What is a Defensive End In American Football?

Many people love playing American football, but not everyone is familiar with the nuances of the many positions. The defensive end is one such position.  

Here at Cleats Hub, we will go into great depth about the function of a defensive end, their duties, and what makes them so crucial to their team’s success. 

What is a Defensive End?  

A defensive end, or DE for short, is a player on the defensive line for an American football team. The defensive line consists of four players, with two defensive ends situated at either end.  

Secondly, they play opposite of the offensive tackles, who line up on the offensive line’s outside edges and face them. 

Role of a Defensive End 

Role of a Defensive End

The main duty of a defensive end is to obstruct the offense of the opposing team by sacking the quarterback, tackling running backs beyond the line of scrimmage, or inducing fumbles.  

They are also in charge of protecting the space they have been given by stopping opponents from crossing or cutting through the line of scrimmage. 

Pass Rushing 

Pass rushing is one of a defensive end’s most important duties. Getting to the quarterback of the other team and sacking them is known as pass rushing.  

This can result in turnovers for the defense as well as preventing the offense from scoring scores. The pass-rushing prowess of a defensive end is vital in deciding how effective the defense is against their opponents. 

Defending Against the Run 

The ability to stop the running game is a must for effective defensive ends. Running backs must be capable of being stopped in their tracks or tackled behind the line of scrimmage.  

Also, they must be able to maintain their position at the line of scrimmage to prevent offensive players from slipping by them.


Containment is a crucial component of a defensive end’s job. Keeping offensive players from edging over the defensive line’s edges is referred to as containment.  

To force the offense of the opposing team to run the ball up the middle, the defensive ends must be on the outside of the defensive line. 

Pass Coverage 

Defensive ends may also be required to drop back into pass coverage, albeit it is not their primary duty. This requires them to cover a specific area of the field and stop any passes from being caught. 

Defensive End Types

Types of Defensive Ends

Different defensive ends are used at various positions in American football. Each type has distinct qualities that make it perfect for a range of circumstances. The three various defensive ends are as follows: 

Power Rusher: A defensive end known as a “power rusher” uses strength and power to overwhelm the offensive line. They drive the offensive lineman backward and toward the quarterback using their bulk and muscle.

Compared to other categories of defensive ends, power rushers are typically bigger and more powerful. They are frequently utilized in short-yardage situations and are efficient at halting the run game. 

Speed Rusher: A defensive end who rushes the offensive tackle uses their speed and agility to gain the upper hand. Compared to power rushers, they are typically lighter and smaller, and they rely on their speed to outrun their opponents.

Moreover, pressure can be applied to the quarterback and the passing game can be ruined by speed rushers.

Additionally, they are employed to stop outside runs and screen passes. 

Hybrid Rusher: Power and speed rushers are combined to create the hybrid rusher. Although they have the speed and agility to maneuver around the offensive line, they also have the strength and force to push the offensive line backward.

Hybrid rushers are adaptable and can be employed in various circumstances. They can be deployed to rush the quarterback, halt the running game, and return to coverage. 

Skills Required by a Defensive End 

Skills Required by a Defensive End

In American football, defensive tackles play an important role in stopping the run and interfering with the offensive plays of the other side. Defensive tackles need a range of abilities to succeed in this role.

Strength and Power: Defensive tackles need to be extremely powerful since they frequently compete with several offensive linemen who are attempting to block them.

In order to make openings in the offensive line that their teammates can take advantage of, they must be able to hold their ground and drive their opponents back. 

Quickness and Agility: Defensive tackles need to be strong, but they also need to be quick and nimble because they have to be able to move laterally and change directions rapidly to get past blockers and make tackles.

Also, they benefit from their agility in scenarios involving pass rushing. Because they may employ fast movements to get past blockers.

Football IQ: Defensive tackles need to be extremely knowledgeable about both the rules of football and the offensive schemes used by the opposition.

Secondly, they must have the quickness to read offensive plays and alter defensive tactics accordingly. This calls for the ability to watch film, spot trends, and predict the moves of the opposition’s team. 

Technique and Form: To be effective, defensive tackles need to have perfect form and technique. This comprises the appropriate use of the hands, feet, and body.

With proper technique, they may make the most of their speed and strength while avoiding blocking by an offensive lineman. 

Mental Toughness: Finally, defensive tackles need to have strong mental fortitude because they endure a lot of mental and physical stress while playing.

In addition, they must possess the capacity to remain composed under pressure and continue to battle. 

Techniques Used by a Defensive End

Techniques used by a Defensive End

To be effective in their tasks, defensive ends use a variety of techniques to get past the offensive line.

Some of the defensive ends’ most common tactics include the following: 

Bull Rush: The defensive end uses the bull rush method to force the offensive lineman backward. They stoop and advance, hoping to push the offensive tackle aside and get to the quarterback. 

Speed Rush: In contrast to a bull rush, a speed rush is used. The defensive end bypasses the offensive lineman by using their speed and agility rather than power. They attempt to circumvent the offensive line’s outer edge to get to the quarterback directly. 

Swim Move: The swim move is a strategy for getting around offensive linemen and pasting them. The offensive lineman’s arm will be moved out of the way by the defensive end using their arm.

Spin Move: The defensive end uses the spin manoeuvre to spin around the offensive linemen and get space to pass them. It is challenging to correctly perform since it calls for a blend of speed, agility, and balance. 

Top Defensive Ends in NFL History 

Top Defensive Ends in NFL History

Throughout the NFL’s history, there have been some outstanding players who have made an impact.

Five of the greatest defensive ends in NFL history are listed below: 

Reggie White 

Many people consider Reggie White, commonly known as “The Minister of Defense,” to be one of the greatest defensive ends in NFL history.

Secondly, White’s 198 sacks during his career, which lasted from 1985 to 2000, remain the second-highest total in NFL history.

In addition, he was a Super Bowl champion with the Green Bay Packers and was named to the First Team All-Pro eight times.

Furthermore, he was also twice named Defensive Player of the Year

Bruce Smith 

Another renowned defensive end is Bruce Smith, who competed from 1985 to 2003. With 200 career sacks, he leads the NFL in this category. He also owns the record for the most sacks in a season with 22.  

Moreover, Smith received two Defensive Player of the Year honors throughout his career. Also, he was named to the First Team All-Pro 11 times, and played for the Buffalo Bills in four AFC Championship games

Deacon Jones 

The term “sack” is credited to player David “Deacon” Jones, who played between 1961 and 1974. Jones was a ruthless pass rusher.

Also, he was chosen for the First-Team All-Pro team five times before being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980. 

Michael Strahan 

Michael Strahan played for the New York Giants from 1993 to 2007 and was seven times chosen for the Pro Bowl First Team. He ranks fifth all-time in that category with 141.5 career sacks.

Additionally, Strahan won a Super Bowl in 2007 with the Giants and is a 2014 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. 

J.J. Watt 

J.J. Watt is still a player, but his career accomplishments are already noteworthy. Since joining the league in 2011, he won three Defensive Player of the Year awards and five First-Team All-Pro selections.

Also, he became the first player in NFL history to have two seasons with 20 or more sacks. During his playing years, J.J. racked up 101 career sacks.

Most Sacks by a Defensive End in NFL History

RankPlayerCareer Sacks
1Bruce Smith200.0
2Reggie White198.0
3Chris Doleman147.0
4Michael Strahan141.5
5John Randle 137.5
6Richard Dent137.5
7Jared Allen136.0
8Julius Peppers134.5
9Simeon Rice122.0
10Clyde Simmons121.5
Data Collected form statmuse.com


Defensive ends are arguably the most feared players on the defense, just ask quarterbacks and offensive linemen. They stand guard at the edge of the line of scrimmage.

Therefore, the next time you see a defensive end lining up on the field, keep in mind that you are watching one of the team’s most important players on defense.

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