football gap numbers

Football Gap Numbers And Holes – Explained!

Learn all about football gap numbers and holes. Determine what they are and why they’re essential to the game.

Football is a fairly basic game, although many like to make it complicated. The defense aims to halt the opposition from advancing the football down the field and scoring.

Each play starts with the ball getting snapped from the center to the quarterback. The quarterback sends the ball to a running back, throws it to a receiver, or runs it himself.

All players on offense have specific roles and run specific routes or patterns to try and gain yardage.

Football gap numbers and holes are a big part of the game. The gaps and holes are the spaces between the offensive linemen where the ball carrier runs.

Let’s take a keener look.

What Do Gaps and Holes Mean?

Gaps and holes in football refer to the alphanumeric symbols assigned to spaces between players on the scrimmage line. Holes and gaps can benefit both the offense and defense.

When attacking, players try to find openings in the defense to free up space for themselves or their teammates. The defense attempts to shut off any outlets to deny the opposition space.

There’s the football numbering system for holes with letters assigned to gaps. This identification is crucial for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s simpler to say the A, B, or C gap, than to term it as the space to the right or the left of player X. This simplicity allows players to determine their responsibilities and understand the play quickly.

Plus, the number of players on the scrimmage line can change from team to team. This number can also differ for defensive and offensive lines after every play.


The offensive line has five slots:

  • Left tackle & guard
  • Center (quarterback)
  • Right tackle & guard

In between these players, we have the spaces that the defense refers to as gaps.

blue team in defense

There are four gaps in the offensive line: the A, B, C, and D gaps.

  • The A gap represents the opening between the quarterback and the left/right guard.
  • The B gap lies between the left & right guards and the adjacent tackle.
  • The C gap rests between the left & right tackles and the adjacent ends.
  • The D gap is opening on the tight end’s outer shoulder.

Since these gaps come in doubles, the defense uses specific terms to specify to which side of the field they are referring. For example, they may say the strong-side A gap is for the right and the weak-side or backside A gap is for the left.


Offensive players use holes to denote the spaces between them. However, instead of the gap letters used by the defense, they refer to the space between them with numbers.

The offensive holes football numbering features numerals one through eight. Each number corresponds to a particular spot on the field. 

  • One is between the quarterback and the left guard. 
  • Two is between the quarterback and the right guard. 
  • Three is between the left offensive guard and the adjacent tackle. 
  • Four rests between the right tackle and the adjacent guard. 
  • Five is the space between the left tackle and the left end. 
  • Six is the space between the right tackle and the right end. 
  • Seven is the space to the left end’s other shoulder.
  • Eight is the space to the right end’s outer shoulder.

How Defenses Make Use of Gaps

Defensive linemen distribute tasks using gaps. Linebackers and occasionally safeties get unique gap assignments on running plays. They may also get gap assignments on passing plays when blitzing the quarterback.

football teams in action at a football game

The simplest thing is for all the guys to shoot through the opposite-aligned gap when the defensive players line up pre-snap.

Coaches can keep offensive linemen guessing through stunt running. They can do so in two ways. The first involves having a player running through an oppositely aligned gap.

Alternatively, they can employ the stunt-and-pull strategy. The stunt-and-pull involves two players; a defensive end and a defensive tackle. Whereas the defensive tackle stuns to the outer gap, the defensive end loops behind him.

How Offenses Make Use of Holes

Offenses use holes to signify where the ball carrier should run. They use zero or man-to-man blocking and don’t focus on the holes when they block.

Every base running play has a hole that the running back has to use. Sometimes, this hole isn’t accessible when he gets to it. So, he is free to take shortcuts or choose another hole.

The fewer 8 man football and flag football positions provide an invaluable advantage to the offense. Since fewer guys make a tackle, the broad platform allows for increased maneuverability.

Two-gap Line Play vs. One-gap Line Play

Gap defense football can be one or two-gap.

Two-gap line play is where a lineman is responsible for the space between the offensive linemen to either side of him. One-gap line play is a strategy where each defensive lineman covers one gap between the offensive linemen in front. 

The two-gap approach is more typical in 3-4 defenses, while the one-gap strategy is popular with 4-3 defenses. Nonetheless, 4-3 defenses also use two-gap techniques or a combo of one and two-gap.

The best players for one-gap football are smaller and quicker than two-gap players and generally have better pass-rushing skills.

Two-gap players are typically more robust and heavier for better control of offensive linemen. Two-gap plays are better at handling powerfully run teams.

FAQS: Top Burning Questions on Football Gap Numbers

football coach talking to his team

How Are the Holes Numbered in Football?

Holes are numbered in football based on which offensive linemen the given space is and the direction. Odd numbers are for openings to the left of the center player, while even numbers are for the right.

Where Is the 0 Hole in Football?

The 0 hole in football is a play that runs right through the center. Examples of such plays include the quarterback sneak or the zero draw. 

What Is the 5 Hole in Football?

The 5 hole in football is the space between the left end and the left tackle. It’s one of the eight holes that identify the openings between offensive linemen. 

Do the Football Players Need to Be Aware of Any Gaps?

Football players need to be aware of any gaps that may put them at a disadvantage. All gaps should have good attendance for adequate protection by the defense or progression of the ball by the offense.

Why Should I Understand Football Gap Numbers as a Fan?

You should understand football gap numbers as a fan to make it easy to describe games or discuss the events. Gaps and holes enable you to establish where the play is going.


Football gap numbers and holes significantly influence how a play turns out. The perfect combination of blockers and a suitable hole can result in a significant gain.

Sometimes, there are too many defenders in a specific gap. Hence, the offense must modify its blocking strategy to provide the ball carrier with a higher success rate of progression.

On the other hand, the defense must close on the ball carrier and pressure the offense to change its strategy.

Do you want to enhance your skills in hole and gap exploitation? Check out our comprehensive piece on how to run faster in football.

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