In football, defensive backs are safeties and cornerbacks who play in the defensive backfield and are primarily responsible for pass coverage.
It is typically easier to generalize this position group by using the term defensive back rather than naming specific positions.
When a player in the backfield is being discussed, it may be easier to refer to them as a defensive back instead of determining exactly what position they play.
Ball carriers can be in many different positions, but it is easier to refer to them as ball carriers.
Defensive backs are players primarily responsible for stopping passes from being completed in practice.
In most cases, there will be four defensive backs on the field. However, formations such as the nickel, dime, and quarter include five, six, and seven defensive backs.
What Are The Responsibilities Of A Defensive Back?
In a defense, defensive backs are primarily responsible for pass coverage, and they have two responsibilities.
In zone coverage, a defensive back covers a specific area of the field. If a receiver enters their zone, the DB will keep them covered until they exit.
Man coverage involves a defensive back being matched up with a specific offensive player and following him across the field to prevent him from catching the ball.
All eligible receivers on the opposing team will be matched up against the defensive backs on most plays.
Run for Defense.
It is imperative to note that although defensive backs are primarily used in pass coverage, they also help against the run. This is especially true for safeties, as they are more involved in the run game than cornerbacks.
In rushing situations, defensive backs are usually blocked by the same players they cover in passing situations.
Although defensive backs won’t hit as hard as larger players, they are still expected to be quality tacklers in the NFL.
Cornerbacks are often the players responsible for making tackles if a rush is heading towards the sideline.
Furthermore, defensive backs will have to make a touchdown-saving tackle if a ball carrier gets to the third level.
Special Teams Play
It is quite common for defensive backs to play special teams as well, including gunner, punt returner, and kick returner.
Special teams can benefit from defensive backs’ speed and athletic ability.
NFL teams use a lot of defensive backs on their special teams.
Check out our guide to defensive tackles or defensive ends for more information on defensive backs in football.