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NFL Draft Football Lingo 101

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What the talking heads mean when they use terminology

2008 NFL Draft Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Football has a language all its own and when a couple of commentators start talking back and forth, throwing out a bunch of wild jargon it can get confusing for the average fan to listen to. I have compiled a list of draft lingo, coaches speak and scout slang to a comprehensive directory for your reference.

So when Todd McShay starts sounding like he is speaking Swahili, you can reference this article and surprise your friends with your deep knowledge of a wide array of football idioms.

When Talking about Quarterbacks:

Looking down the gun barrel

The ability of a QB to stand in the pocket and face the rush without flinching. To stand there as a 320 lbs lineman is about to plant you into the ground and you still make the throw. Philip Rivers is a good example of this.

Chuck and duck

A QB who fears the rush and unloads the ball because of pressure.

It is also called the David Carr syndrome

Throwing in a phone booth

QBs who have a hard time getting full extension on a throw, kind of like a baseball player who short arms the throw. A QB who is very tight in his delivery.

Burping the baby

When a QB taps on the ball waiting on a route to break open instead of using anticipation. The ball is held too long, the throw is late and allows a CB to jump the play.

Seeing Ghosts

A QB who leaves the pocket too early and runs instead of allowing the pass patterns to develop. He is usually a QB with a poor offensive line and is rushed too often. This is why a solid offensive line is critical for a young QBs development. Once you start seeing ghosts it is a hard habit to break.

Cabin Fever

A QB who makes it through one progression and bails the pocket. It is a fear when drafting spread system QBs who are not used to going through 3 or 4 progressions.

Throws from all Platforms

A QB who can make all the throws from a variety of arm angles. Just like Patrick Mahomes this year or Aaron Rodgers from every year.

Pocket Mobility

The ability of a QB to use their feet, awareness of pressure and peripheral vision to move around in the pocket to find a throwing lane.

Climb the Pocket

The ability of a QB to sense outside pressure and step up toward the center to find an open space to make an accurate throw in the face of pressure.

When talking about Running Backs:

Body Lean

Standard ball carrier position, pitched slightly forward, shoulder pads centered above knees. Proper body lean keeps the pad level low and momentum moving forward.

Crossover step

Initial step for many runs outside the tackle. Step right with left foot on a run right, and step left with the right foot on a run left.

Get off

The initial explosion and quickness off the snap.

Space player

A RB who excels in open area because of athletic ability, elusiveness and speed.

Satellite player

This refers to a RB who lines up all over the field, usually not a feature back

Jitterbug Runner

A RB who relies on agility, speed and elusiveness rather than power or the ability to break tackles. Again usually not a feature back.

Runs behind his pads

A RB who has good body lean and is powerful because he uses good technique and is difficult to tackle without excessive force.

Methodical Runner

A patient RB who waits for blocks to develop; Le’Veon Bell for example

Belly play or Series

Running play in which two backs attack different holes, often with a fake handoff before or after the real one.

Blast or Iso play

Inside running play in which the ball carrier follows the fullback or H back, who blocks the inside linebacker one on one.

Hat Level

Referring to how low a ball carrier keeps his helmet to maintain leverage and give defenders a smaller target. It includes running with knees bent, feet properly spread (shoulder width) and good body lean.

Jab Step

Hard step at the start of a play in opposite direction to what the ball carrier will run. Used to freeze defenders keying on the RB, allowing blockers to get into better position. Often the first step in a counter play.

Jump Cut

Sudden, make you miss cutback in the open field or as the RB presses the hole. The RB hops sideways to avoid the defender and get into open spaces.

Power play

Classic inside running play in which a lineman pulls around the center as an extra lead blocker. The RB usually takes a drop step, then follows pulling lineman.

Slip Screen

A Quick developing screen pass in which the RB feigns a block on a pass rusher, then runs to a point on the line of scrimmage vacated by a DE or OLB, then turns to receive a pass, then cuts up field.

Counter Trey

A misdirection running play where the running back takes 3 steps in one direction, then reverses field before receiving the handoff. The Guard and Tackle from the fake side pull to block for the ball carrier, picking off defenders who think they are pursuing the play from behind.

Stretch play

Running play most strongly associated with modern zone blocking offenses. The ball carrier takes a course slanting toward the sideline while reading blocks. He is looking to cut the play back into a hole that forms because of the blocking combined with the pursuing defensive linemen. If no hole forms the RB is forced to try and turn the play upfield around the corner which is usually not advantageous.

Downhill Runner

A RB with good body lean who attacks the line of scrimmage quickly, as opposed to a RB who reads the defense or waits for blocks.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends:

Straight line speed

WRs & TEs who can run fast in a straight line, but don’t have good short-area quickness.

Possession Receiver

A term for a WR who is not very fast and uses slants and in cuts to get receptions and first downs. He usually is not counted on to make a splash play.

Long strider

Tall receivers who have excessive stride length. Usually means he will not be quick off the ball and will take a long time to get up to full speed.

Move TE

A quick or fast TE who can run well but has little ability to block in most cases.

Inline TE

The exact opposite of the move TE, a good blocker but not much of a receiver

TE Slam Release

A slam release is a technique for tight ends on play action pass plays. The TE moves with the run fake, often a zone run, and engages in a block to one side of the play before stopping, pivoting and releasing into their route in the opposite direction. Generally this is a short route to the flat, but can also be used to get vertical up the field.

Soft hands

A pass catcher with great hands, rarely drops a pass. Larry Fitzgerald has soft hands.

Hands of stone or hands like feet

The exact opposite, a player with poor ability to catch the ball and needs serious coaching

Suddenness

A player with a quick first step or is fast in and out of cuts

Sink his hips

A wide receiver cannot slow down to make a cut, if he does it will tip off the defender to what he is doing and the CB will close on him. To keep precious separation the WR will (sink his hips) by dropping his weight on the foot he is cutting with and explode out of the break. Just as a race car accelerates out of the corner.

Drive and Punch Step

The “drive” step is a hard step that makes it look like the receiver is about to burst in one direction, which should cause the defensive back to accelerate or turn his hips that way. Meanwhile, the “punch” step is a short step in the opposite direction and gets the receiver running away from the DB.

Splash Plays

A game changing or long yardage gaining play. A long TD pass, a long run or even an INT returned for a TD are considered splash plays.

Offensive and Defensive linemen:

Road Grader

An offensive lineman who is highly effective in driving a defender off the ball on a running play. Usually a big dude, I used that term last year for Quenton Nelson.

Down Block

A block thrown from the outside across a defender’s feet to cut off his pursuit angle, as opposed to a straight ahead block.

5 Tech

A defensive lineman that aligns with his nose on the outside shade of an offensive tackle with greater responsibility to stop the run than rush the passer.

Hook Block

An offensive lineman moving himself in front of a defender and preventing him from getting outside, often done by a tight end on an outside linebacker.

Playing under his pads

Good base and weight balance so as to not overextend.

Downhill Thumper

A physical linebacker who attacks and plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Natural Bender

A flexible, athletic offensive or defensive lineman who bends at the knees, not the waist.

Heavy Legged Waist Bender

An offensive or defensive lineman who lacks the flexibility to dip his hips and bend at the knees, causing him to look heavy-legged.

Running the Arc

When an edge rusher uses speed to run outside of an offensive tackle and then flattens his path to pursue the quarterback.

Bubble Butt (A Mike Mayock term)

An offensive or defensive lineman with a powerful lower body that provides speed and explosion.

He needs Sand in the Pants

An undersized lineman that possesses toughness but needs to add bulk and strength.

A Glass Eater

A nasty/mean offensive or defensive lineman who plays boarder line dirty but always hard and likes to finish the play with dominance of his opponent.

Nasty

Same as Glass eater but a different vernacular

Through the Echo of the Whistle

A player who is a finisher, who never stops until the play is over, plus a second or two and usually dominates his opponent.

He is a Dancing Bear

A huge Offensive or defensive lineman with the agility of a ballerina.

Phone booth player

An offensive lineman with below-average feet that performs best in short areas.

Leaner

A leaner is one who over-extends and gets thrown to the ground easily. These linemen generally play too high instead of playing with a lower base.

Good Punch

Good arm punch refers to offensive linemen who extend their arms out and literally punch their hands into a defensive lineman’s chest to push him back. Getting the first punch in at the snap is a huge advantage against oncoming rushers.

Great Length

Any player who has extra long arms, these are really essential for offensive and defensive linemen. It’s the only time it is good to be called a knuckle dragger.

3 Tech

Defensive lineman who lines up on the outside shade of the guard (in the B gap) and is considered to be the centerpiece of a 4-3 defense. The ideal 3 technique is very quick, has a strong upper body and good hands. Grady Jarrett is a prime example.

Wham block

Is when a WR or RB comes down the line and blocks (hits) an unsuspecting interior lineman who is left unblocked by the offensive lineman. This has to be a surprise attack because the blocker is usually much smaller than the defensive interior lineman. This allows the offensive lineman to move to the second level and make a path clearing block.

Slice Block

Exactly the same as a wham block but it targets an edge player instead of an interior defensive lineman.

Trap Block

Is the same as a slice or wham block but you use a backside offensive lineman to make the block instead of a WR, RB or H back.

Combination Block

A block on one defender carried out in unison by two offensive lineman.

Sinking the hips (for linemen)

When a blocker sinks his hips, it’s to gain or regain leverage when taking on blockers. This can be used against a defender who is bull rushing, but also comes in handy in most blocking situations, such as when an offensive lineman executes a base/drive block and needs to move his man. Sinking his hips allows a blocker to get a lower center of gravity and better base to withstand the bull rush or generate forward movement while run blocking. A defensive lineman also sinks his hips when he faces a double team and needs to hold his ground or he will be driven into oblivion.

Setting the Edge

The defender’s ability to set his feet in the ground, sink his hips and anchor against the run.

Plays too high

Defensive linemen who are too upright often get blown off the ball because they lack good leverage

Taffy Pull

Despite a flurry of activity, neither the offensive or defensive player gains a decisive advantage.

Power Step

The inside foot of an offensive lineman, which closes the door to a defender’s inside rush.

Linebackers and Secondary players:

Gets Through the Trash

When a defender is able to successfully navigate through a mass of blockers and teammates and make a tackle.

Oily Hips

An ability of an LB or DB to change direction quickly and efficiently.

Cloud Coverage

The corner support coverage. It’s when you high-low the #1 receiver. You have a safety over top of a corner who is against a speedy receiver.

Off man coverage

Man to man coverage where a defender is backed off the line of scrimmage, as opposed to tight bump and run coverage.

Ankle Tackler

This refers to the defensive back or Darron Lee who makes a tackle improperly by grabbing onto a player’s lower leg.

Fluid

Often used to describe defensive backs who are smooth in their movements. It also could apply to a wide receiver who is a smooth route runner.

Joker Position

This term is used to describe a “movable chess piece.” Usually refers to a stand-up defensive end or strong-side linebacker who rushes the passer.

Tight Hips

What this means is defensive backs who have to turn their hips are stiff while attempting to turn their body. Being stiff for just a split second could cost a team a touchdown.

Flip his Hips

The exact opposite of tight hips. Being able to run down the field and change direction (if you are running left you switch to the right) at full speed. DBs must do this often when a receiver makes a sharp cut on his route.

Back pedal

When a CB goes backward from the line of scrimmage but is facing forward looking at the receiver. Once the receiver gets close enough or makes a cut the CB will have to flip his hips and change in the direction of the receiver.

Click and Close

Used to describe the action of stopping your back pedal and pushing off to close on the receiver. It must be done quickly without extra steps and is something DBs will work on in drills their entire careers.

Generic Football terms

Hot Tub Club

This generally means players who are injured can’t help the team on the sidelines or in the ice bath rehabbing.

Slappy

This one refers to low-end players who don’t have much to offer teams

A JAG

A GGN favorite term meaning the player is “just a guy”

High Motor Guy

A player who displays tireless effort until the whistle on every snap.

Quicker than Fast (A Mike Mayock Favorite)

A player who may not possess great 40 yard dash speed but has quickness that is effective in short areas.

Body Beautiful

A ripped physique that even the other players talk about.

All Airport Team

A team of huge men who look impressive walking through the airport but are usually not a good football team.

Looks like Tarzan, Plays like Jane

It refers to a player who looks good in a uniform or physically, but basically can’t play or is very raw.

There are only another 1,000 terms I left out so feel free to list your favorites down below.

Football has its own language, you can pop a few of these as questions to your friends who think they are knowledgeable football guys and see if they know what they are.