What Are The Nickel Dime & Quarter Packages In Football?

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

The nickel, dime, and quarter defenses in football are packages that defenses run. These packages are about how many defensive backs are on the field.

The nickel package in football means five defensive backs on the field, dime packages have six defensive backs, and the quarter packages have seven defensive backs. Coaches will use these different packages to match the offensive personnel.

This article will show you what each package means in football and why defensive coordinators will have the three packages.

What Is The Nickelback In Football?

The nickelback in football is a defensive position that is considered a fifth defensive back. The nickelback often replaces the Will linebacker and is brought in to match the speed of slot receivers.

The nickelback is usually second or third on the depth chart of cornerbacks, although he may be 5th on the depth chart on some football teams.

It is called the nickelback because he is the 5th defensive back. Five cents is often referred to as a nickel. This is where the term gets its name from.

This package is more common in football, as the game has changed to have more pass-covering linebackers on the field instead of run-stopping.

Due to the evolution of the spread offense, teams are keeping more linebackers off the field to match up with the speed of the offense. This means that more defensive backs must be ready at all times to cover the slot receivers.

Defensive Packages In Football

Speed is the main reason why defenses will use different personnel packages. Defenses need to adjust to offense speed. If they have a linebacker on the field, they will not cover a slot receiver.

Offensive team speed is also a factor too. If the offense throws the ball on 2nd and 3rd downs, the defense needs to prepare itself to cover the speed of the offense on those downs.

Nickel Package In Football

nickel defense in football

The nickel package is one of the most common defensive personnel packages in football. It typically has five defensive backs, four defensive linemen, and two linebackers.

Teams will often use the nickel package against teams that use 4-5 wide receivers.

The reason for this is to make sure the defense can match up with the offense’s speed. Bringing in an additional defensive back allows the defense to have a player on the field who is more likely to cover a wide receiver.

Most NFL teams shave a designated player who will come in as their Nickelback. This play is often the 3rd corner or the 3rd safety team that can defend the pass.

This play is often known as the nickel back, star, or even jack backer in some defenses.

Dime Package In Football

dime defense in football

The dime package is a package that many defensive coordinators have. This is because they want to have speed on the field for passing situations. This package will usually have six defensive backs, four defensive linemen, and one linebacker. Like the nickel package, this will allow defenses to match their ability with their opponent’s receivers.

Dime packages are often used in passing situations, such as 2nd or 3rd and long. Defensive coordinators will get away from their base alignments (4-3 or 3-4) and bring extra defensive backs.

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Quarter Package In Football

quarter defense in football

The quarter package in football involves seven defensive backs, 0 linebackers, and four defensive linemen. This speed package is typically run in prevent situations or emergency 2-minute situations.

Defensive coordinators will have dime packages in their playbook for situations where they are 100% certain that the other team will throw the football. It is rare to see a team’s quarter defense on the field, but every coach has it in their playbook.

What Is The Dollar Defense In Football?

The dollar defensive package was made famous in Madden to defend against pass-heavy teams. This package includes eight defensive backs on the field and typically three defensive linemen.

This package is rarely used in football games, typically only for preventing situations or if the coach has a specialty blitz package.

Teams don’t necessarily use a dollar package because of its weakness against the run. The offensive lineman mismatches teams if they do decide to run the football. This is why the dollar package is typically run when defenses are 100% sure that the other team will throw the football. The dollar package is typically run in emergencies, such as a Hail Mary.

Keep Learning

These personnel packages are extremely important to match the offense’s skill set. If the defense leaves bigger players on the field, they will not be able to keep up with the offense’s speed.

This is why the nickelback was created, along with the dime, quarter, and dollar defenses.

Learn more about coverages in football below.

Defensive Coverages In Football – Complete Guide

What Is A Zone Blitz In Football?

What Is Cover 5 In Football? 2-Man Explained

Cover 4 In Football: Coverage Guide

What Is Cover 0? Learn The Basics Of Man Coverage

Learn The Basics Of Cover 1 In Football

Split Field Coverage In Football

What Is Cover 2 In Football? Explained

What Is Cover 3 In Football? Explained

The nickel, dime, and quarter packages are used regularly by defensive coaches. These packages are a great way for coaches to ensure they can match up with offenses. The nickel package will help the defense get the right defender on the field against the offense’s best receiver.

A good pass rush is essential when using a four-man or five-man defensive line.

The problem with these defenses is that pass rushers, linebackers, and defensive backs aren’t available in enough numbers to match up against spread passing teams (which almost every team uses these days). You need to bring in an extra defender, but at the same time, keep your secondary coverage skills intact.

This is where the nickel package comes in. With five and later six defensive backs on the field, you largely have a nickel package. The advantage of the nickel package is that it gets you an extra defender. The disadvantage is that you are often exposed to many quick pass offenses that use spread formations, so pass rushers aren’t as effective.

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About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.