Football Terminology
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Football Terminology

Have you ever watched a football game and heard the announcers use a word or phrase you don't understand? Well you're not alone. Many football fans know the most common terms and even more are likely to tell you they know it all. Well, if you're like me and watch the game for entertainment and not a vocabulary lesson, here's a small list of some of the not-so-common lingo. If we've missed something, let us know and we'll be happy to add it to the list.

Audible
Changing the play at the line of scrimmage using a set of verbal and/or visual signals. An audible is sometimes referred to as a check off. Usually called by the quarterback, it's a change in the play called in the huddle because of the defensive 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 two tight ends line up such that one of each position is on either side of the center.
Blind Side
The side of the field opposite the way a player is facing. This term is often used when describing offensive tackles. The left tackle is often said to be protecting the quarterback's blind side. Since most quarterbacks are right handed, they fall back facing the right side of the field, thus the importance of a strong left tackle to protect them from defenders hitting them from behind or the blind side.
Bootleg
An offensive play where the quarterback fakes a hand off to the running back then heads to the opposite side of the field as the back to pass or run the ball himself.
Chop Block
Simply put, a chock block occurs when an offensive player drops down and hits the opposing player below the knees. Because this is a dangerous play which can cause career ending injuries, chop blocks are illegal.
Chucking
A term often used when referencing linemen as one tries to chuck the other. Chuck is an extension of the arms followed by a quick retraction of the arms in an attempt to create space between the players and/or to knock the opposing player off center.
Clipping
An illegal play where the offending party hits an opposing player from behind. This is often called on kick offs and punts because the receiving team's players are trying to catch the kicking team from behind, thus hitting the kicking teams player in the back.
Coffin Corner
This term 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 being said to be dead in the coffin corner.
Cover 2
A zone defense where 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 corners and linebackers, while the two high zones are covered by the safeties. This defense got its name because of the two deep zones being covered by the safeties.
Crackback Block
A block made by an offensive player who began the play away from the line of scrimmage. This player comes back towards the ball at the snap and blocks an opponent below the waist or in the back. Because this is a dangerous play, crackback blocks are illegal.
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.
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
A defensive penalty which is called when the defender crosses the neutral zone and makes contact with an offensive player before the ball is snapped.
Flanker
A term not used too often today, a flanker is nothing more than a player who catches passes (wide receivers).
Flea flicker
A trick play in which the Player A (typically a QB) hands off the ball (or laterals) to Player B, 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.
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.
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.
Neutral Zone
The space between the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage. This is called the neutral zone because no player (offensive or defensive) may stand in this space before the ball is snapped, thus a neutral field in which neither team posses.
Nickel Defense
A defensive alignment using 5 defensive backs. Teams typically use this defense only in obvious passing situations.
Off-Tackle
Simply put, 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.
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 back is going to run the ball and leave the receivers wide open.
Pooch Kick
A long line-drive kick designed to bounce around before being picked up by the receiving team. The hope here for the kicking team is that 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.
Secondary
The players lined up behind the linebackers defending against the pass. Usually safeties and defensive backs are found in the secondary. This 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. 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.
Weak Side
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.

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