What Is A Will Linebacker – Football Terminology

A will linebacker is another name for a weakside linebacker. A Will linebacker lines up on the side of the field that has fewer offensive players. This is most often the side that does not feature the tight end.

The Will linebacker can also be referred to as the backside or “buck” linebacker. It is common that this linebacker is faster than the Mike, and Sam linebackers as it is most likely they will play in pass coverage.

This article is going to explain what will linebackers do on the football field as well as where the position lines up and how to play it effectively.

What Does a Will Linebacker do?

A Will linebacker in football is going to attempt to tackle the ball carrier on rushing plays, and play zone or man coverage on passing plays.

Since the Will linebacker lines up on the weak side of the formation they are less likely to be involved in the run defense.

This is because offenses tend to run the ball towards the strong side of the formation as that is where they have more blockers.

That being said the will linebacker is still going to have responsibilities in the run game. On some plays, they may be tasked with sealing their side of the field from cutbacks.

In many defenses, the Will linebacker will be assigned a specific gap in the offensive line that he must fill. If the running back is attempting to come through one of the linebacker’s gaps he will attempt to tackle them.

This position also plays a large role in the passing defense of a team.

Weakside LBs can be assigned man or zone coverage on a passing play.

When in man coverage they will have to follow a specific receiver around the field. This linebacker will usually cover tight ends or running backs.

In a zone defense the weakside backer is going to play a short or intermediate zone a majority of the time.

When receivers enter their zone the will linebacker must cover them until they leave or the play is finished.

Where Does Will Linebacker Lineup?

Image showing a will linebacker lined up five yards off the line of scrimmage on the weakside in a football game
Will linebacker in a cover three defense

As we stated earlier a Will lines up on the weak side of the offensive line. This is the side of the line that has a fewer number of players.

This position will typically line up a few steps back from the defensive end in front of you. They will often have the defensive ends outside shoulder about even with their inside shoulder.

This is a typical lineup for a 4-3 defense but your positioning may be different for many reasons. One example could be a slot receiver on your side of the formation causing the linebacker to move their positioning wider.

Why Are Linebackers Called Mike, Will And Sam?

The explanation of these linebackers’ names is actually quite simple. These names are simply shorter terms that players can use to identify these positions quickly.

The mike is the middle linebacker because it starts with the letter “m”. The Will is the weakside linebacker because it starts with “w”. While the Sam is the strongside linebacker because it starts with an “s”.

How To Play Weakside Linebacker?

linebacker making a tackle on the football field

If you want to play on the weakside you must be fast, smart, and have good tackling skills. You are not expected to be the biggest backer at this position but you still need to be able to tackle the ball carrier when he comes into your gap.

Speed is important for this position as it allows you to set the edge ensuring the runner does not get outside you.

Having speed will also come in handy because the weak side is the backer with the most responsible for coverage.

You will sometimes be tasked with one on one coverage as a weakside linebacker so you will need the speed to keep up with a tight end, running back, and sometimes a slot receiver.

Having the ability to defend the pass effectively as a weakside linebacker is crucial to playing the position effectively. Shutting down tight ends and running backs at this position can make you an incredibly important part of the defense.

That’s all on will linebackers to learn more about weak side of the field responsibilities check the weakside defensive end positional breakdown or our guide to understanding what makes a side strong or weak.

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