Lined up three to five yards behind the defensive linemen, linebackers support the linemen in stopping the runner on rushing plays, drop back into pass coverage on passing plays or they rush the quarterback.

A standard 4-3 defense features three linebackers, each with a unique role.

  • The middle or “mike” linebacker, relays the play call from the coaches and tells his teammates where to line up before each play.
  • The strong side or “sam” linebacker, lines up opposite the tight end and must be ready to cover him on passing plays or take him on as a blocker on rushing plays.
  • The weak side or “will” linebacker lines up opposite the sam linebacker and pursues the plays toward the strong side or contains the play if it is a run toward the side of the offense without the tight end.