Who protects the quarterback in football?

In the game of football, there are going to be several defenders who have the sole purpose of tackling the quarterback before he throws the football. Though, before they reach the quarterback these defenders need to get through the several players who protect him.

The players who protect the quarterback in football include offensive tackles, offensive guards, the center position, tight ends, and running backs. The players who are mainly responsible for the quarterback’s protection are the offensive line.

The way these players protect the quarterback is by creating a “pocket” in the offensive backfield. The pocket in football is an area that is protected by the offensive players so that the quarterback has time to throw the football.

The offensive line will make a semi-circle around the quarterback and will physically block any defenders trying to reach him. This protection of the quarterback will only last for a few seconds but that is generally all the quarterback needs in order to throw the ball downfield.

Which positions protect the quarterback in football

As we stated earlier the key players protecting the quarterback are the offensive lineman. The offensive line is broken down into three separate positions. There are also a few skill positions that may chip in when protecting the qb.

Offensive tackle

Offensive tackle is arguably the most important position in the offensive line. The line will have two offensive tackles who will line up on either end. The goal of the tackle is to not allow outside rushers to get around the outside of the semi circle they have created.

If a defender is able to get around the offensive tackle there will not be anyone else there to block him from reaching the quarterback.

Additionally, since these players play on the outside of the offensive line they have to protect the largest area of the field. Outside edge defenders can attempt to go inside or work their way all the way around the outside of the tackle.

This area they must cover requires tackles to be quick on their feet. They also must possess long reach in order to hold these powerful defenders at a distance.

This position is often the highest paid on the offense due to the importance of keeping the quarterback safe.

Offensive Guard

Another position in the offensive line that protects the quarterback is the offensive guard. Similar to the offensive tackle there are two guards on the offensive line.

This position lines up on the inside of the offensive line between the center and the offensive tackle.

Guards are going to make up a portion of the interior offensive line. These players will line up in the interior of the semi-circle made to protect the quarterback.

If any player on the defense attempts to rush through this portion of the field the guards will be responsible for stopping them.

Since they are in the interior they will typically face off against interior defensive lineman. These players on the defense are incredibly strong and heavy which makes it necessary that guards are quite heavy and strong themselves.


The final position in the offensive line that protects the quarterback is the center. If you haven’t already guessed the center lines up right in the middle of the offensive line.

This position has the interesting role of snapping the ball each play. The center will throw the ball between his legs towards the quarterback and then will stand up and block defenders.

Since the center is in the middle of the line they must also take on an interior defensive lineman. Since these defensive players are so strong the offensive guards and the center will often work together to protect the quarterback.

The center and guards will often double-team block a single player on the defensive line if he poses a threat to the quarterback.

Tight End

The tight end position is one of the few that protects the quarterback yet is not on the offensive line.

The best way to think of tight ends is sort of as a hybrid between wide receivers and offensive linemen. When in pass protection for the quarterback tight ends will generally line up on the end of the line beside the offensive tackle.

When the play starts these players will often help the offensive tackle with blocking the outside pass rushers.

Oftentimes the outside pass rushers are the most skilled player going after the quarterback. Bringing in the tight end so the tackle doesn’t have a one-on-one matchup against the outside rusher can make life a lot easier for the offense.

On some occasions, the tight end will perform a chip block which consists of a quick block on the outside pass rusher before running down the field on a receiving route.

This sort of help isn’t going to stop the pass rusher altogether but it will help out the offensive tackle.

Running back

Running back is the final position that is included in protecting the quarterback from the defense.

The running back position is primarily known for their ability to run with the ball in their hands and catch passes.

Though on passing plays these players may be tasked with waiting in the backfield to help out the quarterback.

The difference with running backs is that they are not going to be lining up in the semi-circle protecting the quarterback. Instead, these players will wait in the backfield with the quarterback throughout the play.

If any defender finds their way through the offensive line this running back will be waiting to take them on.

Generally, pass rushers are going to be noticeably larger than running backs which means they will often utilize low blocks in order to bring them to the ground.

Concluding thoughts

That concludes our guide on which players are responsible for protecting the quarterback in football.

We would also like to note that on some occasions fullback and wide receivers may be used in pass protection though this is a relatively rare occurrence.

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