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Football 301: Advanced football terminology

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald -- who lines up

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald -- who lines up at three-technique for the Rams -- tries to fire up the crowd during a game against the Seahawks at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sept. 18, 2016. Photo Credit: AP / Kelvin Kuo

What does it mean when a three-technique shot the B-gap for a sack? What is an upback’s responsibility? Learn some of the advanced-level inside football terminolgy with our Football 301.

Bending the edge: A pass-rusher’s ability to get around a blocker by dipping his shoulder as he turns the corner and flattens out his path to the quarterback.

Cover 6: A hybrid zone coverage that utilizes concepts of both Cover 2 and Cover 4 schemes. One half of the deep field is covered by one safety (Cover 2), while the other half is covered by the other safety and the cornerback on that side (Cover 4).

Gaps: The spaces between offensive linemen. Gaps often are used as the destination point for where a run should go (or, on defense, what hole to fill to stop the run in the backfield/blitz the quarterback).

— The ‘A’ gap is between the center and the guard.

— The ‘B’ gap is between the guard and the tackle.

— The ‘C’ gap is between the tackle and the tight end (or outside the tackle if he’s not lined up next to a tight end).

— The ‘D’ gap is outside the tight end.

Rover: A hybrid defensive back/linebacker who can play up in the box to stop the run, blitz the quarterback, drop back into a deep zone or line up as a cornerback or nickelback.

Setting the edge: When an outside defender is able to maintain leverage and positioning on a blocker to prevent a running back from bouncing the play outside of the tackle.

Technique (defensive line): A numbering system used to set up where each defensive lineman sets up before the play. 

— A zero-technique (aka, the nose tackle) lines up head-on against the center. He should be able to occupy both A-gaps and eat up space in the middle of a 3-4 defense.

— A one-technique lines up on the shoulder of the center. He typically is the better run-stuffing DT in a 4-3 defense.

— A three-technique lines up on the outside shoulder of the guard. He typically is the better pass-rushing DT in a 4-3 defense.

— A five-technique lines up on the outside shoulder of the tackle. He should be able to occupy the B- and C-gaps on his side in a 3-4 defense.

— A seven-technique lines up on the inside shoulder of tight end. He typically is the better run-stopping defensive end in a 4-3 defense.

— A nine-technique (often referred to as a "Wide 9") lines up on the outside shoulder of the tight end (or where the tight end would be if there is none). He typically is the better pass-rushing defensive end in a 4-3 defense.

Unbalanced line: When an offense creates a blocking mismatch by moving one of its stronger blockers to one side of the formation. This often is done by having a tight end line up in the tackle’s usual spot and having the tackle line up in the tight end’s usual spot (next to the other tackle).

Upback: Also known as a punt protector, the upback lines up a few yards behind the line of scrimmage in punting situations. He makes line calls and checks for the punter, calls for the snap, helps block for the punter and can receive direct snaps on fake punt plays.

Waggle: A type of play-action bootleg in which the quarterback fakes the handoff and rolls out in the opposite direction of the handoff for a run-pass read.

(Need a refresher on the basics? Read up on some of the more commonly used phrases in our Football 101 and Football 201.)

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