Linebacker VS Cornerback What Is The Difference?

Between offense, defense, and special teams there are a ton of different positions in the game of football. One question often asked is what is the difference between linebacker and the cornerback position.

The difference between linebackers and cornerbacks is that cornerbacks are primarily used in pass coverage while linebackers play a large role in run defense as well as pass coverage.

Cornerbacks tend to be noticeably smaller than linebackers. Their smaller stature allows them more speed which is needed to keep up with the opposing team’s wide receivers.

To learn about other positions other than linebacker vs cornerback see our articles on inside cornerbacks vs outside cornerbacks or inside linebackers vs outside linebackers in football.

Rushing Defense

When it comes to stopping the opponent from running the football linebackers and cornerbacks have very different roles.

linebackers football defense
Linebackers are highlighted in red

Linebackers start the play near the middle of the field a few yards back from the line of scrimmage. These linebackers are often the players in a position to make the tackle on rushing plays.

The linebackers will look to fill the gaps between the defensive lineman and make a tackle if the ball carrier gets through. Oftentimes linebackers will have to fight through blocks of the tight ends in order to get to the running back.

Cornerbacks are much less involved in the run game due to where they line up. Cornerbacks start the play near the sideline lined up in front of the wide receiver.

cornerback position lined up on defense
Cornerbacks highlighted in red

Since a large portion of rushing plays occurs in the middle of the field cornerbacks are not going to be involved in the play. When a running back runs to the outside of the field the cornerback may be expected to make a play.

Cornerbacks will have to fight off blocks from wide receivers in order to get to the running back on rushing plays.

Passing Defense

When it comes to pass defense cornerbacks are usually considered the most important position. Cornerbacks line up against wide receivers and ensure they do not get open for a pass.

Since the cornerbacks line up near the sideline there are often tasked with covering wide receivers one on one. This is an incredibly difficult task which is why this position favours traits that make them succeed in pass coverage.

Linebackers still play a large role in pass defense though it is usually by covering less capable receivers. Linebackers will usually match up against running backs and tight ends during a passing play.

In some plays, the linebacker may be assigned to blitz the quarterback. This means they will run towards the quarterback in an attempt to tackle him before he is able to throw the ball.


When it comes to build cornerbacks and linebackers are noticeably different.

Linebackers are going to be considerably taller and heavier than cornerbacks. Since linebackers are often expected to make tackles on run plays these players need to be big enough to bring down ball carriers consistently.

This paired with the fact these players need to fight through blocks from tight ends means they need to have some strength to them as well.

Cornerbacks on the other hand tend to be the smallest players on the defense. Since cornerbacks don’t tend to make a ton of tackles these players do not need to have a large frame.

Instead, they are often short and thin in order to stay agile and fast. By staying light these players are able to match the speed and quickness of wide receivers. Attempting to keep up with wide receivers with the body of a linebacker would be nearly impossible.

Thanks for reading about the difference between a linebacker and cornerback, our articles on tight end versus runningback or even the differences between cornerbacks and safeties will help you learn more about other positions.

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