what is db in football

What Is DB In Football? The Ultimate Guide

There are several positions in a football team. You probably know the offense and defense. In the defense, one crucial position you need to understand is the defensive back (DB). 

Better known as DBs, defensive backs are the last line of defense. So, what is DB in football? A DB in football offers cover in the backfield. They are also known as secondary and offer the furthest line of defense in the line of scrimmage.

Defensive backs are different from linemen and linebackers who also play in the defense. Join me as I break down the role of a DB in football and why they are important.

What Does Defensive Back Position Do In Football

In a game of football, a defensive back’s main role is to stop the opposing team from making complete passes. Additionally, a DB will stop the offense from advancing the ball into their half.

It’s pretty difficult to narrow down the specific role of a defensive back in football. This is because a defensive back features different groups playing different roles.

Later on, I’ll look at the different types of defensive backs. Before that, let’s look at the different roles a defensive back does in football.

Passing defense by cornerbacks

Cornerbacks who are part of the defensive backs will cover the wide receivers from getting passes. They can defend a specific zone in the field or do man-marking.

You’ll see them lining near the side to get closer to the wide receivers and provide good coverage. They usually match wide receivers at the tight ends.

Running the defense by cornerbacks

The role of cornerbacks is also tasked with running the play when the ball goes to the sideline. Here, they run and fight through a block of wide receivers. They can force runners to the middle of the field or try to make a tackle.

blocking the receiver

However, they are not reliable for running play as most are relatively small.

Passing and running defense by safeties

Safeties that are part of the DB play deeper and help stop long passes. A stronger safety will always match with a tight end. Occasionally, you’ll see them playing man-to-man defense.

In a few instances, they can play close to the scrimmage line and help run the defense. They can easily identify a running play and get involved.

Why Are Defensive Backs So Important in a Football Game

Defensive backs are so important in a football game because they play versatile roles. They allow the coach to field a team in different positions to match the opponent.

Teams can field more DBs or fewer depending on the team formation and the opponent they are facing.

It’s a very important position in the field. DBs are usually the last man of defense. Teams rely on them to stop touchdowns.

A defensive back is one of the most liked positions in football with players required to be strong and athletic.

How To Play Defensive Back in Football

Teams can play defensive back creating a defensive scheme like 425 defense that suits their play. Playing as a defensive back can be challenging. You need to understand the different defensive formations that coaches can employ throughout the game.

To play defensive football, you need safeties and cornerbacks. Safeties are the last line of defense and are positioned to ensure the defense is safe. To play as a safety, you’ll line up 10-15 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Based on the coach’s game plan, 1 or 2 safeties can be used. There is free safety and strong safety. Coaches also employ cornerbacks that play on the edge of the defense.

To play as a cornerback, you’ll need to cover the wide receivers. 

Overall, to play as a defensive back in football, you need to learn the various defensive schemes. A good example is the nickel defense where teams line 5 defensive backs.

We also have the dime defense where teams lone 6 defensive backs. You need to work with your defensive coordinator to learn the various defensive schemes and how they are employed.

What Are the Different Types of Defensive Backs in Football

Now that you know the main role of defensive backs, let’s have a look at the different types of defensive backs in football.

running football team

As I mentioned earlier, the defensive back can be grouped further into small groups to perform different roles in the defense.

Each type of defensive back plays a specific position and performs specific roles. They also require unique skills to perfectly perform their roles.

Below are the three types of defensive fullbacks in football.


Cornerbacks are part of the defensive backs and play closest to the line of scrimmage. A cornerback is tasked with interrupting passage from the offense. During run plays, cornerbacks cover wide receivers.

Apart from interrupting passes, cornerbacks can make runs. Depending on how the play goes, they have the freedom to approach the line of scrimmage and jam the running backs.

Depending on how a team sets up, halfbacks can sometimes replace the cornerbacks. They usually play as intermediaries between cornerbacks and linebackers.


As I said earlier, safeties play the furthest from the line of scrimmage. You can always see them 10-15 yards from the action.

Safeties are the last line of defense in football. They need to prevent opposition players from making a touchdown.

On every play, there are two types of safeties. These are the stronger safety and the free safety.

A stronger safety is a little bigger than a free safety and plays much crosser to the line of scrimmage.

They take a stronger side of the field where passes are more likely to happen. This is the end with multiple wide receivers or tight ends.

Free Safeties

The free safeties occupy the furthest position and are the last line of defense for any team. Since they defend a large part of the field, they usually play zone coverage.

They have to be smart and have a good understanding of the game. You’ll see them watch play and make the right decision on where to cover wide receivers or make tackles. They need to be agile and very fast at making decisions.

Is Defensive Back the Same as Cornerback

A cornerback is a defensive back since he is part of the group of players that form a DB. A defensive back is a term that groups players playing in the defense. 

player fighting for the ball

Defensive players can be classified into two groups of cornerbacks and safeties. At all times, there are 3 to four defensive backs in a football game. 

So, a defensive back can be a cornerback but not the same as it also includes the safeties. However, a cornerback is a defensive back.

Qualities of a Good Defensive Back in Football

Defensive backs require certain qualities to be good at what they do. First, DBs need to be well-rounded players with a good understanding of the game.

One crucial quality a defensive back needs is the ability to backpedal very fast and keep pace with wide receivers. They need to do this without turning back.

Secondly, DBs need to be tough, strong, and athletic to battle with wide receivers. However, they don’t need to be too muscular so that they become slow. They need to know how to evade tackles without creating illegal contacts.

Popular Defensive Schemes

There are various defensive schemes to know. Some of the popular ones include the dime defensive scheme and nickel defensive scheme.

The nickel defense comprises five defensive backs with the 5th player being a versatile cornerback. He can also be a free safety to help cover the backfield.

We also have the dime defensive scheme with 6 defensive backs. The sith player is what is called a ‘dime back’ and helps in protecting passing plays.

Best Db Players in NFL Hall of Fame

Some of the great DBs in the NFL Hall of Fame include names like Charles Woodson, Deion Sanders, Ed Reed, and Troy Polamalu.

Deion Sanders is one of the greatest names with 53 career interceptions. He played as a punt returner, kicker, defensive back, and on special teams.

We also have Charles Woodson with over 20 years of playing career with the Oakland Riders and Green Bay Packers. He shares the NFL record of the most defensive touchdowns with Rod Woodson.

Another great player that attacked the line of scrimmage during a blitz is Troy Polamalu. He made aggressive plays jumping over the defense. He had a unique style of play, and hair and always stood out in a crowd.

two player playing football

Lastly, we have Ed Reed with a long career playing for the Baltimore ravens. Reed was superb and helped his team win Super Bowl XLIII with two great tackles.

Is a Linebacker a DB in Football?

Linebackers are not defensive backs but can be considered depending on the team setup and play.

DBs in football are cornerbacks and safeties. Linebackers line 3-4 yards from the line of scrimmage and can be considered DBs depending on the roles allocated.

Is DB the Hardest Position in Football?

A cornerback is the hardest position in football making the DB the hardest position in football. Since cornerbacks are DBs, it is a difficult position to play.

Cornerbacks require newer-superhuman abilities and a great mentality. They also need to be fast, tough, and agile.

Is DB a Good Position in Football?

A DB is a good position in football. It is the most liked position in football because of the athletic abilities of DBs.


Well, that wraps everything from me about a DB in football. You now know a DB in football is a defensive back playing furthest in the field to prevent passes.

There are usually two types of DBs; safeties and cornerbacks. DBs are allocated different roles in football and help prevent passes from wide receivers and tight ends.

Overall, DBs are the last line of defense in football. A DB position is one of the most liked positions with players being very versatile and performing several roles.

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