What Is A Defensive End In Football

A defensive end in football is a position whose main focus is tackling the quarterback. An end plays on the defensive side of the ball and also works to stop running backs when they are handed the ball.

The defensive end position is one of the highest-paid in the league with only quarterbacks, left tackles, and top wide receivers earning more.


Pass Rushing

Pass rushing is easily the most important aspect of the defensive end position. As a defensive end it is your number one responsibility to not allow the quarterback position to be comfortable when throwing the football.

Defensive ends are paid specifically for their ability to get to the quarterback. If a defensive end is not generating pressure then they are not doing their job.

Run Stopping

Though pass rushing is the main focus of this position they also have a large effect on the run game. Since they play on the defensive line, defensive ends are going to have one of the first chances to bring down players at the running back position.

It is for this reason defensive ends often lead the league in tackles for loss despite that statistic not including sacks.

Holding The Edge

Another role of the defensive end is to hold their edge. This is essentially means don’t let any ball carrier get outside you. Essentially you should force any ball carrier that attempts to go outside of you back into the middle of the field.

This will allow the rest of the defense a better chance to tackle the opposing player. If defensive end loses his edge allowing the player to get outside it can often result in a large play.

Defensive End Attributes


Length is one of the biggest attributes for a defensive end. You will notice across the NFL there are very few short defensive ends that have succeeded.

The reason for this is because length is incredibly important for getting to the quarterback. As an end, you will spend most of your plays going up against the offensive tackle position. These are some of the tallest and longest players on the field.

In order to get around them to reach the running back or quarterback you are going to need some serious length.


Burst is another hugely important attribute of defensive ends. At this position having a quick first step or two can have huge impacts. Whether it is getting to the qb before he throws the ball or speeding by the offensive tackle burst at this position is essential.

Pass Rush Technique

The technique of an ends pass rush is another incredibly important attribute. At the NFL level you can no longer rely on strength or speed alone to beat opponents. In order to beat these professionals, an end must hone their pass rushing moves.

These moves allow pass rushers to beat one on one blocking in order to get into the backfield.


The build of a defensive end is typically and very tall and lean player with a larger frame. Defensive ends are one of the largest positions in the sport though they tend to keep their body fat relatively low.

These players are often six four or taller yet retain incredible athleticism as they need the speed to do their job effectively.


When it comes to positioning there are two main locations where a defensive end lines up on the field. In most cases, there is a left defensive end as well as a right. These players line up at each end of the defensive line.

This position does not tend to move around the field too much and typically line up in the same location each play.

Concluding Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed this guide to understanding this position. If you have any questions regarding this position don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know.

If you want to learn more about players like defensive ends in football, see our guide to the front seven in football.

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