The safety is a part of the defense team. It is an important and challenging position, and is sometimes referred to as the “quarterback of the defense”.
Safeties are distinguished from other defensive players by their positioning: they line up nearer the back, behind the front line of scrimmage. Because of this, their role consists mainly of tackling, with safeties being well known as hard hitters. They have also been known, especially in recent times, to cover receivers. There are two varieties of the safety position in a typical defensive formulation: the free safety and the strong safety, the roles of which are outlined below.
Of the two types of safety, the free safety is generally smaller and lighter. His role usually consists of staying back until the play gets going and following the ball. The free safety should stay near the receiver in order to cover for him when the time comes. Players on the offensive team often try to draw the free safety closer to the line in order to prevent a long run.
Free safeties are also responsible for the blitz (first caused by famous player Larry Wilson), where the free safety attacks from defence unexpectedly.
Unlike the free safety, the strong safety is often well built, suitable for defending against the corresponding strong side of the offensive team (i.e. where the tight end is). The main job of the strong safety is to stop a run occurring from the offensive side by playing closer to the line. The strong safety is also a good cover for the running back(s) or the fullback.
Tips on how to play safety
To play the safety position, which is arguably the most challenging position on the defensive team, you must have speed and aggression, combining the best parts of both the wide receiver and the linebacker respectively. Here are some things to bear in mind during play:
- Never let a player on the offensive side get behind you.
- Keep a good sturdy posture at all times, with one foot forward and weight on the front foot.
- Always keep an eye on what is going on on the entire field.
- Make sure you know what other team members are doing so you know where to position yourself and who to cover.