What is a Defensive End In American Football?

When we talk about the first line of defense against offense, we have the defensive line. However, the defensive line is made up of more than just one specific position. Of the positions that make up the defensive line, we have the defensive end and we will be looking at all there is to know about the defensive end in this article.

What is a Defensive End?

The defensive ends, just like the defensive tackle, are part of the defensive line in American football. They are the first line of defense for a team, however, not all the players on the defensive line play the same role.

When it comes to the defensive ends, they are the players at the left and right ends of the d-line. Basically, they have the sole responsibility of pressuring the quarterback.

An example is during pass rushing, in which defensive ends are to ensure the quarterback does not get enough freedom to make a calculated pass to the wide receivers. With the assistance of other players on the d-line who create space through the offensive line, they ensure they rush the quarterback, tackling him or causing him to make a bad pass.

Why Are Defensive Ends Important In Football?

The defensive ends are crucial and key players in the defense of every team. This is because remarkable defensive ends are hard to come by and even when they are available, they cost quite a lot

Firstly, the athleticism needed by players who play the role of DE is high. They require immense levels of speed, maneuverability, strength, and stamina to successfully prevent tailbacks. They also require this to move past the offensive line when going to pressure the QB.

In addition, stopping the pass rush and anchoring the pass, which requires different skills, must involve defensive ends. This means that players who play the position must master how to stop a rush-pass and run game.

Moreover, what separates a good defensive end from the average DE is how well, he is able to cover both roles.

Role of a Defensive End 

Role of a Defensive End

A defensive end’s primary responsibility is to hinder the opposing team’s attack by sacking the quarterback, tackling running backs behind the line of scrimmage, or generating fumbles.

They are also on duty to defend the space allotted to them by preventing opponents from crossing or cutting through the line of scrimmage.

1. Pass Rushing 

Pass rushing is one of the most crucial jobs of a defensive end. Pass rushing refers to getting to the opposing team’s quarterback and sacking them.

This can lead to mistakes for the defense while also preventing the offense from scoring. A defensive end’s pass-rushing ability is critical in determining how effective the defense is against their opponents.

2. Defending Against the Run 

Effective defensive ends must be capable of stopping the run. Running backs must be able to be tackled or stopped behind the line of scrimmage.

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

3. Containment 

Containment is an important aspect of a defensive end’s duty. Containment refers to preventing attacking players from creeping over the defensive line’s edges.

The defensive ends must be on the outside of the defensive line to compel the opposing team’s offense to run the ball up the middle.

4. Pass Coverage 

Although it is not their primary responsibility, defensive ends may be needed to drop back into pass coverage. This necessitates them covering a specified region of the field and preventing 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 “power rusher” is a defensive end who uses strength and power to overwhelm the offensive line. They use their weight and muscle to push the offensive lineman backward and toward the quarterback. Power rushers are often larger and more powerful than other types of defensive ends. They are commonly used in short-yardage situations and are effective at stopping the run game.
  • Speed Rusher:
    A defensive end who rushes the offensive tackle gains an advantage through speed and agility. They are often lighter and smaller than power rushers, and they rely on their speed to outpace their opponents. Furthermore, speed rushers can apply pressure on the quarterback and disrupt the throwing game. They are also used to block outside runs and screen passes.
  • Hybrid Rusher: The hybrid rusher is a combination of power and speed rushers. They have the speed and agility to get around the offensive line, but they also have the strength and force to push them back. Hybrid rushers are versatile and can be used in a variety of situations. They can pressure the quarterback, stop 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 must be particularly strong since they routinely compete with many offensive linemen attempting to block them. They must be able to hold their ground and drive their opponents back in order to create spaces in the offensive line for their teammates to exploit.
  • Quickness and Agility:
    Defensive tackles must be powerful, but they must also be quick and nimble in order to move laterally and change directions quickly enough to go past blockers and make tackles. They also benefit from their mobility in pass-rushing situations. Because they may use quick movements to get around blockers.
  • Football IQ:
    Defensive tackles must be exceedingly knowledgeable about both football rules and the offensive methods employed by the opposing team. Second, they must be able to read offensive plays quickly and adjust defensive strategies accordingly. This necessitates the ability to watch film, identify trends, and predict the moves of the other side.
  • Technique and Form:
    Defensive tackles must have precise form and technique to be effective. This includes the proper use of the hands, feet, and body. With perfect technique, they may make the most of their speed and strength while evading offensive lineman blocking.
  • Mental Toughness:
    Finally, defensive tackles must be mentally tough because they are subjected to a lot of mental and physical stress when playing. Furthermore, they must be able to remain calm under pressure and continue to fight.

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:

  1. Bull Rush:
    The defensive end employs the bull rush technique to push the offensive lineman backward. They stoop and move forward, aiming to push away the offensive tackle and get to the quarterback.
  2. Speed Rush:
    A speed rush is utilized instead of a bull rush. The defensive end gets around the offensive lineman by using speed and agility rather than strength. They try to get to the quarterback by going around the offensive line’s outside edge.
  3. Swim Move:
    The swim move is a method for going around and pasting offensive linemen. The defensive end will use their arm to move the offensive lineman’s arm out of the way.
  4. Spin Move:
    The defensive end spins around the offensive lineman to gain space to pass them. It is difficult to execute well because it requires a combination 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: 

1. Reggie White 

Many consider Reggie White, often known as “The Minister of Defense”, to be one of the best defensive ends in NFL history. Not to forget, White’s 198 sacks from 1985 through 2000 still stand as the most in NFL history.

He also helped the Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl and was chosen to the All-Pro First Team eight times. He was also selected Defensive Player of the Year twice.

2. Bruce Smith 

Bruce Smith, who played defensive end from 1985 to 2003, is another well-known player. He leads the NFL in sacks with 200 in his career. He also holds the record for most sacks in a single season with 22.

Smith was also named Defensive Player of the Year twice throughout his career. He was also named to the First Team All-Pro 11 times and appeared in four AFC Championship games for the Buffalo Bills.

3. Deacon Jones 

David “Deacon” Jones, who played between 1961 and 1974, is credited with coining the word “sack” because he was a vicious pass rusher. Before being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, he was named to the First-Team All-Pro team five times.

4. Michael Strahan 

Michael Strahan was a member of the New York Giants from 1993 to 2007 and was named to the Pro Bowl First Team seven times. With 141.5 career sacks, he ranks fifth all-time in that category.

Strahan also won a Super Bowl with the Giants in 2007 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

5. J.J. Watt 

J.J. Watt is still on the field, but his career accomplishments are already notable. He has three Defensive Player of the Year accolades and five First-Team All-Pro choices since joining the league in 2011.

He also became the only player in NFL history to have 20 or more sacks in both seasons. J.J. had 101 career sacks during his playing career.

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 from 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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