What Is an Offensive Lineman?

offensive line of football team
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The offensive line is the strength and backbone of a football team’s offense plays, and the offensive lineman serves as one of five players blocking the defense from tackling the receivers and quarterback.

An offensive lineman, as the name would indicate, lines up on the line of scrimmage on the offensive side. The line generally consists of two guards, two tackles, and a center, though tight ends are a hybrid between offensive line and receiver.

When the ball is snapped, the offensive line is in charge of making the scheme of the play happen, and their assignments vary depending on the play called. They typically will either block a specific man, or a specific area (zone blocking) if it's a run play, but if it's a pass play, they will settle in and do everything in their power to keep the defensive linemen from getting to the quarterback.

The Best Types of Players for the Offensive Line

To be an offensive lineman beyond Junior High, you're going to have to love being physical and playing hard. Offensive linemen need good size and strength in order to be effective on the play, and as a result, offensive linemen are often the biggest players on the field.

Good offensive linemen also have to possess great footwork and agility. As the game gets faster and stronger, it takes more and more skill and strength to make holes for a running back or protect a quarterback on a pass play.

This combination of large and agile make for great players capable of quickly adapting to different defensive techniques. Sometimes the offensive line and defensive line don’t balance out, so good offensive linemen need to be able to quickly adapt and cover the holes in their defense once the ball snaps and the play begins.

The Positions on the Offensive Line

Although tight ends are sometimes considered part of the offensive line — as they often serve as additional blocks for short plays — there are five core members of every offensive line: two guards, two tackles, and a center.

As the name would suggest, the center serves as the defense in the middle of the offensive line, but centers also serve the purpose of snapping the ball back to the quarterback to begin offensive plays. Good centers are not only large in stature and agile in their footwork, they also have to be able to quickly and accurately toss the ball back to the quarterback so he can pass the ball further down the field.

The two guards flank the center, serving as additional core support for the offensive line while the two tackles finish off the line on either side — or in some cases, both the left and right tackle will move to one side of the offensive line in order to block for a short running play.

A good offensive line is able to keep the defensive line from breaking through while opening up holes for the quarterback and receivers to break through, ultimately holding the line until their team scores a touchdown.