What Is A Linebacker In Football?

A linebacker in football is a defensive position that is responsible for tackling the running back as well as stopping opposing players from catching the ball. The linebacker is the jack of all trades position of the defense as they find themselves doing many different jobs depending on the play.

In any given formation there are typically three or four linebackers on the defense. The linebackers can be identified as middle, left and right. Or middle, weakside and strongside depending on the defensive formation.


Run Stopping

Run stopping is arguably the biggest job of linebackers in the NFL. This position sits just behind the defensive line meaning they have a great chance to get the first hit on the running back.

Typically linebackers will try and track where the running back is coming through the line and meet him there. It is not uncommon for linebackers to lead the team in tackles due to their presence in the run game.

Pass Coverage

Another responsibility of linebackers is to assist in pass coverage. Oftentimes linebackers are assigned zones in the middle of the field. This means they are given an area in which they should defend from passes.

This position also plays man coverage. This means they may cover the running back or tight end one on one in order to stop them from catching a pass. Linebackers typically cover short or intermediate passes from being completed.


Additionally, linebackers are also involved in blitzing the quarterback. This means on these plays the linebacker will not have to worry about stopping the run or covering the pass.

They simply rush the quarterback and attempt to bring him down before he makes a pass. This is less common than the former responsibilities though you can still expect a linebacker to blitz a few times per game.

Linebacker Attributes


Speed is an incredibly important attribute for linebackers due to the players they must cover. The most common player for a linebacker to tackle is a running back. Running backs at the NFL level have incredible speed making it crucial for the linebacker to have speed of his own.

In order to cover these players on routes speed is an important factor for linebackers.

Football IQ

Linebackers, especially middle linebackers are known for being the quarterback of the defense. The middle backer much like the quarterback is the only player on the defense that has a speaker in his helmet to communicate with the coaches.

Some linebackers call audibles and change the play based on what they see before the snap. Having the football IQ to not only lead the defense but complete your coverage and run-stopping effectively is a very important trait.


Though linebackers are often lean and fast they need strength to do their job to their best ability. Since linebackers are often tasked with taking down the running back the offense usually sends blockers his way.

Whether it is an offensive lineman or a tight-end linebackers need to have the strength to fight off these blocks to tackle the ball carrier.


Linebackers size wise are around the middle of the pack when it comes to football positions. They are going to noticeably smaller than lineman but typically have quite a few pounds on receivers and running backs.

Linebackers typically stand around six feet tall, have a larger frame and carry a fairly low body fat percentage.


When it comes to positioning linebackers can start all over the field. Though what you do need to know is that they line up in between the defensive line and the secondary in terms of depth.

In most cases, they will be about five yards back from the line of scrimmage. And due to the number of linebackers on the field, they will typically be spread out amongst the width of the field.

Concluding Thoughts

We hope that this guide to understanding linebackers in football taught you everything you needed to know about the position. If you have any more questions about linebackers see our guides to the leo linebacker position or the off ball linebacker position.

Leave a Comment