As important as the offensive unit is to scoring in the game of football, the defensive unit is just as important for keeping the opposing team from crossing the goal line. In baseball they say good pitching stops good hitting. Well, in football a good defense stops a good offense. We’re going to briefly review the roles of the defensive unit for a team.
It’s hard to say what the most important part of a defensive is. Each part of the unit has a different function and each function is important in its own way. If any one part of the unit breaks down, it usually ends up in a score for the opposing offense.
The main line of defense is the defensive line which is made up of tackles and ends. These are the men who rush the quarterback if they see a pass play coming or try to tackle the running backs on a run play before those backs get too much yardage. This is called down in the trenches because the game of football is a game of gaining ground a very little bit at a time. If you need 10 yards in 4 downs to make a first down then that means a running back only needs to gain 2.5 yards for each time he runs the ball. That means the defensive line has to hold him to under 2 yards per carry. Not an easy thing to do. On pass plays they want to get to the quarterback as soon as possible because the longer a quarterback has to throw the ball the better the chance that his pass will be completed. Yes, the defensive line has a very big and important job.
After the defensive line is the secondary unit. These are the linebackers. Should a running back make it past the defensive linemen, it is the linebackers job to tackle them before they gain too much ground. The linebackers also protect against pass plays. Because of the complex pass routes that receivers run, most linebackers play in what is called a zone so that if any receiver enters that zone they can be ready to prevent a pass from being caught. The middle linebacker is the pretty much the coordinator of the defense. He is usually the one who has his eyes on everything that’s going on.
The cornerbacks are the ones who shadow the wide receivers on deep routes. It’s their job to stay with the receivers every step down the field. Because receivers are so fast, cornerbacks have to be just as fast in order to keep up with them. It’s their job to make sure that any pass thrown their way is not caught. If they can intercept a pass, all the better.
Finally there are the safeties. These two guys are pretty much the last line of defense. If anyone gets past the linebackers and cornerbacks, it is the job of the safeties to prevent the opposition from getting into the goal area.
The defense of a football team, if it’s good enough, can many times snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Never underestimate a strong defense.
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