If you are an avid football fan you’ve likely heard announcers refer to the strong side vs weak side during a football game. The trouble is many fans do not know what this football terminology means.
In short, the strong side and weak side are used to explain which side of the offensive line has more players. The side of the formation with more players is the strong side, the side with fewer is the weak side.
Determining The Strong Side
Watching The Tight End
If you are looking for the easiest way to find the strong side of the field you need to watch where tight end lines up. On any given offensive line there is going to be a center, two guards, and two tackles.
This means that the line is going to be split with two players on either side of the center. The tight end is the player that is going to join the offensive line and make the formation uneven.
If the tight end joins the right side of the line then the right side will be the strong side. This is because the right side has three players and the left has two.
You can use this method to determine the strong side on any play when there is only one tight end on the field.
That being said when there are two tight ends, or no tight ends you may have to try looking into the backfield.
Looking Into The Backfield
If the number of players on either side of the center is even then you will have to look into the offensive backfield to determine the strong side.
If there are no tight ends on the field or one on each side of the formation you will have to use this strategy.
When looking into the backfield you are going to check which side of the field the running back is on. If the quarterback is in shotgun and the running back is on his right then the right side is the strong side.
If the running back is lined up left of the quarterback then the left side is the strong side.
How Does Strong Side Vs Weak Side Affect The Play
The largest effect of the strong side vs weak side is how players are going to line up on the field. This is because some defensive formations use the strong side and weak side in order to determine where their players line up.
For example, in a 4-3 defense you are going to have a weakside linebacker and a strongside linebacker.
On each play, the weak side linebacker will line up on the weak side of the formation. While the strong side linebacker will line up on the strong side of the formation.
So instead of playing a specific area on the field, these linebackers will move to their position based on the formation of the opposing team.
Another way in which the strong side and weak side affect the play is through the number of blockers.
As we stated earlier the strong side of the formation is going to have more players. When running the football it is common to go towards the strong side as you have more blockers on that side of the field.
Additionally, the tight end is usually on the strong side of the formation meaning that if you run towards the strong side you will have the tight end run blocking in front of the ball carrier.
Positions based on strong side and weak side
On top of the strong side and weak side speaking to the number of players on each side of the field also plays a large role in defensive positions.
There are several different positions on the defense that are based on playing the strong side or the weak side of the formation.
Free Safety vs Strong Safety
Two of the positions in football that are going to be based on the strong side and weak side are the free and strong safety.
The strong safety as you likely have guessed lines up on the strong side of the formation.
This player is going to be larger than the free safety due to their increased use in the run defense.
As we stated earlier teams like to run towards the strong side of the formation due to the increased number of blockers.
Since the tight end is generally the extra blocker the strong safety will frequently have to fight through their blocks to get to the ball carrier.
The free safety on the other hand will rarely have the ball run towards them. For this reason, these players are able to line up further back from the line of scrimmage.
The free safety will often be playing the deepest in the defensive backfield. This position is often most responsible for stop deep passes from being completed.
Weakside and strongside linebacker
Similar to the safeties a 4-3 formation is also going to arrange their linebackers based on the strongside.
The weakside linebacker is going to be lined up on the side of the formation with fewer players.
The weakside linebacker is going to be faster in lighter because they are more likely to play pass coverage. Similar to a storng safety the strongside linebacker is more likley to be involved in run defense.
This is why you will find strong side linebackers are heavier and stronger than weakside linebackers.
Weakside and strong side defensive ends
One position that changes based on the strong side of the formation is the defensive end.
Tight ends tend to line up on the end of the line of scrimmage. This means the strongside defensive end will often have this play in front of him when lines up to start the play.
In these situations, the tight end will often use a chip block to slow the pass rusher down. This makes it difficult for the strongside defensive end to get to the quarterback.
For this reason, weakside defensive ends are often the team’s premier pass rusher. These players are most likely to get a one on one matchup when pass rushing.
Placing on the weak side is going to allow these players to get to the quarterback as often as possible.
I hope that this guide to strong sides and weak sides in football has taught you everything you needed to know.
Remember the strongside refers to the formation side which has more players. Generally speaking this is going to be the side of the field with the tight end.