Football For Dummies
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In American football terminology, a key is what a defensive player looks at prior to the snap of the ball. For example, if it’s first-and-5, odds are that the offense will attempt to run the ball. The defensive lineman must key (watch) the offensive lineman and be prepared to react to his movements.

Here’s a quick rundown of a defensive lineman’s thought process prior to any play:

  • Alignment: The defensive lineman has to make sure he’s aligned correctly.

  • Stance: The stance he’s using should be to his advantage.

  • Assignment: Does he know exactly what to do?

  • Key: The lineman considers what/whom he should be looking at.

  • Get off: He has to be quick off the football.

  • Attack: The lineman thinks about attacking and controlling the offensive lineman with his hands, and then escaping by using his arms and shoulder to push by him.

  • Execute: The lineman wants to execute his stunt to a specific area or gap, and then react to where the ball is.

  • Pursue: He always follows the football.

  • Tackle: Finally, he can make the tackle.

And you thought tackling was the only chore of a defensive lineman! Now you know that they have many responsibilities (some of them thankless tasks), and they really have to be thinking to put themselves in a position to make a tackle.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Howie Long is a former Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders defensive end with eight Pro Bowl appearances, a Super Bowl victory, and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is a commentator on FOX NFL Sunday. John Czarnecki has reported on the NFL since 1979 and consulted for FOX NFL Sunday since it began in 1994. He has received four Sports Emmys.

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