what Is a dB in football? What Makes A Good DB?

what is a db in football

A defensive back (DB) in football is a player position in the defensive unit of a team. The primary role of a DB is to defend against passing plays by the opposing team, as well as to help in stopping running plays. This position requires a unique combination of skills, including speed, agility, and the ability to read the game effectively.

So what is a DB in football…

Types of Defensive Backs

Cornerbacks (CBs)

These players typically line up on the outer edges of the defensive formation. Their main task is to cover the wide receivers of the opposing team, attempting to prevent them from catching passes. Cornerbacks must have excellent speed and agility, as they often engage in one-on-one battles with fast receivers.


This category is further divided into two:

  • Free Safety (FS): The free safety often plays deeper in the field, serving as the last line of defense. They are responsible for reading the quarterback and making plays on the ball, either by intercepting passes or tackling receivers. A good free safety combines quick decision-making with the ability to cover a lot of ground.
  • Strong Safety (SS): Strong safeties are usually positioned closer to the line of scrimmage. They are more involved in stopping the run and may also cover tight ends or running backs in passing situations. This position demands a player who can tackle well and handle physical play.

Key Responsibilities

Pass Coverage

DBs are primarily responsible for defending against the pass. They must be able to read the quarterback’s intentions, anticipate routes, and react swiftly to prevent receptions. Depending on the defensive scheme, they may engage in man-to-man coverage, where they are tasked with covering a specific player, or zone coverage, where they defend a specific area of the field.


DBs are often the last line of defense, especially safeties. They need to be adept at tackling to prevent big plays or touchdowns after catches are made or during running plays. This includes open-field tackling, which is often challenging but crucial.

Ball Skills/Create Turnovers

The ability to intercept or knock down passes is crucial. DBs must have good hands and timing to disrupt or take possession of the ball.

Run Support

Especially for safeties and in certain defensive schemes, DBs are expected to support the front seven in stopping the run. This requires good tackling skills and the ability to read plays quickly.

Reading the Offense

DBs must understand offensive formations and strategies. By reading the quarterback’s eyes and movements, the formation of the offense, and the initial movements of the offensive players, DBs can anticipate the play, which greatly aids in defending against it.


Effective communication with other members of the secondary (other DBs) and the rest of the defense is crucial. DBs often make adjustments to their alignment or coverage based on what they see in the offense and communicate these changes to their teammates.

Required Skills and Attributes

  • Speed and Agility: DBs must keep up with fast receivers and react quickly to changes in play direction.
  • Awareness and Intelligence: Understanding offensive strategies and quickly analyzing plays is key to being a successful DB.
  • Physicality and Toughness: Despite often being smaller than other defensive players, DBs must be willing to engage physically, both in tackling and in handling blocks.
  • Ball Skills: The ability to play the ball effectively, whether it’s intercepting or batting it away.


Defensive backs are vital to any football defense, providing critical coverage against the passing game and support against the run. Their unique skill set, combining physicality with speed and intelligence, makes them essential players on the football field.

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