This article will define a DB in American football and explain why their positions are crucial.

In football, what does a DB do?

A player lined up behind linebackers and defensive linemen is known as a DB. Due to their responsibility for covering wide receivers, DBs are essential on defense. A group of DBs in a defensive scheme is called the “secondary” because they’re the next line of defense behind linemen and linebackers.

That said, it’s only a brief overview of the position; to learn more about what defensive backs do and some of the best DBs in history, keep reading.

What Do Defensive Backs Do?

Athletically versatile defensive backs play a variety of roles throughout a game. Depending on the play call, DBs might have to blitz, play zone coverage, or play man defense.

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A DB must defend a specific offensive player when playing man coverage. Normally, DBs are tasked with defending wide receivers, but they may also be given the task of guarding tight ends or running backs. A DB needs to keep up wherever their opponent runs. If the other team has already caught the ball, they must be prepared to tackle them or deflect passes.

In zone coverage, a DB must defend a specific area – or “zone” – on the field. A DB must be ready to intercept or deflect a pass when the quarterback throws the ball close to their zone. A DB must make the tackle if a ball carrier breaks toward their zone.

Plays involving a DB blitz are occasionally called by coaches. A defensive play called a blitz involves more than four players rushing the quarterback (typically, four defensive linemen plus at least one non-defensive lineman).

Due to the defensive back’s long distance to travel to the line of scrimmage, the offense does not anticipate DB blitzes. A DB blitz puts the defense at risk because it gives the quarterback a clear path to throw downfield. However, the defense will benefit greatly if the DB blitz is successful. Blitzing with an additional player may result in a sack of the quarterback or a poor throw.

DBs must be strong all-around athletes because they are in charge of stopping the playmakers in an offense. To compete with taller receivers, they must be quick and fast enough to keep up with the fastest offensive players. DBs require strength to avoid being outmuscled by larger players when tackling or contesting a pass.

How to Play Defensive Back

For defensive backs to succeed, awareness, agility, and coordination are essential. Prior to the snap, they must also align properly. Defensive backs can line up in a number of different ways. The defense’s post-snap strategy is determined by the type of coverage used. Defensive backs can be covered in a variety of ways.

A DB must keep up with his assigned opponent, whether it be a tight end, running back, or wide receiver. There won’t be any open receivers for the opposing quarterback to throw the ball to if your team plays effective man coverage. Playing man coverage, however, carries some dangers. A wide receiver who is good at running routes may juke or make a turn, forcing the DB to change course. A pass completion might be allowed if the DB overreacts, losing the receiver in the process.

A DB must cover a certain area of the field in order to practice zone coverage. Because wide receivers’ routes are complex, zone defense has the advantage of not offending the defenders. DBs wait until the throw has been made before pursuing receivers. Be prepared to intercept or stop a receiver from catching a pass if it enters your zone. Good quarterbacks can easily find throwing lanes between zones, which is the biggest danger of zone coverage.

Defensive backs who want to obstruct wide receivers’ routes at the start of each play should use press coverage. In press coverage, a DB approaches the line of scrimmage and stands facing the receiver he is covering. The DB tries to obstruct the path of the receiver when the ball is snapped. The play won’t go exactly as planned if the wide receiver is unable to run his typical route.

Risks are associated with press coverage. The receiver can open up downfield if the DB is unable to block or obstruct his or her route. The DB must back up or turn around to pursue the receiver in order to keep up. A big offensive play could result from poorly executed press coverage!

What Are the Different Types of Defensive Backs in Football?

The defensive back positions are filled by three different players. These include cornerbacks, safeties, and free safeties. Knowing the differences between each type of player is crucial because each brings a different set of skills and advantages to the football field.


The defensive secondary player who is closest to the line of scrimmage is the cornerback. That’s because their main responsibility is to halt passing plays. As their primary goal during plays, cornerbacks frequently cover wide receivers.

They can also take part in blitzes and move up to the line of scrimmage to impede running backs, leading to prolonged plays that could result in fumbles. Halfbacks, who frequently serve as a bridge between linebackers and cornerbacks in defensive schemes, take the place of cornerbacks.

What Roles Do Cornerbacks Play in Football?

Defensiving the wide receivers of the opposition is a cornerback’s main duty. Cornerbacks attempt to stop receivers from catching passes during pass plays. A wide receiver may not even receive the ball if he is well-defended from the start. The cornerback will attempt to knock the ball away or block the receiver if he is unable to intercept the pass.

A cornerback’s duties change when the offense calls for a run play. Covering receivers becomes less important in favor of tackling the ball carrier as the main objective is to stop the ball from moving forward. A run play is likely to be used if the receiver assumes a blocking position after the snap. A way must be found for the cornerback to get past the receiver.

Receiver routes are sometimes still run during run plays to draw defensive backs away from the line of scrimmage. When this occurs, the cornerbacks should keep an eye out for the receiver finishing his route or turning around to block downfield.

There are times when coaches direct their cornerbacks to blitz. In a blitz, the defense sends an additional pass rusher in addition to the defensive line. Cornerback blitzes are risky but highly effective plays.

There won’t be an offensive lineman or tight end there to block a blitzing cornerback because he comes from outside the tackle box. The quarterback will not notice him approaching if he approaches from the blindside.

The QB may believe he has more time to throw as a result, which could result in an easy sack. The quarterback might make a hasty throw if the cornerback is blitzing from a position where he can see him.

Cornerback blitzes have the drawback of creating opportunities to lose yardage. A quarterback will know that his wide receivers will receive less coverage if he notices the blitz. Usually, there are two opportunities when the cornerbacks blitz.

There should be space for a quick pass to the cornerback’s original zone. The quarterback will understand he can throw a deep pass if another defender intervenes to cover the region or designated receiver. More space is available to throw downfield when the safety steps up to cover a receiver.


Some of the players who are farthest from the line of scrimmage during a play are the safeties. Frequently, they are always between 10 and 15 yards away from the action. Every play typically has two safeties: a strong safety and a free safety.

A player who plays closer to the line of scrimmage and is typically a little bigger than his counterpart is the strong safety. Strong safeties get their name because they play on the “strong side” of the offense or where passes will likely occur. An end of the line of scrimmage on the strong side of the field has a tight end or several receivers.

Free Safeties

Free safeties are in fact a football team’s last line of defense. Due to the size of the field they must defend, these players typically play zone coverage. To be in the right place to make a tackle or cover receivers far back in the backfield, these players frequently watch the play develop. Due to the size of the field they must cover, free safeties need to be quick on their feet.

Defensive Backs

Cornerback Vs Defensive Back

Within the category of defensive back positions is cornerback. Four defensive backs are used in traditional defensive schemes: two cornerbacks, one free safety, and one strong safety. Five defensive backs may be used in strategies that are more geared toward stopping the pass. This fifth defensive back is called the “nickelback.”

A defensive lineup can only have two cornerback positions. Only two of the defensive backs on the field at that time are playing cornerback, even if there are four defensive backs whose primary position is cornerback.

Best Defensive Backs in NFL History

The best defensive backs can outrun the quickest runners, outjump the tallest receivers, and intercept passes that are thrown poorly. But the best defensive backs are so good that quarterbacks are afraid to throw to them! Deion Sanders is one of the best defensive backs in NFL history because of this.

The shutdown corner defensive back was popularized by Sanders’ play. Sanders was considered a shutdown corner because he was so skilled that he “shut down” his half of the field. When Sanders was covering a player, quarterbacks would not throw to them.

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Sanders profited whenever the ball headed in his direction, even though quarterbacks tended to avoid throwing at his assignments. 53 interceptions were collected by Sanders during his NFL career, nine of which he returned for scores.

Sanders was such a great athlete and fierce competitor that, despite retiring at age 34, he returned to the game three years later. Sanders joined the Baltimore Ravens at the age of 37. Before finally calling it quits, he played for two more seasons.

Another outstanding defensive back in the NFL is Ed Reed. At 5’11”, Although he wasn’t the largest safety in the league, Reed was one of its most aggressive and feared defensive players.

Reed spent 12 of his 13 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. In addition to amassing more than 600 tackles, he three times led the NFL in interceptions. He won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2004, which safeties rarely do. Most significantly, in 2012—his final campaign with the Ravens—Reece finally took home a Super Bowl trophy.

Best Defensive Backs in College Football History

In college football, only one player—a defensive back—has ever won the Heisman trophy for outstanding defensive play. Charles Woodson is among the best defensive backs in the annals of college football for this reason.

Woodson participated in both ends of the ball during his sophomore and junior seasons. He averaged about ten offensive plays per game while containing receivers defensively. Woodson had 16 interceptions over his first three seasons of college play.

The Michigan Wolverines defeated Washington State in the Rose Bowl to clinch the NCAA Football Championship, capping Woodson’s 1997 Heisman-winning season. In the 1998 NFL Draft, Woodson was chosen with the fourth overall pick. His professional career eventually led to the Hall of Fame.

Rod Woodson, who is unrelated to Charles, was a superb defensive back in college. Rod played both offense and defense for a Big Ten university, just like Charles did at Purdue. Even stranger, they eventually joined the Oakland Raiders of the NFL to play together!

In the annals of college football, Rod Woodson was among the most successful defensive backs. He recorded 455 tackles, four forced fumbles (seven of which were recovered), 11 interceptions, and 29 passes broken up in his four seasons at Purdue.

Woodson started on offense, defense, and special teams in his last game for Purdue. Woodson racked up 93 rushing yards, 67 receiving yards, 10 tackles, one pass breakup, one forced fumble, and 76 return yards in this victory over Indiana.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame both include Rod Woodson, as you might have guessed.

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Summary: Defensive Backs in Football

Quick thinkers, swift movers, and adaptable athletes are required traits for defensive backs. The fear of throwing an interception or the terror of being sacked can both force a quarterback to make poor decisions, which can be caused by a great DB.


Why Are Defensive Backs So Important in a Football Game?

A defensive coordinator’s arsenal of tools includes defensive backs, one of the most adaptable. That’s because they can easily field more or fewer backs as they see fit, depending on the type of play the opposing team is exhibiting.

Is a DB the Same as a CB?

A cornerback is a defensive back. The collective of defensive players is known as a defensive back. Cornerbacks and safeties are among the defensive players mentioned. Three or four defensive backs are frequently present on the field at all times.

Is DB the Hardest Position in Football?

On the field, these positions frequently determine a player’s fate. To play these positions, you must possess the ability, strength, intelligence, and even courage. Cornerback is the hardest position on the NFL football team. Superior, physically demanding, and extreme mental discipline are needed to play cornerback.