The acronym OLB in football stands for the outside linebacker position. Outside linebackers typically line up about five yards back from the line of scrimmage just outside the offensive tackles.
OLBs make up two of the four linebackers in a three-four defense. A three-four defense involves three defensive linemen and four linebackers.
In a three-four defense there are two interior linebackers on the field on top of two OLBs. In most cases, these two outside linebackers will be referred to as the left outside linebacker or right outside linebacker.
This position is often shortened using the term ROLB or LOLB to designate which side the linebacker lines up on.
Teams will also use the MLB designation to represent middle linebackers.
In a four-three defense there is going to be four defensive lineman and three linebackers.
The other two linebackers in a four-three formation are outside linebackers though they are often referred to as a Will linebacker and Sam linebacker.
What Does An OLB Do In Football?
Now that you know what OLB stands for in football you may be wondering what exactly this position does on the football field. Outside linebackers have a fair number of responsibilities when it comes to stopping the opposing offense.
Below we will cover some of the main roles that an OLB plays for their team.
Rushing The Passer
One of the main purposes of outside linebackers in football is to rush the quarterback. Depending on the defensive formation OLBs can rush the passer on each play or only when they are assigned a blitz.
In a three-four defense outside linebackers will often line up near the line of scrimmage and rush the passer each play. This is because this formation only has three defensive linemen rushing the passer.
In a four-three defense the outside linebackers are less likely to rush the quarterback. This is due to there being four defensive linemen already rushing the passer in this formation.
For this reason, OLBs in a three four defense are much more likely to accumulate a large number of sacks throughout the season.
Other positions that rush the passer similar to an OLB include DEs and occasionally DTs as well.
Containing The Run
Another responsibility of outside linebackers in football is containing the run. The defensive line looks to block the holes from being generated for the running back and will attempt to tackle the ball carrier in the backfield.
The middle linebacker will attempt to tackle the ball carrier if he finds a hole between the tackle. The outside linebackers are typically responsible for containing the ball carrier from getting towards the sideline they lined up closest to.
The OLB should look to contain the ball carrier inside the offensive tackle so that he cannot break to the outside.
Oftentimes the OLBs will have to fight through blocks of the tight ends or fullbacks in order to get to the ball carrier.
Covering Tight Ends And Running Backs
On top of making tackles outside linebackers can also play a role in pass coverage. OLBs can be asked to play both zone and man coverage.
Zone coverage involves covering a specific area of the field while man coverage refers to covering a specific player.
In zone coverage, OLBs will usually cover the area close to where they line up near the line of scrimmage.
In man coverage, these linebackers will usually be matched up against tight ends and running backs. For this reason, linebackers need to be athletic as running backs and tight ends in today’s NFL are incredibly athletic.
That is all on the OLB position in football check out some other articles on this topic, including our guide to the HB acronym or the CB acronym.