What Is A Mike Linebacker? – Football Terminology

A Mike linebacker is another name for a middle linebacker typically referring to this middle linebacker position in a 4-3 defense. The mike lines up in the middle of the formation directly across from the opposing teams center.

The Mike linebacker is often considered the quarterback of the defense. Their positioning on the field allows them to organize the defense. As well as watch and react to the opposing team based on what they are showing in their formation.

What Are A Mike Linebackers Responsibilities?

As we stated a mike linebacker is considered the quarterback of the defense. So it is fair to say they have a ton of responsibilities on their hands.

First off, middle linebackers are the only players in the NFL that electronic sideline communicator. This means they are usually the only defensive player that is speaking through his helmet to the coaching staff.

This means they are responsible for communicating plays from their coach to the rest of the defense. They are also the position responsible for making shifts or changes in the play.

Just like a quarterback audibling out of a play, a mike linebacker can also switch the play based on what he sees.

All that being said Mike linebackers have to do a lot more than just call plays. In many defenses middle linebackers finish the season with the most tackles. They are responsible for stopping runs that come through the middle of the field.

This means they will often have to fight through blocks to get to the running back. Middle linebackers also can be asked to work in coverage. This can range from man coverage on a tight end all the way to covering the deep middle zone in some variations of cover 3.

On some occasions, a mike linebacker can be asked to blitz though that is less common with this position than it is with Sam and Will linebackers.

Where Do They Lineup?

A mike linebacker lines up right in the middle of the formation. Since they are calling the plays for the defense they want to be somewhere everyone on their can see them.

The middle linebacker will typically be right across from the center with a three or four yard cushion.

This cushion allows the linebacker to drop back into coverage without being beat over the top. It also allows the linebacker to be close enough to the line of scrimmage to make a tackle on a running play.

Why Is It Called A Mike Linebacker?

The reason it is called a mike linebacker is simply because of the letter “m”. Sam linebackers and Will linebackers follow the same designation. A Sam linebacker plays on the strong side of the formation and a will plays on the weakside.

The reason for this nicknames is that they are easy to remember and they are shorter. These names are a one syllable alternative that quarterback can use to quickly identify the defense.

You may remember hearing lines like “59 is the mike” right before a quarterback snaps the ball. This is because he is using these abbreviated names to identify which player is playing which position.

Who Should Play Mike Linebacker

If you want to play the Mike linebacker you are going to have to be a jack of all trades. The middle linebacker position is one of the most important on the entire defense.

First off, you are going to have to have a good football IQ. Middle linebackers are often some of the smartest players on the defense. This is because of their ability to calls plays and shifts based on what the offense is doing.

A mike linebacker is also going to responsible for tackling the running back on plays up the middle. Often times middle linebackers will lead their team in tackles so run support is somewhere you will need to excel.

Middle linebackers also sometimes spy the quarterback or are dropped into coverage. You should be able to do both of these roles effectively but it is not expected of a middle linebacker to be great in pass coverage.

In other words to play the position of mike linebacker you are going to have to be jack of all trades with some great football IQ.

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