A Comprehensive Guide to Rushing in the NFL for New Fans

For those new to the exhilarating world of the NFL, understanding the rushing game is like unraveling a crucial chapter in the sport’s rich tapestry. From explosive running backs to strategic line play, rushing in the NFL is a captivating element that can sway the dynamics of a game. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything a new fan needs to know about rushing, from the fundamentals to the strategic nuances that make it an integral part of football.

1. The Basics of Rushing:

a. What is Rushing in Football?

Rushing, simply put, is the act of carrying the football across the line of scrimmage towards the opponent’s end zone. It’s a fundamental aspect of offensive play designed to gain yards and control the tempo of the game.

b. Key Players in the Rushing Game:

  1. Running Backs:
    • Running backs are the primary ball carriers in the rushing game. Known for their agility, speed, and power, running backs aim to navigate through the defense to gain yards.
  2. Offensive Line:
    • The offensive line, consisting of tackles, guards, and a center, creates running lanes for the ball carrier. Their blocking prowess is instrumental in the success of a rushing play.
  3. Fullbacks and Tight Ends:
    • Fullbacks and tight ends often play blocking roles, paving the way for the running back. Their physical presence contributes to the creation of running lanes.

2. Types of Running Plays:

a. Inside Run:

  1. Power Runs:
    • Power runs involve the running back hitting the gaps between offensive linemen with force. This play is characterized by a direct, physical approach.
  2. Trap Plays:
    • Trap plays deceive defenders by inviting them into a perceived gap, only for an offensive lineman to pull and block the unsuspecting defender. This creates an opening for the running back.

b. Outside Run:

  1. Sweeps:
    • Sweeps involve the running back moving laterally towards the sideline, with offensive linemen pulling to lead the way. This play aims to stretch the defense horizontally.
  2. Toss Plays:
    • Toss plays involve the quarterback pitching the ball to the running back moving towards the edge. This allows the running back to use their speed to outrun defenders.

3. Reading Defenses: A Running Back’s Skill:

a. Vision and Patience:

  1. Reading Running Lanes:
    • A skilled running back has the ability to read the blocking schemes and identify the openings in the defense. This requires vision and an understanding of the offensive line’s movements.
  2. Patience in the Backfield:
    • Running backs exhibit patience by waiting for blocks to develop before making their move. This allows them to exploit gaps in the defense.

4. Offensive Line’s Role in Rushing:

a. Run Blocking Techniques:

  1. Zone Blocking:
    • Zone blocking involves offensive linemen moving in unison, blocking defenders in a specific zone rather than having assigned players. This creates flexibility and adaptability in response to defensive movements.
  2. Gap Blocking:
    • Gap blocking assigns specific linemen to block defenders in predetermined gaps. It’s a more power-oriented approach, often used in short-yardage situations.

5. Importance of Rushing in Team Strategy:

a. Controlling the Clock:

  1. Time of Possession:
    • Rushing plays contribute to controlling the time of possession, allowing an offense to dictate the pace of the game and keep the opposing offense off the field.

b. Creating Balance:

  1. Balanced Offense:
    • A successful rushing attack complements the passing game, creating a balanced offense that keeps defenses guessing and prevents them from focusing solely on one aspect of play.
  2. Play-Action Passing:
    • Effective rushing sets up play-action passing plays, where the threat of a successful run can deceive defenses, creating opportunities for big passing plays.

6. Notable Running Backs in the NFL:

a. Styles of Running:

  1. Power Backs:
    • Power backs, like Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans, rely on strength and physicality to break tackles and gain tough yards.
  2. Speedsters:
    • Speedsters, exemplified by players like Dalvin Cook of the Minnesota Vikings, utilize their agility and quickness to navigate through defenses.

7. Common Terms Associated with Rushing:

a. Yards Per Carry (YPC):

  1. YPC Calculation:
    • Yards per carry is a statistic calculated by dividing the total rushing yards by the number of rushing attempts. It provides insight into a running back’s efficiency.

b. Rushing Touchdowns:

  1. Red Zone Efficiency:
    • Running backs often contribute significantly to red zone efficiency by scoring rushing touchdowns in close-yardage situations.


As a new NFL fan, grasping the intricacies of rushing elevates your understanding of the sport. From the explosive runs of star running backs to the tactical brilliance of offensive lines, rushing plays a pivotal role in shaping the narrative of a game. Whether it’s the power runs between the tackles or the strategic sweeps to the edge, every rushing play contributes to the dynamic and unpredictable nature of professional football. As you embark on your NFL journey, keep an eye on the ground game – an essential chapter in the captivating story of America’s most beloved sport.

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