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Football Basics: Linebacker

How to Play Linebacker

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 02: Tight end Zach Miller #86 of the Seattle Seahawks tries to avoid the tackle of outside linebacker Danny Trevathan #59 of the Denver Broncos during Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

When a kid thinks about what position they want to play on defense in football, it's usually linebacker. Linebackers are the portrait of toughness and grit that epitomizes the game of football. A normal defensive scheme will have the defensive line holding their ground on blockers and the secondary locked in pass coverage, so the linebackers are usually the ones that make the tackle on any given play. Check the stats, and you'll see that the linebackers almost always lead the team in number of tackles.

What does a linebacker do?

As the name would imply, these guys line up behind the defensive line. They have to read plays quickly and respond, because one misstep can put them out of position to make the tackle. They will be called upon to blast through gaps and stop the run. They will also be required to drop in pass coverage, both zone and man-to-man. They also do a lot of communication to the rest of the defense, helping the team adjust to what the offense is doing. In addition, some defensive schemes call for the linebackers to be walked up on the line of scrimmage like a defensive lineman.

Should I play linebacker?

If you want to play linebacker, you have to be versatile in your athletic ability. You will need to have good size and speed. The average NFL linebacker is over 220 pounds and over 6 feet tall. You have to be strong, physical, and mentally tough, not afraid to put your head in there and make a collision. Lastly, you have to have a great understanding of football, and ability to read plays successfully. If that's you, you might be on your way to being the next Brian Urlacher or Ray Lewis.

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