What Is The Box In American Football? Learn Here

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

It’s common to hear an announcer during an American football game mention “the box.” Those unfamiliar with football slang may not know what the box is. What exactly is the box in football, and what does it refer to?

The box in football refers to the area between the defensive and offensive tackles.

In this article, we will show you what the box is and why it matters in football.

What Is The Box In Football?

Coaches will often identify the box as the width from offensive tackle to offensive tackle and the 5-yard depth in front and behind the offensive tackles.

This area is often identified as the box, as the area is often drawn in a square or a “box.”

The box is pretty standard for all levels of play, as professional and youth football will have coaches identify the box and how many players are in the box.

box in American football

Coaches and players will identify the box to understand who the defense has committed to the run. They also will use the players in the box to determine who to block in their blocking schemes.

If the offense has enough players, they will have to block all of the players in the box to run the ball effectively.

Why Does The Box Matter In Football?

The box is essential in football because it helps coaches identify how many players commit to the run.

Offensive coaches will have a “box count” in which they will block their run plays.

For example, the box count refers to how many people are in the box.

If the box count is light (fewer players), the offensive coach will often call a run play.

If the box is heavy (more players), the offensive will throw the football to beat the man coverage.

The defense must decide if they want to stack the box to stop the run or if they want to put fewer players in the box to play the pass.

What Does ‘Stack The Box’ In Football Mean?

The term stacking the box is used to identify how many players are inside of the box.

When the defense stacks the box, they put more players inside the box than the offense can handle.

For example, if the offense is in a typical spread formation with four wide receivers (10 personnel). If they decide to hand it off, the offense will only have five players to block for the running back.

If the defense has seven players in the box, coaches and fans will refer to it as stacking the box.

It will not favor the offense to run the football, but rather it will be in their favor to throw the football.

Teams will often try to have one more player than the offense does in typical blocking schemes to have a free player to make a tackle.

Other terms that mean stacking the box refer to having a “loaded box.” This is the same meaning as stacking the box, meaning there are more defensive players in the box than the offense can handle.

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What Is A Box Linebacker In Football?

A box linebacker is a linebacker who plays inside of the offensive tackles.

This player is often a more significant player whose main job is to stop the run. They will have to shed blocks from an offensive lineman and make tackles on the running back. A box linebacker must not be scared of contact and be good with their hands.

In passing situations, this player will often drop through the middle of the field to cover any crossers or vertical routes.

The box linebacker, also known as the inside linebacker, must be physical to the point of attack and shed blocks from the offensive lineman.

Keep Learning

If you’d like to learn more about football, check out our Ultimate Football Guide below.

The box in football is the players who span from offensive tackle to offensive tackle on the defensive side of the ball.

Counting and understanding the box can help coaches and quarterbacks understand how many defensive players are committed to the run.

Offensive coaches can use this to their advantage and create schemes and formations to get their offense in the best position possible for big plays.

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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.