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What’s The Difference Between Running Backs & Wide Receivers?

Running backs and wide receivers are crucial in how offenses progress the ball downfield. The running back and wide receiver positions both have the end goal of scoring points.

The difference between running backs and wide receivers is the running back runs the football, and wide receivers catch the football. Teams will often have smaller, faster players playing wide receiver and bigger, more athletic players running back.

In this article, we’re going to show you the difference between running backs and wide receivers.

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Difference Between Running Backs & Wide Receivers

Running backs and wide receivers are two skill positions in football.

Let’s learn the difference between the two positions.

Running Backs

A running back in football is a player positioned directly behind or next to the quarterback in shotgun formation.

Running backs are considered a core position in NFL offenses. When choosing which running backs to have on the field, their mobility and speed should be considered.

The running back’s main job is to run with the football, although they will also be receivers out of the backfield.

Their main responsibility is to advance the ball further downfield by rushing. A successful run play will often result in a positive outcome, such as a first down or touchdown. Both are achieved when the offensive point of attack reaches an area further downfield than where it started from.

There are different running backs depending on their size and skill set, some more athletic than others.

Running backs need to be able to take a considerable amount of impact through the game. These players will often be tackled every time they touch the football, so they can’t be scared of contact.

As mentioned, the running back’s main going is to take a handoff from the quarterback and run downfield as fast as possible. Their main purpose on the football field is to establish the running attack to control the clock.

Teams running the ball effectively can control the time and keep the defense on the field longer, which will ultimately tire them out.

Wide Receivers

A wide receiver, more commonly called a receiver in the NFL, is a player who lines up outside the offensive formation.

Sometimes a wide receiver will line up to the outside of the formation next to an offensive tackle, whereas other times, they will line up on the edge of the offense.

The wide receiver position is just like any other position in football; they need to be willing to catch a pass from the quarterback and run it downfield as fast as possible.

Offenses that can move well enough with four wide receivers on the field can take advantage of this and prevent defenses from focusing too much attention on one particular position.

This also allows offenses to take advantage of space and leverage with the defense. This is how college and NFL teams are averaging 30+ points a game.

Wide receivers need to be able to catch a pass and run with it as fast as possible. Their main purpose on the football field is to catch passes, but they will also block and protect the running back when he runs the football.

The wide receiver position has changed over the years, especially with the growing use of spread offenses. Today’s NFL football game calls for bigger, faster players who can play multiple positions across the field with ease.

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Are Wide Receivers More Important Than Running Backs?

It all depends on the type of offense your team runs. If your team is a run-heavy offense, you’ll need to have 2-3 running backs that can share carries.

If your offense is a modern-day spread offense, you’ll need more wide receivers who can stress the defense. It’s important to have as many playmakers on the field as possible; that way, the defense can key on one player.

Is a Running Back a Receiver?

Running backs can be a receiver if the coach decides to have the quarterback throw them the football. Running backs often catch short passes, such as swing routes and short shoot routes.

These routes are typically what are called “check-downs” or last option routes for the quarterback. These routes are crucial for the quarterback, as if he gets blitzed, he can throw it quickly to the running back.

While running backs may not be the primary option in most pass plays, they can still catch the football from the quarterback.

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Jersey Numbers

Another difference between running backs and wide receivers is their jersey numbers. In the NFL, players are required to wear certain numbers.

Running backs must wear a number between 20-49. Wide receivers must wear a number between 10-19 as well as 80-89. This lets the referees know who is playing wide receiver apart from the offensive lineman.

Similarities Between Running Backs & Wide Receivers

The similarities between running backs and wide receivers have to do with their end goal of scoring a touchdown.

These positions are often called “skill” positions, requiring skill to make defensive players miss. Skill positions are often fast players who can move faster than the other players.

Whenever a running back or wide receiver touches the football, their main goal is to score a touchdown. These are the similarities running backs, and wide receivers have.

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Running backs and wide receivers play a crucial role in how offenses progress the ball downfield. The running back and wide receiver positions both have the end goal of scoring points.

The difference between running backs and wide receivers is running the football, and wide receivers catch the football. Teams will often have smaller, faster players playing wide receiver and bigger, more athletic players running back.

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

If you’re looking for more in-depth breakdowns & coaching resources, visit our coaching resource page here.

This has been our short article about the difference between running backs and wide receivers. If you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out some of our other articles on speeding up your learning process.