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What Is A DB In American Football? Explained

American football has 11 positions on the field. These positions are often labeled in position groups, as coaches can talk about a set of players rather than 1 player. This is the same on offense and defense.

Defensive backs (Dbs) in American football are cornerbacks, strong safeties, and free safeties. They’re primarily responsible for stopping the pass.

In this article, we will break down what a DB in American Football is and why their positions are important.

Defensive Backs In American Football

A DB in American Football is short for defensive backs. These players are often the fastest players on the defensive side of the ball, as they are tasked with covering wide receivers.

They are called defensive backs because they are often the last line of defense, in the back of the defense.

Positions are often grouped in American football, as it’s easier to control a chunk of players than individual positions.

For instance, instead of saying every defensive line position, it’s easier to say the D-Line. Instead of naming every type of linebacker, it’s easier to say “the linebackers.”

This is the same for the DB’s, as they are often the 4 (or 3) players included in the defensive backfield. Let’s learn all the players that are considered defensive backs.

the football handbook

If you’re looking to learn more about the defensive back position, we offer free training guides, as well as a complete football handbook. Inside the handbook, you’ll find all you need to know about the man and zone coverages as well as what defensive backs are tasked with on every play.


A cornerback is responsible for covering wide receivers. The cornerback is often the widest player on the field, covering the widest receiver on the field.

These players are often tall and long players or short and fast players. Playing cornerback takes a tremendous amount of athleticism, as the player needs to work both forward and backward.

NFL players such as Stephon Gilmore and Darrelle Revis are masters at their craft. These players were able to shut down some of the top wide receivers in the league.

Playing cornerback requires extreme patience and ball skills to be able to track it through the air.

Cornerbacks are one of the DB’s that are found in pretty much every defense.

Strong Safety

The strong safety position is also part of the DB groupings. Strong safety is found within most defenses, although coaches may choose not to use a strong safety.

Strong safeties are often too small to be linebackers but can still hit and track the football like a defensive back. These players are responsible for covering the pass as well as playing the run.

They call them strong safeties because the player must play the run and play the pass. These players often line up on the strong side of the formation as well.

The strong side of the formation includes either the running strength (where there are more tight ends and fullbacks) or the passing strength (where there are more eligible receivers).

It requires toughness and athleticism to play this defensive back position.

Free Safety

Free safety is a defensive back position that’s found in every defense of some sort.

The reason they call it safety is that it’s the last line of defense. These players are responsible for making sure the offense doesn’t score if an explosive play happens.

An explosive play is often a run or a pass play that results in 15 or more yards. If an offense can gain 15 or more yards on a run or pass play, it’s going to be a long day for the defense.

If the defensive line or the linebackers miss a tackle, it’s up to the safety to make a tackle. Often if the safety misses a tackle, it results in the offense scoring a touchdown.

The safety position is one of the most important defensive backs on the field, as they are the safety valve of the defense.

If you’re interested in learning more about positions in American Football, read here.

Is a DB The Same As a CB?

A cornerback is a defensive back. A defensive back is a name for the grouping of defensive players. These defensive players include cornerbacks and safeties. There are often 3 or 4 defensive backs that are on the field at all times.

Defensive backs are often the fastest players on the field, as they need to cover the wide receivers on offense.

Football has transitioned more to a speed game rather than a power game. The more speed on the offensive side of the ball needs to be matched by the speed on the defensive side of the ball.

This is why Db’s are important to a defensive and play an important role in shutting down the offense.

Keep Learning

A DB in American Football is a defensive back. Defensive backs are responsible for ensuring no touchdowns are scored if a defensive lineman or linebacker misses a tackle.

DB’s are also responsible for covering wide receivers and making sure no passes are completely down the field. Defensive backs are often tasked with covering wide receivers in man coverage or playing an area of the field known as zone coverage.

Defensive backs are tall and longer players or shorter and faster players. This all depends on the coaches’ preference and what type of player he wants to play that defensive back position.

DB’s have one of the hardest positions on the field physically but one of the easiest mentally. The defensive back position is often the least physical position, as players are rarely tackling and involved in physical plays.

Defensive back requires more athleticism and ball skills to catch or knock away the football when thrown.

Let’s keep learning! Our learning center is packed with information regarding technique, scheme, and more!

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