Football Basics: The Players

During a game, teams are either on offense or defense. The team that has possession of the ball and is trying to score is the offense, while the team that is trying to defend them from scoring is the defense. The teams will switch between offense and defense after one of the following events occur: the offense fails to make a first down, the offense scores (touchdown or field goal) or the offense commits a turnover. Each team consists of 11 players on the field at any one time.

Offense

The goal of the offense is to advance the ball down the field by making first downs and eventually score. The two basic ways to advance the ball down the field are: 1) Hold the ball and run with it or 2) Throw the ball to a teammate who can catch the ball and continue running with it. The offense decides on running or passing the ball before the play begins. The offense team consists of 4 main individual positions: offensive line, quarterback, running backs and wide receivers.

Offensive Line

Offensive linemen are the players who are lined up in a three point stance facing the defense and are closest to the ball before the play starts. Their primary responsibility is to block the rushers (defensive players) from coming in and tackling the quarterback or running back with the ball. They can also push the defensive players away from a particular area to create a "hole" in which the ball carrier can run through and advance the ball. Offensive linemen can be separated into 3 positions, Centers, Tackles and Guards.

The Texans offensive linemen are: Chester Pitts, Milford Brown, Steve McKinney, Todd Wade, Zach Weigert, Todd Washington, Fred Weary, Seth Wand, Drew Hogdon, Tyson Walter, etc.

Quarterback

The quarterback is traditionally the offensive leader on the field. The quarterback is the player who announces the play to the rest of the offense and starts the play by calling out the proper cadence. They can also decide to change the play that the offense will run by calling an audible, if it seems as though the defense is going to stop the original plan. The quarterback is typically responsible for either handing the ball to the running back or throwing it to a wide receiver. This player must be able to make quick decisions and must be quick and elusive in order to avoid the oncoming rushers.

Here are the Texans quarterbacks: David Carr, Tony Banks, Dave Ragone.

Running Backs

This group of players is sometimes referred to as the backs and can be broken down into 2 groups, the halfbacks and the fullbacks. Usually, both types of backs line up behind the quarterback, but they can be arranged in different formations. The responsibility of the backs on each play is either to block incoming rushers or to receive a handoff and run with the ball, trying to advance it. Commonly, a running play will involve a fullback who blocks defensive players and a halfback who is trying to avoid the defenses tackling attempts.

The Texans backs are as follows: Domanick Davis, Jonathan Wells, Moran Norris (FB), Vernand Morency, Jason Anderson, Tony Hollings

Wide Receivers

Wide receivers are generally fast players who are trained to catch the football. Their primary responsibilities are to run a specific pattern, elude defenders and catch a pass from the quarterback. During running plays, wide receivers will typically be responsible for blocking a defender.

Here are the Texans receivers: Andre Johnson, Corey Bradford, Jabar Gaffney, Jerome Mathis, Derek Armstrong, Donovan Morgan.

Tight Ends

Tight Ends can be considered a hybrid of offensive linemen and wide receivers. They lineup on the end of the offensive line and either block defenders or receive passes depending on the play call. Given the nature of the job, tight ends must be bigger and stronger than wide receivers but they must also have the ability to catch the ball when it is passed to them.

Here are the Texans tight ends: Mark Bruener, Macellus Rivers, Bennie Joppru, Matt Murphy, Aaron Halterman.

Defense

The goal of the team that is on defense is to stop the offense from scoring. The defense accomplishes this goal is by tackling the offensive player who is holding the ball before they are able to advance the ball for a first down or into the endzone. The defense does not know what the offense is planning on doing and therefore must react to the movement of the offense once the play begins. The defensive team consists of 3 main individual positions: defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs.

Defensive Line

The defensive linemen are the players that lineup across the line of scrimmage from the offensive. Their primary responsibility is to fire off the line of scrimmage once the ball is snapped and tackle the ball carrier. They are generally the biggest and strongest of the defensive players as they must first get passed the blocks of the offensive linemen in order to get to the ball carrier. NFL teams generally play with three or four defensive linemen.

The Texans typically play with three defensive linemen. Here are the defensive linemen on the Texans roster: Seth Payne, Gary Walker, Robaire Smith, Travis Johnson, etc.

Linebackers

Linebackers play just behind the defensive linemen and must be versatile players, both fast and strong. Their responsibilities include dropping back to cover receivers on passing plays and filling holes and tackling backs on running plays. Similar to the defensive line, there are typically three or four linebackers on the field at a time.

Here are the Texans linebackers: Antwan Peek, Morlon Greenwood, DaShon Polk, Jason Babin, Shantee Orr, Troy Evans, Frank Chamberlin, Charlie Anderson, Kenneth Pettway and Kailee Wong.

Defensive Backs

Defensive backs are referred to as the last line of defense. The defensive backs are primarily concerned with passing plays but must also be aware and ready to step up in the hole and stop a running play. Defensive backs can be broken up into two positions, safeties and cornerbacks. Each lines up in a different location and has separate responsibilities on each play. Defensive backs must have solid instincts as well as quickness in order to do their job effectively.

Here are the Texans defensive backs: Dunta Robinson, Marcus Coleman, C.C. Brown, Philip Buchanon, Demarcus Faggins, Jason Bell, Jason Simmons, Lewis Sanders, Chris McKenzie.

Special Teams

Whenever one team plans on kicking the ball, in either an attempt to score or to change field position, the players are said to be on special teams. There are three types of kicks that are allowed in the game of football: a placekick, a punt and a kickoff (free kick). Players are designated as specialists in the following areas on special teams:

Place Kicker

The place kicker specializes in kicking the ball while it is held in "place" by either a tee or a holder. The place kicker is active on three separate instances during a game: on kickoffs, when attempting an extra point (after a touchdown) and when attempting a field goal. The place kicker must have a strong and accurate leg in order to be successful. They also must be able to handle the pressure of attempting game winning kicks.

The Texans place kicker is Kris Brown.

Punter

The punter kicks* *the ball when the offense was not able to make a first down and would like to improve their field position. Punters must be able to catch the ball as it is snapped to them and then quickly kick it high and long. A good punter will get a lot of "hang-time" with a kick, while still getting good distance and accuracy.

The Texans punter is Chad Stanley.

Holder

The holder for a team is generally also a punter, quarterback or wide receiver for the team. Their responsibilities include catching the snap (7 yards behind the center), placing the ball on the ground (laces out) and holding it with 1 finger on the point for the kicker.

The Texans holder is Chad Stanley, also the team's punter.

Long snapper

The long snapper is basically a center who specializes in snapping the ball a long distance. After a long snapper delivers the ball, they must then block any opposing rushers. A long snapper must be able to accurately snap the ball 7 yards to the holder for a field goal or extra point and 15 yards to the punter.

The Texans long snapper is Bryan Pittman.

Kick returner

The kick returner is the player who is responsible for catching the kick and advancing the ball as far as possible before being tackled. The returner has to be able to catch well and must be quick; therefore most kick returners are either wide receivers or defensive backs. Some teams have different players who return punts and kickoffs.

The Texans kick returner is Jerome Mathis.

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