like a "nickel package."

Pancake Block: A block that flattens the defender onto their back.

Pass Interference: A penalty when a player illegally hinders an opponent's opportunity to catch a forward pass.

Pass Protection: The act of preventing defenders from reaching the quarterback during a pass play.

Pass Rush: The attempt by defensive players to break through the offensive line to sack or hurry the quarterback.

Passer Rating: A statistical measure that evaluates a quarterback's performance.

Pistol Formation: A formation where the quarterback lines up closer to the center than in shotgun, with a running back directly behind.

Pitch: A lateral throw, usually from the quarterback to a running back.

Placekicker: A player who specializes in kicking field goals and extra points.

Play Action: A play that fakes a handoff before passing.

Play Clock: A timer that limits the time a team has to start a new play.

Playbook: A collection of all the plays a team might run.

Pocket: The area formed by blockers around the quarterback during a pass play.

Point Spread: The expected difference in score between two teams, used for betting purposes.

Possession: Having control of the football during the game.

Post Route: A deep pass route where the receiver runs downfield and then angles towards the goalposts.

Pooch Kick: A short, high kickoff intended to be more difficult to return.

Prevent Defense: A defensive strategy used to prevent long completions, often employed late in games.

Punt: A kick where the ball is dropped and kicked before it hits the ground, typically on fourth down.

Punt Returner: The player who catches and returns punts.

Pylon: The orange markers at each corner of the end zone.

Personal Foul: A penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct or dangerous play.

Pick Six: An interception returned by the defense for a touchdown.

Playoff: The postseason games to determine the champion.

Pocket Presence: A quarterback's ability to sense pressure and move within the pocket.

Pump Fake: A deceptive move by the quarterback to fake a pass.

Punt Block: An attempt to block the opponent's punt.

Punt Coverage: The team's effort to cover a punt and tackle the returner.

Punt Fake: A deceptive play where the team set up for a punt but runs a different play.

Pursuit: The act of chasing down the ball carrier by the defense.

Power Running: A running style that emphasizes physical force and direct advancement rather than agility and speed.

Press Coverage: A defensive tactic where defenders play very close to the receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Pro Bowl: The NFL's all-star game.

Pro Set Formation: An offensive formation with two running backs lined up behind the quarterback, one on each side.

Pylon Cam: A camera positioned inside the pylon to give a unique view of plays near the end zone.

Pyrotechnics: The use of fireworks or special effects in stadiums, often during player introductions or following scores.


Quarterback (QB): The leader of the offense, responsible for calling plays and distributing the football.

Quarterback Sneak: A play where the quarterback takes the snap and immediately rushes forward, usually on short yardage situations.

Quarterback Sack: When a defensive player tackles the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.

Quick Kick: An unexpected punt, typically on third down, to catch the defense off guard.

Quick Snap: Snapping the ball quickly before the defense is set.

Quarterback Rating: A statistical measure that evaluates the performance of a quarterback.

Quarterback Spy: A defensive player assigned to monitor and tackle the quarterback, especially used against mobile quarterbacks.

Quarters Coverage: A type of pass defense where each of four defensive backs is responsible for one quarter of the deep field.

Quick Out: A pass route where the receiver runs a few yards downfield and then turns quickly towards the sideline.

Quick Pass: A short passing play designed to get the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly.

Quick Slant: A pass route where the receiver runs diagonally across the field after a quick start.

Quarterback Draw: A play designed to look like a pass play but is actually a planned run by the quarterback.

Quarter Formation: A defensive formation with four defensive backs.

Quarterback Keeper: A play where the quarterback keeps the ball and runs with it, often following a fake handoff or pass.

Quarterback Pressure: The act of hurrying the quarterback into making a quick decision, potentially leading to mistakes.

Quarterback Scramble: When a quarterback runs with the ball after being unable to find an open receiver.

Quarterback Sweep: A running play where the quarterback runs to the outside of the line.

Quarterback Whispers: A coach or advisor known for their ability to develop or improve quarterbacks.

Quarters: The division of the game into four equal parts.

Quick Count: A play call designed to snap the ball quickly, sometimes immediately after lining up.

Quick Hitter: An offensive play designed for quick execution, often involving a short pass or run.


Running Back (RB): A player who primarily carries the ball on running plays.

Rush: To advance the ball by running, not passing. Also refers to the act of charging the quarterback on defense.

Reception: Catching a pass.

Receiver: A player who catches passes. This can include wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs.

Red Zone: The area inside the opponent's 20-yard line, indicating a scoring opportunity.

Return: Running back the ball after a kickoff, punt, or interception.

Roughing the Passer: A penalty for hitting the quarterback after he has thrown the ball.

Route: The path a receiver runs in anticipation of a pass.

Rushing Yards: Yards gained by running with the football.

Read Option: An offensive play where the quarterback reads a defensive player and decides whether to hand off the ball or keep it.

Replay Review: The use of video replay to confirm or overturn an on-field decision by the officials.

Regular Season: The main portion of the NFL season, excluding preseason and playoffs.

Reverse: A trick play where the ball is handed off or pitched to a player moving in the opposite direction of the initial play flow.

Right Tackle (RT): The offensive tackle position on the right side of the offensive line.

Rollout: A play where the quarterback moves out of the pocket to make a throw.

Roster: The list of players on a team.

Run Blocking: Blocking techniques and strategies used to open paths for the running back.

Run-Pass Option (RPO): An offensive play that gives the quarterback the option to hand off, keep the ball, or throw a pass.

Running Into the Kicker: A penalty for making contact with the kicker without significantly affecting the play.

Run Play: A play designed for a running back to carry the ball.

Run Support: The assistance provided by defensive backs and linebackers in stopping the run.

Rush End: A defensive end who specializes in rushing the quarterback.

Rushing Attack: A team's overall strategy and effectiveness in running the ball.

Rushing Defense: The effectiveness of a team's defense against the run.

Rushing Title: Recognition for the player with the most rushing yards in a season.

Rabbit: A fast player, often used in specific situations like returning kicks or in trick plays.

Redshirt: In college football, a player who is held out of competition for a year to develop skills and extend eligibility.

Red Zone Efficiency: A measure of a team's effectiveness at scoring when in the red zone.

Release: How quickly and effectively a receiver can get off the line of scrimmage or a quarterback can get rid of the ball.

Relief Quarterback: A backup quarterback who enters the game in relief of the starter.


Safety: Both a position on defense and a scoring play. As a score, it occurs when the offense is tackled or commits a foul in its own end zone, worth two points.

Sack: Tackling the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage when he is intending to pass.

Screen Pass: A pass thrown to a running back or receiver behind the line of scrimmage who has blockers in front.

Scrimmage: The action of playing out downs or the line where play begins (line of scrimmage).

Special Teams: The units that handle kickoffs, punts, field goals, and extra points.

Snap: The act of the center passing the ball between his legs to start a play.

Slot Receiver: A receiver who lines up in the slot area, which is between the outermost receiver and the offensive line.

Spike: The act of a quarterback throwing the ball quickly to the ground to stop the clock.

Spin Move: A maneuver by a ball carrier to spin away from defenders.

Stiff Arm: A move by a ball carrier to fend off a defender with an outstretched arm.

Strong Safety (SS): A defensive back who is typically larger and plays closer to the line of scrimmage to support the run defense.

Sweep: A running play where the ball carrier goes around the end of the line.

Safety Blitz: When a safety rushes the quarterback instead of covering receivers.

Sam Linebacker: The strongside linebacker in a 4-3 defensive alignment.

Seam Route: A pass route run by a receiver or tight end straight up the field.

Secondary: The defensive backfield, primarily responsible for defending against pass plays.

Shuttle Pass: A short underhanded toss by the quarterback to a receiver or running back.

Sideline: The boundary lines that run the length of the field.

Signal Caller: Another term for the quarterback.

Single-Wing Formation: An offensive formation that was popular in the early days of football.

Slant Route: A pass route where the receiver runs forward then cuts at an angle across the field.

Slot Back: An offensive position, often a running back or receiver who lines up in the slot area.

Snap Count: The count at which the ball is to be snapped, used to coordinate the offense.

Soft Coverage: A defensive technique where defenders play off the receivers to prevent deep passes.

Spider 2 Y Banana: A play call in the West Coast offense, typically involving a fullback flat route and a tight end corner route.

Spiral: The tight, spinning motion of a well-thrown football.

Split End: A wide receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage, split far away from the tight end.

Spot Foul: A penalty assessed from the spot where the infraction occurred.

Spread Offense: An offensive alignment that uses multiple wide receivers and spacing to spread out the defense.

Squib Kick: A low, bouncing kickoff designed to reduce the chance of a long return.

Stadium: The venue where a football game is played.

Stat Line: The statistics recorded by a player during a game.

Strong Side: The side of the offensive line with more players, typically the side with the tight end.

Substitution: Changing players between plays.

Super Bowl: The championship game of the National Football League (NFL).

Sweep Left/Sweep Right: A running play directed to the left or right end of the offensive line.

Swing Pass: A short pass to a running back moving laterally or toward the sideline.

System Quarterback: A quarterback who succeeds primarily due to the offensive system rather than individual talent.


Tailback (TB): A running back who lines up behind the fullback; primarily responsible for carrying the ball on run plays.

Tackle: Both a position on the offensive and defensive lines, and the act of bringing a player to the ground.

Touchdown (TD): A scoring play worth six points, achieved by carrying the ball into or catching the ball in the opponent's end zone.

Turnover: Losing possession of the ball to the opposing team, either via an interception or a fumble.

Two-Point Conversion: A play attempted after a touchdown, where the team can earn two points by getting the ball into the end zone again.

Tight End (TE): A position on offense that combines the roles of an offensive lineman and a receiver.

Trap Play: A running play designed to lure defenders away from the actual point of attack.

Triple Option: An offensive scheme where the quarterback can hand off, keep, or pitch the ball based on the defense's response.

Turf Toe: A common sports injury, particularly on artificial turf, where the big toe is sprained.

Two-Minute Warning: A pause in play when there are two minutes left in each half.

T Formation: A classic offensive formation with the quarterback directly behind the center and three running backs behind the quarterback.

Takeaway: A turnover gained by the defense, including interceptions and recovered fumbles.

Tampa 2: A defensive scheme characterized by a specific form of the Cover 2 defense, with the middle linebacker dropping deep into coverage.

Third Down Conversion: Successfully gaining a first down on a third down play.

Three-and-Out: When an offense fails to get a first down and has to punt after three plays.

Three-Point Stance: A position where a player has three points touching the ground, typically used by linemen.

Throttle Down: When a receiver slows down to make a catch or adjust to a throw.

Tiebreaker: A rule or method used to determine a winner when teams have identical records.

Time of Possession: The amount of time a team has control of the ball during a game.

Time-Out: A break in the action, called by a team or the officials.

Toe Drag: A technique used by receivers to drag their toes when catching a ball near the sideline to ensure the catch is inbounds.

Touchback: A situation where the ball is downed in the end zone, resulting in it being brought out to the 20- or 25-yard line.

Touchdown Pass: A forward pass that results in a touchdown.

Trap Block: A blocking scheme where a lineman pulls to block a defensive player from the side.

Trips Formation: An offensive formation with three receivers on the same side of the field.

Tuck Rule: A former NFL rule related to determining whether a player’s movement was a pass or a fumble.

Turnover on Downs: Losing possession of the ball by failing to convert on fourth down.

Twelfth Man: Term often used to describe the fans and their impact on the game, implying they are like an extra player on the team.

Tweener: A player who fits between two standard position profiles, often in terms of size and skill set.


Uprights: The vertical posts on a goalpost used to determine successful field goals and extra points.

Unbalanced Line: An offensive line formation where more linemen are positioned to one side of the center than the other.

Under Center: A formation where the quarterback receives the snap directly from the center.

Underneath Route: A pass route where the receiver runs across the field just a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Unnecessary Roughness: A penalty for excessively rough or unsportsmanlike conduct during a play.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: A penalty for behavior that is deemed to be unsporting or not within the spirit of the game.

Upback: A player positioned just behind the line of scrimmage in a punt formation, primarily to block but also capable of taking a direct snap.

Umpire: An official in the referee crew who positions themselves behind the defensive line and linebackers to observe the legality of play along the line of scrimmage.

Upset: A game result in which a team that was expected to lose wins.

Utility Player: A player capable of playing multiple positions.

Unintentional Grounding: A rare scenario where a quarterback's pass is unintentionally incomplete, typically not penalized like intentional grounding.

Uncovered Receiver: A receiver who has no defender directly covering them at the line of scrimmage.

Underdog: A team that is expected to lose a game.

Underthrow: A pass that falls short of the intended receiver.

Up-Tempo Offense: An offensive strategy characterized by a fast pace and minimal time between plays.

Use of Hands: Penalties related to illegal or improper use of hands, such as holding or hands to the face.


Veer: An offensive play, often part of an option offense, where the running back takes a diagonal path off the line of scrimmage.

Vertical Passing Game: A passing strategy focused on throwing deep downfield, often to stretch the defense vertically.

Victory Formation: An offensive alignment used to safely run out the clock, typically involving the quarterback taking a knee immediately after the snap.

Vision: A term referring to a ball carrier's ability to identify and exploit openings in the defense.

Volume Tackler: A defensive player who makes a large number of tackles, often due to being in a position that naturally encounters many play opportunities.

Vulnerable Player: A player in a position where they are particularly susceptible to injury, often used in the context of rules protecting such players.


Weak Side: The side of the offensive formation with fewer players, typically opposite the side with the tight end.

West Coast Offense: An offensive strategy that emphasizes short, horizontal passing plays to control the ball.

Wheel Route: A pass route where a receiver, usually a running back or tight end, runs toward the sideline and then turns upfield.

Whip Route: A pass route where the receiver runs forward, quickly changes direction to the sideline, then cuts back inside.

Wide Receiver (WR): A player who specializes in catching passes, usually lining up wide of the rest of the formation.

Wideout: Another term for a wide receiver.

Wingback: A player positioned just outside the line of scrimmage, used in various formations.

Wishbone Formation: An offensive formation with three running backs lined up behind the quarterback in the shape of a "Y" or a wishbone.

Wrap Up: The technique of securely tackling a player by encircling them with the arms.

Wildcat Formation: An offensive formation where the ball is snapped directly to a running back or wide receiver instead of the quarterback.

Winning Drive: A drive late in the game that results in the lead-changing or winning score.

Wedge Block: A blocking formation used on kickoff returns, where blockers form a "wedge" to protect the returner.

Weakside Linebacker (WLB): The linebacker who plays on the weak side of the defensive formation.

Workhorse: A player, often a running back, who carries a heavy load of the offense, typically through a high number of carries or touches.

Wristband: A band worn by players, often quarterbacks, with play calls or formations written on it for quick reference.

Walk-On: A college player who joins a team without a scholarship.

Wall Return: A punt or kickoff return where blockers form a wall to one side, creating a path for the returner.

Wedge: A blocking group formation on kick returns.

Weight Room: The facility where players perform strength and conditioning exercises.

Whistle: The tool used by referees to signal the end of a play.

White Out: An event where fans of a home team all wear white to show support, often creating an intimidating, unified atmosphere.

Wind Sprints: A conditioning exercise involving short, fast runs.

Window: A term used to describe the open space through which a quarterback can throw a pass.

Wing T Formation: An offensive formation that uses a backfield setup with a quarterback, fullback, and two wingbacks.

Wire-to-Wire: A team leading a game from start to finish.

Wrap Tackle: A fundamental tackling technique where the defender wraps their arms around the ball carrier.


X Receiver: Also known as the split end, this is a wide receiver who typically lines up on the line of scrimmage, opposite the tight end. The X receiver is often the team's primary receiving threat.

Xs and Os: A colloquial term used to describe the schematic aspect of football plays and strategies. "Xs" represent the defensive players, and "Os" represent the offensive players in playbook diagrams.

XP: An abbreviation for "extra point," referring to the point(s) a team attempts to score immediately following a touchdown.


Yardage: The distance in yards gained or lost on a play.

Yards After Catch (YAC): The distance a receiver or ball carrier travels with the ball after making a catch.

Yards per Carry (YPC): A statistic that measures the average number of yards gained per rushing attempt.

Yards per Reception (YPR): A statistic that measures the average number of yards gained per catch.

Yards to Go: The number of yards needed to gain a first down or score.

Yellow Flag: The flag thrown by referees to indicate a penalty.

Yips: A slang term for a sudden and unexplained loss of skills by an athlete.

Y-Line: An informal term sometimes used to describe the yard line in football.

Y Slot Receiver: A receiver who lines up in the slot position and is typically considered the third receiver.

Yard Marker: The markers along the sideline that indicate the distance to the nearest ten-yard line.

Yard Line: The lines on the field that indicate the distance in yards from each end zone.

Yard Line Numbers: Numbers placed on the field at every ten-yard interval to indicate the yard lines.

Yield: A defensive strategy where a team allows short plays to prevent longer ones, often used in late-game situations.

Young Gun: A nickname often given to a talented, young quarterback.

Y-Split: A formation where the tight end (Y) splits away from the line of scrimmage.


Zone Blocking: An offensive line strategy where linemen are responsible for blocking an area (zone) rather than a specific defender.

Zone Coverage: A defensive strategy where each defender is responsible for covering a specific area of the field, rather than a specific opponent.

Zone Read: An offensive play where the quarterback reads a specific defensive player to decide whether to hand off the ball or keep it for a run.

Zone Blitz: A defensive tactic combining a blitz with zone coverage; certain players rush the quarterback while others drop back into coverage.

Zero Technique: A defensive alignment where a defensive tackle lines up directly over the center.

Z Receiver: The wide receiver who lines up on the same side as the tight end, also known as the "flanker."

Zebra: Slang for a referee, referring to the black and white striped uniforms traditionally worn by football officials.

Zip Motion: A quick, lateral pre-snap motion by a receiver or running back.

Zone Stretch: A running play designed to stretch the defense laterally, allowing the running back to find gaps in the zone blocking.

Z Back: Another term for a player who lines up in the slot or wing position, often used interchangeably with "slot back" or "wing back."