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California Scientific
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Football 101: Players and Positions

Tight Ends and Quarterbacks

By Mark Lawrence

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        FS                SS
          WL    ML    SL
CB      E    T     T      E     CB

 SE      T  G  C  G  T  TE
               Q                  FL

The Tight End

The tight end is has several jobs to do that make it almost impossible for one guy to do the jobs. First, the tight end has responsibilities to block. If there is a cornerback or safety or linebacker trying to sneak in and ambush the quarterback, the tight ends job is to get a good solid hit on this guy and slow him down. If it looks like the quarterback is going to get into trouble due to lots of guys trying to ambush him, the tight end must not only hit one of these guys, but he must then quickly release and get into the open. The tight end will be what is called an outlet receiver - it's his job to catch the ball if the quarterback gets into trouble and has no time to find an open receiver. Finally, the tight end is supposed to be a good blocker so that if the quarterback calls a running play, the tight end can help bulldoze a path for the runner with the ball.

A tight end is therefore usually a big guy so that he's a big target for our troubled quarterback - typically perhaps 6'4" or taller, and about 250 pounds. He also has to be a fast runner, not necessarily Olympic sprinter fast, but pretty fast. And he's got to be a tough guy who can deliver a big hit on an ambushing defender. The tight end will often be sent out to catch passes in the middle of the field, where he will be covered by a couple of linebackers instead of cornerbacks. Linebackers are big guys with bad attitudes who like to torture small animals and scare children, so the tight end has to be a really tough guy to go into their area and try to make plays.

Very few people are capable of being all these things. So we see tight ends in the NFL who specialize in catching the ball and being an outlet receiver, and different tight ends who specialize in blocking and being part of the running game.

A tight end who specializes in blocking will make perhaps $1M to $3M per year. A tight end who is an excellent receiver can make perhaps as much as $8M / year.

The Offensive Backs

Hidden behind the offensive line we see three players, the Quarterback, the Fullback, and the Running Back. We're going to talk about them next.

The Quarterback

The Quarterback is the field general of your football team. He has to have excellent skills at reading the defensive players and deciding what they are going to try to do to foil the plans of the offense. The Quarterback must be a very quick and decisive thinker. A deep thinker with a pipe like Albert Einstein would make a poor quarterback, as just when he was deciding what was the exactly perfect thing to do to make the play work, a 320 pound defensive end would be picking him up and throwing him to the ground. The quarterback must be a bright guy, but the emphasis must be on quick thinking, not deep thinking. The ideal quarterback thinks like a fighter pilot: quickly pick a target and make something happen. It's far better for your quarterback to find a good thing to do within one second than for him to find the exactly perfect thing to do but take fours seconds to find it.

The quarterback has a radio in his helmet, and between plays the coaches are allowed to talk to the quarterback. The coaches can radio in the next play they want him to run and also any other important information they may have for him.

Roughly half of the plays of any football team will be passing plays. On these plays the quarterback will try to throw the ball through the air in such a way so that one of his team's receivers, running full speed down the field, can reach out without breaking stride and catch the ball. It's important that the ball be thrown so that no one on the defense can reach out and catch the ball. So, it's very important that the quarterback have good arm strength to throw the ball and excellent accuracy to get the ball in exactly the right place at the right time.

While the quarterback is getting set to choose his receiver and throw the ball, there are about five to seven guys on the defense whose job it is to get there first and block or intercept the pass. The quarterback must be a fairly sneaky guy, because these defenders will watch your quarterback's eyes and try to see where he is looking. A good quarterback knows in his head where most everyone is on the field,. He can look at some other place on the field for a second before quickly flicking his eyes to his preferred receiver and tossing the ball before the defenders have a chance to react and adjust.

Roughly the other half of your team's plays will be running plays where the quarterback hands the ball to another player who will try to run up the field. On these plays, after the quarterback hands off the ball he will simply back away and get out of the action. You might think the quarterback could be valuable running along with the running and perhaps blocking someone, but the chance of the quarterback getting hurt is simply too high, so this is essentially never done.

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