What is a Running Back In American Football?  

Each situation in American football has a unique game plan of commitments and obligations. The running back is one of the game’s most huge positions.

A running back is a piece of the offensive backfield. Their primary obligations are obstructing, arranging as a recipient to collect the ball, and rushing the ball subsequent to getting handoffs from the quarterback.

They are in many cases strong, speedy, and quick, with the principal objective of moving the ball as far down the pitch as they can close to the end zone of the rival side.

Here at Cleats Hub, we will make sense of what a running back is, what their obligations are, and probably the most notable players to stand firm on the footing from the beginning of time.

What is a Running Back?  

Running back or tailback alludes to the player who carries ball on offensive plays. They take the ball from the quarterback and run for the rival group’s end zone. They generally stand in the quarterback’s backfield.

Besides, they can obstruct and get passes, making them an adaptable position in the game.

There are a few various types of running backs. While some of them are greater and all the more remarkable, others are smaller and more dexterous.

Smaller running backs are often faster and better at pursuing faster routes and jukes to evade protectors while taller running backs can crush past adversaries and break tackles to acquire yards.

Types of running backs

The halfback and the fullback are the essential sorts of running backs in American football.


The halfback, at times known as the tailback, is the essential ball transporter in the backfield. Since they are typically smaller and quicker than the fullback, they are more qualified for running plays.

The halfback is typically utilized in stretch plays, scopes, and throws as a result of their speed and readiness, which might permit them to get around the edge of the guard.

While partaking in the passing game, the halfback could arrange in the opening or force courses to leave the backfield.

Great hands and the ability to get passes are qualities of a compelling halfback, which makes them a pivotal offensive weapon.


In contrast with the halfback, the fullback is a greater and all the more remarkable player. They regularly act as the quarterback’s or the halfback’s lead blocker.

To make openings in the defense for the halfback to go through, the fullback will situate up before the halfback and lead the way.

Despite the fact that fullbacks are rarely utilized in the passing game, some of them are proficient pass catchers who the quarterback can use as a check-down choice. 

Skills of a Running Back

Running Back Skills

Speed and agility:  

Speed and agility are two of a running back’s most significant qualities. Running backs should have the option to move quickly through the defense, staying away from tackles with sharp cuts and jukes.  

A good running back should be able to shift direction swiftly to dodge defenders and have a quick first step.  


RBs require extraordinary vision to peruse the protection and recognize the openings in the defensive line.

A strong running back will have brilliant field vision, and have the option to guess where the protection can endlessly move quickly and make progress.


Running backs need to have a specific measure of solidarity in spite of the way that they are frequently smaller than different players on the pitch.

To acquire yards after contact, running backs should have the option to break tackles and push past the opposition. A decent running back will have strong legs and the capacity to run over rivals.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Running Back  

Roles of Running Backs

RBs play an important role in offensive plays and are responsible for several tasks. Some of the tasks and responsibilities that an American football running back might have included the following:

Carrying the Ball: The task of moving the ball down the field rests with running backs. They must possess the ability to read the defensive line and identify openings for running.

In order to get around defenders and earn extra yards, they must also be able to perform rapid cuts and jukes.  

Blocking: During pass plays, running backs are likewise accountable for blocking. To safeguard the quarterback, they should have the option to recognize protectors who are blitzing and get them.

While conveying the ball, they should likewise have the option to obstruct other running backs or collectors.

Pass-catching: Running backs are fundamental in the passing game since they can get passes. They must be able to receive QB passes and gain more yards afterward.

To change their course and free up space for a pass, they must also be able to identify and pick up defenders who are blitzing them.  

Special Teams: RBs frequently participate in special teams’ plays like kickoff and punt returns. They must have the ability to catch the ball and return it as far as they can, frequently taking hard knocks from defenders.  

Why Do Running Backs Have Shorter Careers?

In the NFL, running backs are notorious for having brief careers. Many players find it challenging to hold onto their place in the league for more than a few years.

The most troublesome purposes behind running backs to have brief professions incorporate expanded injury risk, physical demands, and a more limited timeframe of realistic usability.

The following are the key reasons for a running back’s shorter career span:

Physical Toll

Numerous elite running backs are highly used in both the rushing and receiving positions. In addition to carrying the ball several times every game, they also participate in pass protection and catch passes from the backfield.

Moreover, the physical wear and tear on their bodies may be accelerated by this severe effort.

Greater Injury Risk

Contrasted with players in different positions, running backs are bound to sustain a physical issue. This is halfway a direct result of the actual afflictions of the gig, but at the same time, this is a result of how they approach the game.

In addition, the recurrence and power of high-velocity impacts with running backs can bring about significant injuries. Running backs frequently suffer knee problems because they depend so largely on their legs to make plays.

New Strategies in the Game

The NFL has changed over time, thus has how the game is played. Running backs are being used less as often as possible as groups progressively center around the passing game.

Many players’ professions have been stopped because of this adjustment of the game. It has made it more trying for running backs to hold down their spot in the league.

Average NFL Career Length

RankPositionsAverage NFL Career Length (in Years)
3Offensive Linemen3.63
4Defensive Linemen3.24
7Tight Ends2.85
8Wide Receivers 2.81
9Running Back2.57
Data sourced from statista.com

Who are the Top Running Backs in American Football  History?

Top NFL Running Backs

Over the historical backdrop of American football, there have been numerous uncommon RBs who have had an impact. Coming up next are probably the most notable running backs ever:

  1. Walter Payton – Payton was a famous running back for the Chicago Bears. During his career, which crossed from 1975 to 1987, he broke different records, remembering those for the most rushing yards and scores for a season. 
  1. Jim Brown – Brown is viewed by a lot of people as the best running back ever. He played for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 through 1965. In his career, he played in nine Pro Bowls and multiple times set the association standard for rushing yards.  
  1. Emmitt Smith–  Smith is a record-breaking leading rusher in the NFL. He was a member of the Dallas Cowboys from 1990 to 2002. He won the Super Bowl multiple times, and in 1993 he was granted the league’s Most Valuable Player.   
  1. Barry Sanders – Sanders, from 1989 to 1998, Barry Sanders was an individual from the Detroit Lions and was prestigious for his exceptional snappiness and nimbleness on the pitch. He completed his profession as the third-leading rusher in NFL history subsequent to rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons.  
  1. Eric Dickerson – Dickerson, from 1983 to 1993, played for the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, and Los Angeles Raiders. He amassed in excess of 1,800 running yards in three distinct seasons. Besides, his 2,105-yard exertion in 1984 still stands as the record.   

Top 10 Running Backs With the Most Rushing Yards in NFL History

RankPlayerCareer Rushing Yards
1Emmitt Smith18,355
2Walter Payton16,726
3Frank Gore16,000
4Barry Sanders15,269
5Adrian Peterson14,820
6Curtis Martin14,101
7LaDainian Tomlinson13,684
8Jerome Bettis13,662
9Eric Dickerson13,259
10Tony Dorsett12,739
Data sourced from nfl.com


Running backs are the players who beat defenders, score touchdowns, and run actually quickly. However, they achieve substantially more than that.

They convey the ball and create plays that can change the result of the game. They are the workhorses of the offense.

Assuming that you at any point wind up watching an American football match-up, look out for those fast, slippery RBs since they could mean the distinction among winning and losing.

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