I've often heard that the linebacker is the quarterback for the defense.

Thus, is it really true that a linebacker's role is sometimes to produce calls to change the defensive's game plan or an audible?

Is it possible for the linebackers to call audibles to counter the offense's call?


Absolutely it is. The middle linebacker has the best vantage point on the defensive field. He also has the best opportunity to look in the quarterback's eyes to see where he is looking. Armed with this knowledge, as well as watching tape (tons and tons of tape) it's expected that the middle linebacker will have more awareness of the field and in the best position to signal his teammates about the upcoming play.

The middle linebacker is also in the position requiring the most versatility. They can expect a lot of run 'up the gut' plays, but also have to drop back for pass coverage. They often blitz opposite their front blocker. Because it requires such versatility, you can expect the player you put there to be one of your best 'jack of all trades' types. Because they understand different positions so well, they are also likely to be more aware of the offense as well - they'll be more in the mental aspect of the game than their comrades.

  • Can a call from the linebacker change the way the defensive backs position themselves as well? It doesn't seem feasible because they're quite a distance away.
    – chrisjlee
    Feb 9 '12 at 17:54
  • 2
    They can, although it is to a lesser extent if the play is underway. It's not all that different from the quarterback making an audible call, though.
    – corsiKa
    Feb 9 '12 at 17:57

Another article suggested that the free safety could also be considered the quarterback of the defense:

Many people refer to the position as the quarterback of the defense, because the safety needs to recognize formations, and communicate to the rest of the defense accordingly.

The safety is usually the last line of defense, and like the middle linebacker, must be versatile. He will have coverage responsibilities, yet must also be prepared to provide run support if a running back or quarterback has gotten past the linebackers.

However, the middle linebacker, being close to the line, will often set defensive formations and call audibles to counter tendencies that he's spotted. The safety also perform that function for the defensive secondary, but might be too far away to make adjustments to the seven players in the defensive front.


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