NFL Football Terminology


NFL football terminology helps you to know what the TV or radio announcers are referring to when they are using words or phases that you have no clue what they are talking about.

If you are new, or just a casual fan who don't know what an audible or a fair catch is, here some football terms that will help you understand football terminology.

Audible: Changing the play at the line of scrimmage by the quarterback, using a set of verbal and/or visual signals. An audible is sometimes referred to as a check off. These changes occur at the line of scrimmage because of the defense alignment.

Balanced Line: An offensive formation which has the same number of players on either side of the center. For example: two guards, two tackles and one tight end line up on each side of the center.

Blind Side: This is the opposite side of the field in which a player is facing. This football terminology is often used when describing offensive tackles.

The left tackle job is to protect the quarterback's blind side. Since most quarterbacks are right handed, they drop back facing the right side of the field, thus the importance of a strong left tackle to protect the quarterback from defenders who will hit him from behind or the blind side.

Bootleg: An offensive play where the quarterback fakes a hand off to the running back then runs to the opposite side of the field to pass or run the ball himself.

Chop Block: A chock block occurs when an offensive player drops down and hits the opposing defensive player below the knees. Because this is a dangerous play which can cause career ending injuries, chop blocks are illegal.

Chucking: Warding off an opponent who is in front of a defender by contacting him with a quick extension of arm or arms, followed by the return of arm(s) to a flexed position, thereby breaking the original contact.

Clipping: Throwing the body across the back of an opponent’s leg or hitting him from the back below the waist while moving up from behind unless the opponent is a runner or the action is in close line play.

Coffin Corner:This football terminology is used when referring to a punt which lands between the five yard line and goal line from the numbers to the side line.

This is called the coffin corner (4 of them in all) because punts landing here are almost never returned, hence the ball is said to be dead in the coffin corner.

Cover 2:A zone defense is when each defender is assigned an area of field to defend and not a particular player. The field is divided into 7 zones, five low and two high.

The 5 lower zones are covered by the corner backs and linebackers, while the two high zones are covered by the safeties. This defense formation got its name because of the two deep zones being covered by the safeties.

Close Line Play: The area between the positions normally occupied by the offensive tackles, extending three yards on each side of the line of scrimmage. It is legal to clip above the knee.

Crackback Block : Eligible receivers who take or move to a position more than two yards outside the tackle may not block an opponent below the waist if they then move back inside to block.

Dead Ball: A football terminology where by the ball is not in play.

Dime Coverage:A defensive alignment using six defensive backs, 3 or 4 down linemen and 1 or 2 linebackers. This defense is usually only used in obvious passing situations. The added speed on the field makes it easier for the defense to prevent a long play.

Draw:An offensive play where the linemen and quarterback drop back as if they called a pass play, but at the last moment the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back for a run play.

Double Foul: A football terminology call a penalty by each team during the same down.

Down: The period of action that starts when the ball is put in play and ends when it is dead.

Drop Kick:A free kick where the player drops the ball and kicks it immediately after it hits the ground. The ball must touch the ground to be considered a drop kick.

If the player kicks the ball before it hits the ground, it is considered a punt. While rarely attempted in the NFL, a drop kick was recently used by Doug Flute on an extra point attempt in 2006. It was the first time since December 1941.

Encroachment: When a player enters the neutral zone and makes contact with an opponent before the ball is snapped.

Fair Catch: An unhindered catch of a kick by a member of the receiving team who must raise one arm a full length above his head and wave his arm from side to side while the kick is in flight.

Flanker: A football terminology not used too often today, a flanker is nothing more than a player who catches passes (wide receivers).

Flea Flicker: This football terminology is called a trick play in which the Player A (typically a QB) hands off the ball (or laterals) to Player B a running back or wide receiver, who takes a few steps and then laterals the ball back to Player A. Player A then attempts a forward pass.

Franchise Player: A tag assigned to a player by a team to prevent the player from becoming a free agent. If the player does not sign a long term deal before the season begins, he must be paid the average salary of the top five players at his position for the coming season.

Foul: Any violation of a playing rule.

Free Kick: A kickoff or safety kick. It may be a placekick, dropkick, or punt, except a punt may not be used on a kickoff following a touchdown, successful field goal, or to begin each half or overtime period. A tee cannot be used on a fair-catch or safety kick.

Fumble: The lost possession of the ball.

Hot Read or Hot Receiver:The receiver who will have a pass directed his way almost immediately after the snap. This happens when a quarterback comes to the line and believes the defense is going to blitz.

In an attempt to get rid of the ball before being sacked, the quarterback will designate one of his receivers as the hot read or hot receiver.

Game Clock: A football terminology is called a Scoreboard game clock.

I - Formation An offensive set where the two running backs line up directly behind the quarterback. This set is often used in short yardage situations.

Illegal Formation An offensive set where not enough players are lined up on the line of scrimmage. For a formation to be legal, a team must have seven players lined up on the line of scrimmage to begin each play.

Impetus: The action of a player that gives momentum to the ball.

Live Ball: A ball legally free kicked or snapped. It continues in play until the down ends.

Loose Ball: A live ball not in possession of any player.

Muff: The touching of a loose ball by a player in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain possession.

Neutral Zone: The space the length of a ball between the two scrimmage lines. The offensive team and defensive team must remain behind their end of the ball.

Nickel Defense A defensive alignment using 5 defensive backs. Teams typically use this defense only in obvious passing situations.

Offside: A player is offside when any part of his body is beyond his scrimmage or free kick line when the ball is snapped or kicked.

Off-TackleIn football terminology, off-tackle is a running play where the back heads to the strong side of the field toward the hole opened by his tackle, tight end and full back. The running back has the option of rushing off the shoulder of his tackle or tight end.

Own Goal: The goal a team is guarding.

Play-Action Pass:A play designed to trick the defense into believing it's a running play when actually the offense attempts to pass the ball.

As the quarterback drops back, he fakes a hand off to the running back and then turns around to pass the ball. The intent is to make the defense believe the running backis going to run the ball and leave the receivers wide open.

Play Clock: This football terminology refers to a 40/25 second clock.

Pocket Area: Applies from a point two yards outside of either offensive tackle and includes the tight end if he drops off the line of scrimmage to pass protect.

Pocket extends longitudinally behind the line back to offensive team’s own end line.

Pooch Kick: A long line-drive kick designed to bounce around before being picked up by the receiving team.

The kicking team is hoping the ball will bounce around long enough for them to run down and tackle the receiving player before he has a chance to run the ball back more than a few yards.

Possession: When a player controls the ball throughout the act of clearly touching both feet, or any other part of his body other than his hand(s), to the ground in-bounds.

Post-Possession Foul: A foul by the receiving team that occurs after a ball is legally kicked from scrimmage prior to possession changing.

The ball must cross the line of scrimmage and the receiving team must retain possession of the kicked ball.

Punt: A kick made when a player drops the ball and kicks it while it is in the air.

Safety: The situation in which the ball is dead on or behind a team’s own goal if the impetus comes from a player on that team. Two points are scored for the opposing team.

Secondary: The players lined up behind the linebackers defending against the pass. Usually safeties and defensive backs are found in the secondary.

This is football terminology is called the secondary because the first line of defense is the linemen and linebackers.

Strong Side: The side of the field to which the tight end lines up. There are more player on one side of the center then the other side.

If there are three down players to the right of the center then it's likely this is the strong side. The guard, tackle and tight end lined up to the right side would give an offense a strong presence on this side of the ball.

Shift: The movement of two or more offensive players at the same time before the snap.

Striking: This football terminology is the act of swinging, clubbing, or propelling the arm or forearm in contacting an opponent.

Sudden Death: The continuation of a tied game into sudden death overtime in which the team scoring first (by safety, field goal, or touchdown) wins.

Touch back: When a ball is dead on or behind a team’s own goal line, provided the impetus came from an opponent and provided it is not a touchdown or a missed field goal.

Touchdown: When any part of the ball, legally in possession of a player in-bounds, breaks the plane of the opponent’s goal line, provided it is not a touch-back.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: This football terminology is any act contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship.

Weak Side:This football terminology is the side of the field opposite to which the tight end lines up. If there are three down players to the right of the center, then the left side would be the weak side.

With just a guard and tackle on the left side, the offense has a weaker presence on this side of the ball as compared to the guard, tackle and tight end lined up on the other side of the ball.

Wishbone Formation An offensive formation with a fullback and two running backs. In this formation, the offense has the option to run the ball equally well to either side of the field.

They can also keep a running back in to block-- in case the defense floods the line of scrimmage.