The acronym MLB in football refers to the middle linebacker position. The middle linebacker lines up right in the center of the defence and is often involved with leading the defensive huddles.
The middle linebacker is one of three linebackers in a four-three defense. In this defense there are a total of three linebackers on the field.
Middle linebackers are also used in a three four defense. Though in this defense they are often called ILB and OLB.
The middle linebacker (Mike) the weakside linebacker (WILL) and the strongside linebacker (SAM). The weakside linebacker lines up on the side of the formation with fewer players. While the strongside linebacker lines up on the side of the formation which has more players.
The middle linebacker lines up in the middle of the defense between these two linebackers which is why this position is referred to as middle linebacker.
What Does An MLB Do In Football?
Now that you have learned MLB stands for the middle linebacker position you may be wondering what exactly this position is responsible for in the defense.
Below we will cover some of the main roles that the middle linebacker plays.
Stopping The Run
One of the most important aspects of the middle linebacker position is effectively stopping the rush. Middle linebackers start the play a few yards back from the line of scrimmage and are often able to be the first defender to meet the ball carrier.
On rushing plays the middle linebacker will look to sort through the offensive and defensive line in order to determine where the ball carrier is heading.
The middle linebacker will attempt to meet the ball carrier on the other side of the hole he goes through. Middle linebackers will often have to take on blockers before they are able to reach the ball carrier.
For this reason, MLBs will add on extra weight and muscle mass in order to beat these blockers. This allows them to more effectively hold their ground against stronger positions such as offensive linemen or fullbacks.
Zone And Man Coverage
Depending on the scheme of the defense MLBs can be asked to play both zone and man defense.
In zone, they will typically cover their area around the middle of the field. This means slant, drag routes, and crossers will often enter a middle linebackers zone.
In man coverage, this position will likely be tasked with covering tight ends or running backs.
Due to tight ends and running backs being capable receivers in today’s NFL middle linebackers need to remain athletic in order to keep up with them.
As the NFL transitions more into a passing league middle linebackers have begun to have smaller frames in order to allow them to more effectively play pass coverage.
Quarterbacking The Defense
One more key responsibility of the middle linebacker position is quarterbacking the defense. Much like a quarterback, the middle linebacker has a mic in his helmet that allows him to communicate with the coaching staff.
This means the middle linebacker must pass on these play calls and messages from the sideline to his teammates on the field.
The MLB also has the responsibility of audibling in and out of plays. If this player realizes that they are in a vulnerable defense they are able to make an audible and alert their teammates to switch plays.
This makes the MLB position one of the most important when it comes to leading the defensive unit.
Without an effective communicator at the MLB position defenses will be much less organized.