The box in football refers to an imaginary rectangle that starts at the line of scrimmage and goes three to five yards deep into the defensive backfield. The width of the box is the same as the width of the offensive line. In most cases the box is used to quickly identify the defense.
What Is The Purpose Of The Box
Now that we know where the box is on the field lets break down what the box is used for in football. Some common football terms you may have heard include “stack the box” or “eight in the box”.
Both of these football terms are referring to this same box that goes into the defenders backfield.
These terms refer to the number of players that start the play in the imaginary box. When the play is about to start the quarterback will look at the defense. In most cases he will see three or four defensive lineman and three or four linebackers.
This is all dependent on if the defense runs a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense. But as you can see from the number both add up to seven. Seven is the standard amount of players a quarterback should expect to see in the box on a given play.
But say for example the free safety moves down towards the line of scrimmage and sets up in the box. At this point the quarterback will notice there is “eight in the box”. This means there are eight separate defenders in this area five yards into the defensive backfield.
Reading The Box
It is at this point the coaches and quarterbacks will began to read the box as part of their play selection process. If the box is stacked it is going to very hard to run the ball. In these situations eight defenders start the snap close to the line of scrimmage and make it very difficult for the running back to find a hole.
By creating the box coaches and players are able to quickly identify the defense by reading the number of players in the box. This isn’t going to tell you what play the defense is running but it will give you some insight into whether you should run or pass the ball.
What Players Are Usually In The Box
As we stated earlier the majority of players that are going to be in the box on a given player are defensive lineman and linebackers.
If you run a four-three defense you will have four defensive lineman and three linebackers on the field. While a three-four will have three defensive lineman on the field as well as four linebackers.
These players make up the standard seven players you should see in the box on a given play. But as we stated earlier sometimes teams will bring in an eighth player and stack the box. In these situations, it is almost always a safety that is the extra player in the box.
Either the free or strong safety will often come down into the box in order to bolster the run defense.
Defensive Box Vs Tackle Box
When you hear people refer to the box in football they are most often talking about the one on defense. That being said there is an alterante version of the box for offense. This area covers is the width of the offensive line and goes five yards back into the offensive backfield.
It is this section of the field that is referred to as the tackle box. This area is important because being inside the tackle box can affect the quarterback’s ability to throw the ball away.
If a quarterback is to throw a ball away under pressure he cannot be in the tackle. If he is he will be assessed a intentional grounding penalty. While if the quarterback were out of the tackle box he is able to throw the ball out of bounds so long as it reaches the line of scrimmage.
This is just one example of how the tackle box differs from a defensive box.