‘Playbook’ Mailbag: Terminology 101

Through 16 weeks of the season, you have certainly heard commentators throw around some strange-sounding terms.

From “Tampa 2” (is there really another Tampa?) to “Cover Zero” (what’s the point of covering no one?) there are a lot of names and numbers thrown around that don’t seem to relate to guys slinging around a football.

So, prompted by a Twitter question from @2Charms, we decided to put together a glossary of terms for you – the everyday fan – heading into the last week of the regular season.

It’s never too late to learn.

The basics — who is on the field

Personnel Package (offense) — Name for a variation of player personnel, denoted by number, listing the number of “skill” players (always five) starting with RBs, then TEs, followed by WRs. For example, “10 personnel” is 1 RB, 0 TE, 4 WR, while “11 personnel” is 1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) and “21 personnel” is 2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR.

Nickel Package (defense) — When five defensive backs are in the game, often with a third or fourth cornerback replacing a linebacker or defensive lineman.

Dime Package — Having six or more defensive backs in the game.

Mike linebacker — Middle linebacker.

Sam linebacker – The srongside linebacker;  usually aligned on the strong side of the offensive formation.

Will or Willy linebacker — The weakside linebacker, aligning to the weak side of the offensive formation.

In the trenches

Set the edge — When an edge defender (a DE or LB) turns a run play back inside, using his inside arm to control the point while the outside arm is free to make a play.

Spill — When an edge defender attacks the inside shoulder of a blocker (often a pulling guard), forcing a runner to bounce and stretch a play laterally toward the help of the defense.

Two-gap — When an interior defensive lineman controls the blocker to gain position to make a play on either side (gap) of the offensive blocker.

T-E stunt — A stunt by a defensive end and a defensive tackle, where a tackle picks blockers for a defensive end to loop inside.

E-T stunt — Conversely, a stunt where a defensive end picks blockers for a defensive tackle to loop outside around the edge.

T-T stunt — A stunt between two defensive tackles, where one tackle picks for the other.

Reach block — When a blocker is asked to get outside of and hook/seal a defender that is already out-flanking the blocker. Often an assignment given to a center on a shaded defensive tackle.

Shaded defensive lineman — Aligns across from an offensive lineman’s shoulder, or between two blockers instead of head-on.

Green Dog — A blitz where a defender has man-to-man responsibilities on one player, normally a running back or tight end. The defender has the green light to blitz if his assignment stays in to help pass protect.

Power O — A run play with front-side down-blocks and a pulling blocker from the backside of the formation (typically a guard) who becomes the lead blocker.

Ghost fake — A reverse fake by a slot receiver or RB, serving as a part of the run and pass protection. It’s designed to pull a backside edge defender from his pursuit.

In the air

Cover 1 — Man-to-man coverage across the board, with one deep safety roaming free over top.

Cover Zero — Man-to-man coverage with no deep safety help over the top.

Cover 2 — Two deep safeties, each with responsibilities for each half of the field. The cornerbacks and linebackers play zone underneath.

Tampa 2 — A variation of the proverbial two-deep, five-under coverage. Features two deep safeties, with the Mike linebacker in the middle of the field (seam).

Bracket — A coverage where a receiver is guarded by two people “inside and out.” The receiver’s initial break defines which defender latches onto him.

Smoke route  — A called run play with built-in passing option based on the defensive alignment (off coverage). This switch is usually made with no audible.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET (AFC) and 9 p.m. ET (NFC) on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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