The acronym ILB in football refers to the inside linebacker position. An inside linebacker is a term used to describe linebackers that play in the middle of the defensive formation. The ILB position is also referred to as the middle linebacker or the Mike linebacker.
Most defenses in football will have one or two lLBs on the field at any given time. If a defense is in a four-three formation they will have one inside linebacker. This is because there are only three linebackers in this formation.
If a team is in a three-four defense there are going to be two inside linebackers on the field. The three-four formation features three defensive linemen and four linebackers.
Inside linebackers will typically line up around five yards back from the line of scrimmage to start each play. The depth of these linebackers may change depending on if they are in pass coverage or blitzing the passer.
What Does An ILB Do?
Now that you know that ILB stands for inside linebacker in football you may be wondering what exactly it is this position does. Below we will break down a few of the key responsibilities of the inside linebacker position.
Making Tackles In The Box
The box in football refers to an imaginary area three to five yards into the defensive backfield from the line of scrimmage. This area is meant to be covered by inside linebackers.
On passing plays receivers may catch short passes looking to move downfield via yards after the catch. Oftentimes these players will come through the box and give the ILBs a chance to make a tackle.
In these situations, the defense will expect the ILB to make the play. On rushing downs inside linebackers are going to have to identify the ball carrier and bring them down.
If the run is between the tackles the middle linebackers are expected to sort through the crowd and bring down the running back. Oftentimes the interior linebackers will be unblocked and will be expected to come down with the tackle.
Whether it is pass coverage or run defense the interior linebacker position needs to be able to identify what the offense is doing.
In pass coverage inside linebackers are often going to be outmatched athletically. For this reason, these players are often going to need to read their opponent well in order to effectively cover them.
On rushing plays the ILB must find the hole that the running back is attempting to go through. If they can position themselves in this gap they will be able to effectively stop the play from progressing.
These sorts of plays by the ILBs allows them to be one of the most effective players on the defense.
Running The Defense
Another responsibility of the inside linebacker position is to organize and communicate to the defense.
The middle linebacker is one of the few players that has a mic in their helmet. This is the only mic on the defensive side of the ball. The middle linebacker will often talk to the coaching staff and communicate which play they are going to run on the next down.
This sort of communication requires leadership qualities in this position. This also makes the inside linebacker a position that frequently acts as a leader of the defense. Similar to a quarterback teams will often look to their middle linebacker to lead them.