What Is A Leo Linebacker In Football

In most cases, football positions are referred to with names football fans have known for years. But on some occasions, new positions are created and with those positions come new titles. This has fans asking questions like what is a Leo linebacker in football?

A Leo linebacker in football is a position that combines a defensive end and a weakside linebacker. This position plays in a 4-3 formation is mainly responsible for rushing the quarterback.

Leo linebackers are most often used when a 4-3 defensive lineman has several larger run-stopping linemen amongst him on the defensive line. These larger players are often better suited for a 3-4 line than the 4-3 they are playing in.

Their size allows them to handle the majority of run plays and plug holes throughout the line. This gives the Leo linebacker tons of freedom in terms of rushing the quarterback.

Leo Duties

Pass Rushing

The most important duty of a Leo linebacker is pass rushing. Since the rest of the defenders on the defensive line are meant for run-stopping this player often has to pick up the slack.

Interestingly the unique duties of a leo linebacker make the process of pass-rushing easier. This is because a leo is often able to pick and choose where he wants to start on the defensive line.

The coaching staff will often tell the Leo to pressure the quarterback and the rest is up to him.

Short And Intermediate Coverage

On top of pass rushing this linebacker-defensive end hybrid also helps the defense in pass coverage. In most cases, this pass coverage is going to be against the tight end.

Since this position does not possess a lot of speed their coverage is usually limited to short and intermediate routes.

The leo position is not often going to play pass coverage but it will usually happen a few times throughout the game.

Tackling Around The Line

Tackling is another important responsibility of the leo position. Though these players are not usually known for their run-stopping they still need to bring the ball carrier down.

Since the leo is playing around the line of scrimmage they are going to have a lot of chances to bring players down. Whether it be the quarterback, the running back, or a wide receiver a leo needs to be ready to be physical.

Leo Position Attributes


You will notice that almost every player that plays the Leo position has great length. The reason for this is due to pass rushing. In order to beat out tackles at the NFL level length is mandatory.

These tackles will often have long arms and will often be able to use this length to keep defenders at bay. Leo linebackers on the other hand typically have great reach and are able to use this length to beat tackles.


Burst is another common attribute you will see amongst the leo position. These players most often utilize this burst when pass rushing. Burst refers to the speed a player can generate in his first couple steps.

Leo’s can use this burst when pass rushing but also when tracking down ball carriers near the line of scrimmage. This is another reason why the Leo position often gets tackles for loss.

Where Did The Name Come From?

The name leo linebacker comes from the combination of the linebacker and defensive end postion. The “L” in leo refers to the linebacker and the “E” refers to the end portion.

Additionally, the leo goes by many other names. On some occasions, this position is referred to as an elephant end or a joker. The naming of this position depends mostly on the coaching staff as this position is not too common.

That’s all on Leo linebackers check out guides to off ball linebackers or learn about the difference between inside and outside backers.

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