Skip to Content

How Many Football Players On The Field? [Learn Here]

American football can be overwhelming with how many players are on the field. Each player on the field has a specific job they must accomplish each play. Saying that how many players are on the field during a play?

There are 22 players on the football field during play, 11 players on offense, and 11 players. There can be no more than 22 players on the field at one time.

In this article, we will show you what each position is responsible for and how they contribute to the overall success of the offense & defense.

Players On The Football Field

In football, 11 players on the offense and 11 players on the defense make up the 22 players on the field during play.

The offense uses its 11 players to score points against the 11 defensive players. All 11 players are treated differently, as each player on both the offense and the defense has a particular role and the task they must do each play. If you’re interested in learning more about football, we have multiple football resources here.

Offensive Players In Football

Below is a table of all the offensive players on the football field and the names they’re often referred to by announcers and fans.

PositionAlso Known As
QuarterbackQB
Running BackRB, T, Tailback, F
Full BackFB
Tight EndH, Y
Wide Receiver (1)WR, X, Wide Out
Wide Receiver (2)WR, Z, Flanker
Left Offensive TackleLT
Left Offensive GuardLG
CenterC
Right Offensive GuardRG
Right Offensive TackleRT

Quarterback

One of the most important players on the field, the quarterback, starts the play. They are responsible for either handing the ball off, running, or throwing it to another player.

The quarterback is a key element to an offense because of the calm and poise they have to deliver the football to the appropriate player. While most of us take for granted the passes that Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers make, this position is highly skilled. It not only requires the brain to process information fast, but it also requires fast reflexes and proper decision making.

Quarterbacks who often make poor decisions will more likely than not lead their team to a losing record.

Running Back

Teams will often feature one or two running backs in their offense. It depends on what kind of system they run and how they want to attack the opposing defense.

The running back position is often next to or behind the quarterback. This player is responsible for running the football, receiving the hand-off from the quarterback.

This player is often one of the fastest and toughest players on the field, as when they run the football, they are almost certain to get tackled by the defense. These players must be able to absorb physical contact and continue to run the ball.

They are also responsible for taking fakes from the quarterback, such as play-action fakes.

Examples of running backs in the NFL are Ezekiel Elliot and Christian McCaffrey.

Wide Receivers

The wide receiver position is becoming increasingly popular as more teams are throwing the football down the field. The benefit of throwing the football down the field is it forces defenses to cover the entire field.

Wide receivers are often taller (or smaller) players with both speed and the ability to catch the football. These players must catch the football without the fear of getting hit by a defensive player.

A wide receiver and a slot receiver are also responsible for catching the football but line up closer to the offensive line.

Learn the difference between running backs and wide receivers here.

Tight End

The next offensive position is a tight end. A tight end is a hybrid between an offensive lineman and an offensive tackle.

They need to be big enough to block defensive linemen but also athletic enough to catch the football and run away from linebackers. While this is a rare body type, players like Rob Gronkowski have flourished in the position and consistently give defenses trouble.

Learn more about the tight-end position here.

Offensive Line

The offensive line will have 5 players that line up in the same spot pretty much every time. These players are responsible for protecting the quarterback.

Offensive line positions are broken down by offensive tackle, offensive guard, and center. The center is the position that puts his hand on the ball to snap it to the quarterback. The center is responsible for starting the play and protecting the quarterback.

The offensive guards are located on both sides of the center. The tackles are located outside of the guards. The guard and tackle positions are instrumental for an offense to be effective. They must protect the quarterback and move defensive tackles and defensive ends off the football to make room for the running back.

Football handbook to learn football
Like learning football? Get the Football Handbook Course now 60% off!

Defensive Players On The Field

Below is a table of all the offensive players on the football field and the names they’re often referred to by announcers and fans.

Defensive PositionsAlso Known As
Defensive EndDE
Defensive TackleDT, 3-tech
Nose GuardN, Nose tackle, Shade
Defensive EndDE
Mike LinebackerM, Middle
Sam LinebackerS, Jack, Strong Side, Nickel
Will LinebackerW, Weak Side
CornerbackCB
CornerbackCB
Strong SafetySS,
Free SafetyFS

Defensive Tackles

Defensive tackles are defensive players that play either against the guards or the center. These players are responsible for getting after the quarterback and disrupting the running back.

Defensive tackles are often larger in stature, as they can clog up gaps and force the offense to run the ball to the outside.

Defensive tackles differ based on the defensive scheme that the defensive coordinator plays. Oftentimes, teams running a 4 defensive linemen set will have 2 defensive ends, a nose guard and a defensive tackle.

Defensive Ends

Defensive ends are also part of the defensive line (along with the defensive tackles). These players often line up head up or outside of the offensive tackles. They are responsible for attacking the quarterback from outside of the offensive line.

Defensive ends are important because they force offenses to stretch the ball even farther to the sideline. In the passing game, defensive tackles are responsible for making sure the quarterback stays in the pocket and doesn’t scramble.

Popular defensive ends in the NFL are Von Miller & Chase Henry, who significantly impact the game.

Linebackers

Linebackers are often known as the captain of the defense. These players get their names for where they line up, in the back of the defensive line.

Linebackers are responsible for playing both the run and the pass. These players need to be well versed in tackling as well as covering wide receivers.

Ray Lewis exemplified what it means to be a linebacker. Tough, hard-hitting, and leadership are the few words that come to mind when thinking of ideal traits for a linebacker.

The linebackers are often broke into 3 groups – the Mike Linebacker, Sam Linebacker, and Will Linebacker.

Cornerbacks

The next two positions are often grouped as “defensive backs.” The first defensive back is the cornerback. The cornerback is the player that lines up closest to the sideline. This player is often the fastest player on the defense and is responsible for covering speedy wide receivers.

Cornerbacks are often tasked with playing man-to-man coverage or even zone coverage.

Although the cornerback position is one of the easiest positions to learn, it’s one of the most challenging positions to play football.

Safeties

The next defensive back position is safety. The two safety positions are often broken into two types: strong safety and free safety. Learn more about what a DB in football is here.

Strong safety is a mix between a linebacker and free safety. This player must be agile enough to play defensive back and hard-hitting and tough enough to play linebacker. Teams will use a strong safety position if they feel like they have a player fit the mold.

The next position is the free safety. This player is responsible for making sure no big plays happen. They are essentially the safety valve of the defense. If by chance, the running back on the offense makes a few players missing, it’s up to the safety to tackle him.

Safeties play a vital role, as the defense’s safety insurance ensures the offense doesn’t score a touchdown.

Conclusion

11 players on offense and 11 players on defense are on the field at one time. These 22 players are the maximum number of players on the football field at one time.

Each of the 11 players has a specific role and responsibility to make their defense or offense succeed.

If you want to learn more about football, we’ve completed the complete guide to learning American football here.