What Is A Down Judge In Football

A down judge or DJ in football is an official which is responsible for overseeing the line of scrimmage. This is the main official that will be calling offsides, encroachments and false starts.

The down judge lines up right on the line of scrimmage so he or she can get an accurate view of any rules being broken.

Down judges are also in charge of the chain gang and inform the head referee of the current down.

Every Down Responsibilities

Line Of Scrimmage

On each down the down judge is tasked with watching over the line of scrimmage. Together the down judge and line judge will watch for offsides and encroachment on their side of the field.

Oftentimes a wide receiver will point at the DJ to make sure he is onside before the play.

Controlling The Downs

The down judge is also in control of organizing the downs for each play. On each play, the DJ will inform the referee of the current down.

The DJ is also in charge of the chain gang. The chain gang holds the sign representing the current down.

Counting Offensive Players

This official also has the job of counting the offensive players. Again the DJ and LJ split this responsibility. Both officials will count out the number of offensive players on the field to determine if they have the correct number.

If not the official will throw their penalty flag.

Passing Plays

On each passing play, the DJ is going to be responsible for specific receivers depending on the formation. This official will watch both their specific receivers and the defenders around them for any penalty worth actions.

The sorts of penalties the down judge would call in these situations include offensive and defensive pass interference, holding, and illegal contact.

Additionally, if the play ends up in the vicinity of this official several more responsibilities arise. First, the DJ will assist with determining whether the pass was complete or not.

Secondly, the DJ is responsible for determining whether or not a receiver was out of bounds when a catch is made on his sideline.

Before the throw is made the DJ will assess if each pass is forwards or backwards and if the passer was behind the line of scrimmage when they threw the ball.

Running Plays

On running plays the down judge starts by watching the line of scrimmage to check for false starts or offsides. They will then watch the offensive and defensive players on their side of the field to determine if there are any penalties.

Some of the penalties the DJ may call on these plays include holding, facemasks, and horse-collar tackles.

When runs travel to the DJ’s side of the field he must monitor the sideline. The DJ will assess whether or not the ball carrier stepped out of bounds on the play.

This official is also tasked with marking the runners forward progress on their side of the field.

Special Teams

When it comes to special teams the down judge is not very involved. The only role this official plays on special teams is on the kickoff.

The down judge will lineup on the receivers goal line. They will then determine if the ball stays crosses the sideline before it reaches the endzone.

The DJ will also signal if the return man decides to kneel for a touchback.

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