Halfback (American football)


Halfback (American football)

A halfback or tailback is an offensive position in American, and college football who lines up in the backfield [ [http://images.nfl.com/fans/images/how_players_lineup.jpgHalfback lineup in a play] at NFL.com] and generally is responsible for carrying the ball on run plays. [ [http://football.about.com/cs/football101/g/gl_halfback.htm Halfback info] at about.com]

Responsibilities of the halfback

The halfback position is one of the more glamorous positions on the field, and is commonly viewed as a requirement for a team's success. [ [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1208/is_n42_v222/ai_21227621 Halfback job type] at findarticles.com] They are responsible for carrying the ball on the majority of running plays, and may frequently be used as a receiver on short passing plays. Occasionally, they line up as additional wide receivers. When not serving either of these functions, the primary responsibility of a halfback is to aid the offensive linemen in blocking, either to protect the quarterback or another player carrying the football.

Running ability

No position in American football can perform his duties successfully without the help of other players. Like the wide receiver, who generally cannot make big plays without the quarterback passing to him (with the exception of the end-around play), the halfback needs good blocking from the offensive line to successfully gain yardage. Also, a halfback will generally have more rushing attempts than a receiver will have receptions. This is mainly because most football teams have one primary halfback to receive most of the carries, while successful passes will generally be spread between a number of different receivers (wide receivers, tight ends, running backs).

Characteristics of a halfback

Height and weight

There is a great diversity in those who play at the running back position. At one extreme are smaller, faster players. These fast, agile, and elusive running backs are often called "scat backs" because their low center of gravity and maneuverability allow them to dodge tacklers; such running backs as the Philadelphia Eagles' Brian Westbrook and New Orleans Saints' running back Reggie Bush.

At the other extreme are "power backs": Bigger, stronger players who can break through tackles using brute strength and raw power. They are usually (but not always) slower runners compared to other backs, and typically run straight ahead (or "North-and-South" in football terminology) rather than dodging to the outside edges of the playing field (i.e. running "East-and-West") like shorter, quicker, lighter backs will often do, example of a running back is Steven Jackson of the Saint Louis Rams or Brandon Jacobs of the New York Giants.

Several successful running backs fall somewhere between the extremes of "scat back" and "power back", combining speed and agility with power and strength like San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson or Minnesota Vikings running back [Adrian Peterson] or Jacksonville Jaguars runningback Maurice Jones-Drew or Buffalo Bills runningback Marshawn Lynch.

Receiving ability

In addition to skill at running the ball, some halfbacks in the National Football League are known for their prowess at catching passes. The role of the halfback as a receiver out of the backfield has expanded greatly in the NFL over the years, and a versatile halfback who provides his team and pass-catching abilities is highly valued. On passing plays, a halfback will often run a safe route, such as a hook, creating a safe target for a quarterback to throw to if all other receivers are covered. The increase in demand for halfbacks with good receiving abilities can be attributed to the rise in popularity of the West Coast offense and its variants, which often requires its halfbacks to catch passes on a regular basis. Currently Marshall Faulk is one of the top 20 pass catchers in NFL history. A good example of a dual threat running and pass-catching halfback is San Diego Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson; in 2003, Tomlinson rushed for 1,645 yards and caught 100 passes for 725 yards, giving him 2,370 total yards from the line of scrimmage, and he became the first NFL player ever to rush for over 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in a season. Some teams have a halfback who is more skilled at catching short passes than the starting halfback on the team, and/or is better at pass blocking or "picking up the blitz" than that of the other backs. Known as a "third down" back, he is often put in the game in third down and long situations where a pass is needed to pick up a first down. He can also be used to fool the defense by making them think he is being put into the game for a pass play, when the play is actually a run. One example of this type of running back is Kevin Faulk of the New England Patriots.

Blocking

david cantu are also required to help the offensive line in passing situations, and, in the case of the fullback, running plays. Halfbacks will often block blitzing linebackers or safeties on passing plays when the offensive line is occupied with the defensive linemen. On running plays, the fullback will often attempt to tear a hole in the offensive line for the halfback to run through. Effective blocking backs are usually key components for a running back's success (as seen in LaDainian Tomlinson record-breaking season in 2006).

Goal line backs

Many teams also have a halfback designated as a "goal line back" or "short yardage specialist". This halfback comes into the game in short yardage situations when the offense needs only one to five yards to get a first down. They also come into the game when the offense nears the goal-line. Normally when an offense gets inside the 5 yard line they send in their goal-line formation which usually includes eight blockers, a quarterback, a halfback, and a fullback. The closer they are to the goal-line the more likely they are to use this formation. If a certain halfback is used often near the goal-line he is called the goal-line back. Short yardage and goal-line backs are power backs that are not prone to fumbling. Their job is to get the first down or touchdown by muscling through or pushing a large mass of players that are being blocked without dropping the ball.

Contributing to Special Teams

A halfback might be called upon to return punts and kickoffs on special teams. Although this is most often done by wide receivers and defensive backs, such as cornerbacks (because they are generally the fastest players on the team), some halfbacks have enough speed and talent to perform this role. The NFL's current all time leading in kickoff return yards (14,014 yards) and punt return yards (4,999) is a halfback, Brian Mitchell. He also gained 1,967 rushing yards, 2,336 receiving yards, and 15 fumble return yards, giving him a total of 23,330 all-purpose yards, the second most in NFL history behind Jerry Rice.

Passing ability

On rare occasions, a halfback is asked to throw the ball when running an HB option. [ [http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-4340080/Option-football-from-eternity-to.html Halfback option] at ecnext.com.] [ [http://www.football.com/playbook/option.shtml Halfback option play] at football.com.] This play is risky because most halfbacks are inexperienced passers, and so it is often run only by certain halfbacks more skilled at passing than most.

ee also

* Running back
* American football positions
* Fullback (American football)

References

External links

* [http://www.nfl.com/fans/rules/lineup NFL.com: How the Players Line Up]
* [http://football.about.com/cs/football101/a/positionoff.htm| Football 101: Basic Football positions]


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