What Is A Running Back In Football

A running back in football is an offensive position that is typically tasked with carrying the football. This player is typically handed the ball by the quarterback though on some plays they will catch passes as well.

Running backs come in many different shapes and sizes. Some styles of running backs such as power backs have a large and bulky build. While scatbacks are going of smaller stature but have increased agility and acceleration.


Ball Carrying

Ball carrying is far and away the biggest responsibility of a running back. In any given game the offense will run the ball anywhere from thirty to sixty per cent of their plays. Since running backs are the ball carriers this makes this a very important job.

In fact, running backs will touch the ball more often than any player other than the center and quarterback.

Pass Catching

Though running backs primarily carry the ball they often catch the ball as well. This aspect of the game has grown for running backs over the years as passing has become more frequent.

On most occasions running backs will catch pass running out of the backfield. But on some plays running backs may line up in the slot or out wide.

Pass Protection

Pass protection is another aspect of the game in which running backs are vital. If the back is not running a route on a pass play then he will be in pass protection.

This means he is tasked with blocking the opposing team’s players from reaching the quarterback. Typically the half back will remain in the backfield and pick up any defender that makes it past the offensive line.

Running Back Attributes


When it comes to the running back position speed is a must. Though every running back isn’t going to rely on speed to beat defenders you will find that even the large power backs can pick up some serious speed.

Elusiveness Or Strength

Most running backs in the NFL either rely on elusiveness or strength to beat defenders. Elusive backs are able to get past defenders by making them miss via jukes or spins.

While power backs utilize their strength to give out stiff arms and break through tackles.

It is important that you have or both of these attributes when playing the running back position.

Receiving Ability

Though not all running backs have great receiving ability you will find that the majority do. In today’s NFL passing is king, and to get time on the field as a half back you need to be able to catch the football.

In fact, some running backs referred to as third-down backs specialize in catching the ball from the running back position as opposed to carrying it.


There is no real standard build when it comes to the running back. Many different body types can excel at the position.

Though it can be said that half backs are typical more muscular players that do not carry a lot of fat on their bodies. They often have small hips and large legs in order to allow for quick cuts and bursts of power.


This position can line up all over the football field though the vast majority of the time they will line up in the backfield. In most cases, the back will be standing right beside or just behind the quarterback.

Other common areas for the half back to line up include the slot and near the sideline like a wide receiver.

Concluding Thoughts

We hope that this guide to halfbacks has taught you everything you need to know.

If you want to learn more about the running back position see our guides to downhill running backs or three down backs.

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