Here at "Naptime Huddle” we have been gradually introducing each position on a football team. We started with the quarterback andoffensive linemen. We then discussed the linebackers and defensive linemen, before moving on to the secondary. Today we start to learn about the so-called “skill players”; those players who, along with the quarterback, have specialized skills that they use to advance the offense. Today's skill player is the tight end.
Position on the Field:
Before the snap, the tight end lines up at the end of the offensive line, next to the tackle. Because this adds an extra man to that side of the offensive line, the side where the tight end is located is usually referred to as the “strong side” of the offense’s formation (the other side of the line being the “weak side”). Before the start of the next play, the defense has to determine which is the strong side and adjust its formation accordingly. This typically means that the strong safety will position himself to that side of the field.
The tight end has multiple responsibilities during a play. Most of the time, he joins the offensive line in protecting the quarterback and blocking the defensive linemen or any other defenders trying to put pressure on the QB. By the same token, he assists in blocking for whoever has the ball, either a running back or wide receiver.
However, the tight end can also break off the line and make himself available to catch a pass. The tight end is often referred to as the QB’s “safety valve.” The tight end doesn’t usually run a long route down the field, and is typically strong enough to distance himself from the defenders. Therefore, the QB can often rely on the tight end to be open when the receivers that are further down the field are covered well by the secondary. This tactic is especially effective when a team needs less than ten yards to get a first down.
Because the tight end has so many roles, he needs to be strong, athletic and quick. Though not as, um, hefty as the offensive linemen, he should be bigger and stronger than the wide receivers.
Now that we have talked about most of the positions on the field, below is an illustration of a basic offensive (red) formation and the defensive (blue) 4-3 formation: