What is a DB in Football?

what is a db in football

In American football, DB is short for “defensive backs.” These players cover the backfield as a last line of defense between the offense and scoring. Many defensive backs are dynamic players who quickly become fan favorites because of their athleticism and ability to make plays.


Here is the breakdown of what a DB is in American Football.


What are the Defensive Positions on the Field?

what are the defensive positions on the field

When a football team lines up on the defensive side of the ball, they often have a few key positions that effectively cover the field. The positions include defensive linemen and defensive ends, who cover the line of scrimmage, linebackers, who stand behind the line of scrimmage, and defensive backs, who have more flexible positions. These positions provide several defense layers between the offense and the end zone.


Why Are Defensive Backs so Important in a Football Game?

Defensive backs are one of the most versatile tools that a defensive coordinator has at their disposal. That’s because they can easily field more or fewer backs as they see fit, depending on what kind of play the other team is showing.


Popular Defensive Schemes

popular defensive schemes

One of the most basic defensive schemes in American Football is the nickel defense with five defensive backs. The fifth defensive back is often called a nickel back in this scheme. This fifth player can be a versatile cornerback who can help in man coverage or a free safety who can cover more of the defensive backfield.


The dime defensive scheme has six defensive backs and is popular to run when protecting against passing plays. The sixth defensive back is usually called a “dime back.” In high-risk situations, teams may field their most intense pass coverage and implement a quarter defense with seven defensive backs.


These schemes have important considerations for the defensive coordinator. That’s because a team can only field 11 defensive players at one time. To implement more backs, a team has to utilize fewer linebackers or linemen, which are essential for stuffing the line of scrimmage and blocking running plays.


What Are The Different Types of Defensive Backs in Football?

Three different players fulfill defensive back positions. These include cornerbacks, safeties, and free safeties. Each type of player has unique skills and strengths to a football game, so it’s essential to know the difference between them.




The cornerback is a member of the defensive secondary that plays closest to the line of scrimmage. That’s because their primary job is to interrupt passing plays. Cornerbacks will often cover wide receivers as their chief objective during plays.


They can also participate in blitzes and approach the line of scrimmage to jam running backs, creating extended plays that can result in fumbles. In some defensive schemes, halfbacks replace cornerbacks, which often function as an intermediate between linebackers and cornerbacks.




Safeties are some of the furthest players from the line of scrimmage during a play. They can often be between 10 and 15 yards downfield from the action at any time. There are generally two safeties on every play: strong safety and free safety.


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


Free Safeties

free safeties

Free safeties are indeed the last line of defense for any football team. These players usually play zone coverage because they have to defend a large part of the field. These players often watch the play unfold to be in the correct position to make a tackle or cover receivers deep in the backfield. Free safeties must be quick-thinking and agile since they have to cover such a large part of the field.


What Makes a Good Defensive Back in American Football?

What Makes a Good Defensive Back in American Football

Defensive backs have to be well-rounded football players with specific skills that other players might not have. One essential talent most defensive backs have is the ability to backpedal quickly to keep pace with a receiver without having to turn around. These players often have to be strong enough to battle a receiver for the ball, but not so muscular that they’re heavy or slow.


How Many DB’s are in the NFL Hall of Fame?

There are currently 36 different defensive backs in the NFL Hall of Fame as of January 2022. Because these players can make game-changing plays, they’re often essential to a football team and easy fan favorites.


Who Are Some of the Most Famous DB’s in the NFL Hall of Fame?

Who Are Some of the Most Famous DB's in the NFL Hall of Fame

One of the most notable cornerbacks in the football hall of fame is Deion Sanders. With a nickname like “Primetime,” it’s no surprise that this dynamic football player made it into the hall of fame. Sanders had 53 career interceptions and served on both the defensive side of the ball and on special teams as a kick returner and punt returner.


Charles Woodson split his long, nearly 20-year long career between the Oakland Raiders and the Green Bay Packers. In that storied career, he had two Super Bowl appearances and shares the NFL record for most defensive touchdowns with Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper.


Steelers fans loved watching Troy Polamalu attack the line of scrimmage during a blitz. He could jump over his defensive line to make aggressive plays that often caught offensive teams unaware. His style of play, and his hair, made him stand out from the rest.


Finally, Ed Reed played most of his career with the Baltimore Ravens, helping them win Super Bowl XLIII with two tackles. After his long career on the field, he started working as a coach and now works in college football as part of the Miami Hurricanes’ coaching staff.


Conclusion: What is a DB in Football?

In summary, defensive backs are among the most well-liked football positions in American football because of their athletic ability. These players are the last line of defense on the field, which means they have to be strong and fast to prevent touchdowns. When you watch your next American Football game, keep an eye out for the players in the defensive secondary and see what they are doing!


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