What are Linebackers? The NFL’s Middle Men

American football is a physically difficult sport that requires teamwork between players with various roles and skills to succeed on the pitch. Linebackers play a crucial part in the defensive unit, among the other positions.  

Here at Cleats Hub, we will go into great depth about the function of linebackers in American football, their duties, and the various varieties of linebackers. 

What are Linebackers? 

American football players that play in the center of the field, between the defensive line and the defensive backfield, are known as linebackers. 

It is worth noting here they are in charge of many duties, such as pressuring the quarterback, covering receivers, and stopping the run. They are often the most adaptable and athletic players on the defensive unit. 

Role of Linebackers 

Role of Linebackers

These players are responsible for a variety of tasks, such as: 

Stopping the Run: Stopping the run is one of the linebackers’ main tasks. They must be able to physically confront blockers and tackle the ball carrier. Additionally, they must be able to interpret offensive plays and predict the ball carrier’s path. 

Covering Receivers: Covering receivers, especially the tight end and the running back, is under the purview of linebackers as well. To stay up with the receiver and prevent them from completing a catch, they must be quick and nimble enough. 

Rushing the Quarterback: Linebackers are also anticipated to occasionally pressure the quarterback, particularly on passing plays. Secondly, they must be swift and athletic to get through blockers and rapidly get to the quarterback. 

Making Defensive Calls: Depending on the offensive formation, middle linebackers are in charge of making defensive decisions and adjustments.

Also, they must be capable of communicating clearly with other members of the defensive unit.

Types of Linebackers 

Types of Linebackers

Based on where they play on the field, linebackers can be divided into three groups.

Middle Linebackers 

Commonly referred to as “Mike” linebackers, they are the defensive coordinators. They stand right behind the defensive line and are in charge of calling defenses and adjusting defenses by the offensive configuration.

Moreover, they are in charge of halting the run and are frequently the biggest and strongest players on the defensive unit. 

Furthermore, middle linebackers must be strong and agile, with the ability to rapidly assess offensive plays and respond appropriately. 

Outside Linebackers 

The ‘Sam’ and ‘Will’ linebackers are outside linebackers who line up behind the defensive ends on the outside of the defensive formation.

In addition to pressuring the quarterback, they are in charge of covering the tight end and the running back

Outside linebackers must be quick and nimble, and they must be able to cover a sizable portion of the field. Also, they must possess the strength to overcome blockers and the agility to alter lanes and pursue the ball carrier. 

Inside Linebackers 

Between the middle and outside linebackers are inside linebackers, also referred to as “Jack” linebackers. They are in charge of stopping the run and watching the field’s middle. They must periodically blitz the quarterback as well. 

In addition, inside linebackers should have a wide range of skills, be able to read offensive plays, and have quick reflexes. They must possess the strength to overcome blockers and the speed to pursue ball carriers. 

Skills Required by Linebackers 

Skills Required by Linebackers

A distinct set of physical and mental abilities are needed to play the position in American football. Following are some of the essential abilities needed to perform the position: 

Physical Strength and Agility: Strong, quick, and able to shift directions and move laterally are all qualities that linebackers need to possess. Strength and power are necessary because they must be able to make tackles and get rid of blockers. 

Speed and Quickness: The ability to move swiftly across a large area is a must for linebackers. To reach the quarterback on passing plays, they must be able to keep up with running backs and tight ends. 

Good Vision and Awareness: They must have sharp eyesight and awareness, as well as the ability to rapidly read and respond to offensive plays.

Good Communication Skills: In particular, middle linebackers must be outstanding communicators. They must be able to effectively communicate with the other members of the defensive unit because they are in charge of making defensive calls and changes. 

Mental Toughness: Linebackers must have the mental fortitude to withstand stress and maintain concentration while playing. They must be capable of meeting the physical requirements of the job and retaining their focus during the full game. 

Leadership: Middle linebackers frequently serve as the defense’s captains, so they must possess strong leadership qualities. On the pitch, they must be able to set an example for and inspire their teammates. 

Techniques Used by Linebackers 

Techniques Used by Linebackers

In American football, linebackers employ several strategies to stop the offense of the other team. The following are some of the methods.

Stance: Every play for a linebacker begins with them taking a stance, with their feet shoulder-width apart and their weight evenly distributed on both feet. They maintain a low hip position and slightly bent knees so they are prepared to react to the play. 

Gap Filling: In order to make tackles on running plays, they must step in between the offensive lines. They employ a number of strategies, such as a swim move, a rip move, or a bull rush, to get past the blockers and make the tackle. 

Shedding Blocks: On running plays, linebackers must be able to break free of the offensive linemen’s blocks and make tackles. To get past the blocker and make the tackle, they employ moves like a push-pull, a spin, or a rip. 

Tackling: To stop the ball carrier, they need to be able to execute powerful, impactful tackles. Depending on the circumstance, they employ a variety of tackling methods, including form tackle, wrap tackle, and hit-and-wrap tackle. 

Blitzing: Oftentimes, linebackers are asked to blitz the quarterback and interfere with the passing game. To get past the offensive linemen and reach the quarterback, they employ strategies like a bull rush, a swim move, or a spin move. 

Reading the Offense: Linebackers must be able to read an offensive play quickly and predict where the ball carrier will go. To decide how to defend against the play, they employ strategies. A few of them are; keying the offensive linemen, searching for pre-snap signs, or reading the quarterback’s eyes. 

Top Linebackers in NFL History 

Top Linebackers in NFL History

One of the most crucial players on the defensive side of the ball in American football is the linebacker. They are in charge of tackling, covering receivers, and stopping the run.  

The top five linebackers in NFL history are listed below: 

Lawrence Taylor 

Lawrence Taylor is widely recognized as the best linebackers in history . He was a dominant force on the field while he was a player for the New York Giants from 1981 to 1993.

In addition to playing in 10 Pro Bowls, Taylor won two Super Bowls and three times was voted the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Also, he was renowned for his quickness, agility, and capacity to thwart the offensive strategy of the opposition. 

Ray Lewis  

Ray Lewis, who played with the Baltimore Ravens from 1996 to 2012, is recognized as one of the sport’s all-time top middle linebackers.

With the Ravens, he won two Super Bowls and participated in 13 Pro Bowls. Additionally, he twice won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year honor.

Moreover, Lewis was recognized for his leadership, determination, and ability to read the other team’s offense. 

Dick Butkus 

Dick Butkus, one of the hardest and most physical linebackers in NFL history, played for the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1973.

He was selected to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award twice.

Additionally, he was also voted to six First Team All-Pro teams. Butkus was renowned for his forceful blows and brash play. 

Jack Lambert 

Jack Lambert was an integral element of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ illustrious defense in the 1970s. He was a player for the team from 1974 to 1984.

He was the franchise’s defensive player of the year in 1976 and was a six-time Pro Bowler.

It is worth mentioning here that he also won four Super Bowls with the team.

Lambert was renowned for his tenacity, vigor, and aptitude for analyzing the offense of the opposing team. 

Mike Singletary 

Mike Singletary, represented the Chicago Bears from 1981 to 1992, is regarded as one of the game’s all-time best middle linebackers.

He participated in the Pro Bowl ten times, won a Super Bowl with the Bears, and twice received the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.

Lastly, Singletary was renowned for his ability to read the offense of the opposing team and for his leadership and tenacity. 

Top 10 Linebackers with Most Sacks in NFL History

Rank PlayerCareer Sacks
1Kevin Greene157.0
2Lawrence Taylor132.5
3Derrick Thomas126.5
4Von Miller123.5
5DeMarcus Ware122.5
6Rickey Jackson115.0
7Terrell Suggs111.5
8Justin Houston103.5
9Andrew Tippett100.0
10Joey Porter98.0
Data collected from statmuse.com


Linebackers are prepared to do anything for their team. These adaptable athletes are the backbone of any defense. Also they are in charge of covering receivers, stopping the opposing team’s running game, and making important tackles. 

Therefore, linebackers are a crucial component of every successful squad, whether they are bringing down running backs or intercepting passes. They make watching football exciting, intense, and filled with a never-say-die mentality. 

Similar Posts