What is a tailback in football?

A tailback in football is an offensive player who has the primary purpose of carrying the football. The tailback position is also referred to as a half back or running back. These players are also known to catch passes out of the backfield.

In the majority of offensive formations, there are going to be one tailback on the field at a time. But some formations such as 22 personnel and 23 personnel involve having two tailbacks on the field.

The tailback is going to line up in the backfield for the most part. Usually, this player will line up right beside or just behind the quarterback.

That being said on some plays tailbacks will line up as receivers either out wide or in the slot.

What does a tailback do in football?

Now that you know what a tailback is in football you may be wondering what this position is responsible for on the football field. Below we will break down exactly what a tailback does in football.

Rushing the football

The main thing that a tailback is responsible for is carrying the football. These players have the key responsibility of carrying and progressing the football on rushing plays.

On these plays, the offense will coordinate which hole the ball carrier is going to go through. The offensive line will then move defenders so that this hole is open for the running back.

Tailbacks may also receive lateral passes on rushing plays. As long as the ball travels backwards when it is thrown it is considered a rushing play.

The running back will then take the from the quarterback and progress downfield through the hole. Tailbacks need to be fast, strong, and agile in order to play this role effectively.

Catching passes out of the backfield

On top of carrying the football tailbacks also catch passes. Though this is not their main purpose the increased amount of passing in the NFL has made catching balls as a tailback an important factor in the position.

Typically tailbacks will act as a safe option for the quarterback to throw to if the wide receivers are not open. The tailback’s ability to get yards with the ball in their hands is a large reason why short throws to this position can be so effective.

Pass protection

Though not the main purpose of tailbacks they will be asked to play a role in pass protection from time to time.

Pass protection in football refers to the assignment of protecting the quarterback from defenders. When in pass protection tailbacks are going to stay in the backfield and act as a last line of defense for the quarterback.

If a defender is able to find a way into the pocket the tailback is responsible for making the block. This is an especially important role to play for running backs that want to play on passing downs.

If a tailback wants to play a passing role in the offense they must have the ability to play pass protection. If the quarterback sees that extra defenders are coming he needs to be able to trust the tailback will be able to block his man.

That is all on tailbacks in football, if you want to learn more check out our guide to what is a fullback or what is a gunner.

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