Run defense in football is a series of defensive assignments given to players in order to stop the opposing team from gaining yards by rushing the football. A rush in football is any offensive play that does not involve a forward pass.
Whenever a defensive player is on the field they will have a responsibility in the run defense. If the opposing team ends up running the ball the defensive players must react by fulfilling their responsibility in the run defense.
In regards to statistics run defense refers to a defense’s ability to stop the opposing team from gaining yards from carrying the ball over the line of scrimmage.
In other words, run defense refers to a team’s ability to stop the run altogether it is not a style of defense that is used to stop the run.
What is considered a run?
To get a better understanding of what run defense is it helps to know what a run is. A run or rush in football refers to any play in which the offense gains yards without a forward pass.
In most cases, this is going to involve the quarterback handing the ball to a running back who then progresses it by running towards the endzone.
Another running play involves the quarterback carrying it himself. If the defensive line cannot catch the quarterback and he gets past the line of scrimmage then he has run the ball.
The final version of a rushing play features a lateral pass. Teams are allowed to toss the ball back to a fellow teammate and that play would still be considered a run.
So long as the pass did not travel forward then any positive play is considered a rushing play.
Which players are involved in run defense?
The key players involved in run defense are the defensive line and linebackers.
The defensive line plays closest to the line of scrimmage and has the best shot to tackle the ball carrier before he starts gaining yards. On rushing plays the offensive line will usually look to create holes for the ball carrier to go through.
The defensive line must look to plug these holes and tackle the running back if he tries to go through them. Teams with dominant defensive lines tend to have a great run defense.
The defensive tackles tend to handle rushes into the middle of the field.
Linebackers also play a large role in the run defense. In most cases, linebackers are going to be the player most likely to tackle the ball carrier.
On rushing plays, if the running back is able to get past the defensive line they will then enter the linebacker’s area of the field.
Linebackers tend to line up five or so yards off the line of scrimmage. Once the ball carrier gets to this area of the field the linebacker will attempt to make the tackle.
Since these players are further back from the line of scrimmage they are less likely to be blocked by another offensive player this makes it easier for linebackers to make tackles and contribute to the run defense.