NEW This Week: The Air Force Option Offense - CLICK HERE

The Complete Guide to the Defensive End Position

Posted by Throw Deep Publishing Staff on

The emphasis on the quarterback position is undeniable in the game of football today. Quarterbacks who can sit back and deliver the football accurately are being paid higher than ever before. As defenses look to combat this, having an elite defensive end is arguably the #1 way to slow down opposing offensive passing attacks.

Defensive ends are arguably the most freakish athletes on the defensive side of the ball, and are paid accordingly as the most prioritized position on a team’s defense. An elite defensive end is able to make an opposing offensive coordinator’s head spin, as he must find unique ways to block up a rare combination of size, strength and athleticism throughout an entire football game. As teams resort to a high dosage of pass game within their offensive systems, defensive ends are the prioritized option to disrupt opposing offenses.

What does a Defensive End do?

Defensive ends are responsible for wreaking havoc on opposing offenses in a variety of forms. This ranges from executing their simple assignments, to coming up with huge sacks on the quarterback, or ripping the football loose from a ball carrier. Their role in both stopping the run, and putting pressure on the quarterback both are critical to a successful defense. Usually lining up directly across or outside of the offensive tackle, on the edge of the opponent offensive line, and trying to get past the block of the opponent offensive lineman.

Gap-sound defense is the main focus as teams look to stop their opponents from running the football with success. Further explaining this, depending on the defense called, defensive ends may be tasked with playing underneath, forcing ball carriers wide, or playing wide, looking to funnel the ball carrier back into the teeth of the defense.

Michael Strahan - What is a Defensive End in Football

As teams look to move the ball through the air, nothing is more disruptive to an offense than consistent pressure on the quarterback. Defensive ends have the opportunity to make this happen any time the quarterback drops back to pass. In order to stress the defense, offenses often look to release as many receivers downfield as possible to create options for the quarterback. With this, defensive ends find themselves in a lot of 1 on 1 situations with offensive tackles. While sacks are great, defensive ends that find themselves batting down passes, hurrying the quarterback, or getting hits on the quarterback after he releases the ball all play a huge role in disrupting offensive rhythm, and forcing the quarterback to play on edge at all times.

Why is it called Defensive End?

Defensive ends line up on the line of scrimmage, on the “end” of formations. They are edge players, and line up in a variety of ways off the alignment of the opposing offenses tackles and tight ends.

What are some other names for the Defensive End?

Abbreviation: DE

What are the Skills and Body Type needed to play Defensive End?

Consistent Technique

Body Type: (General Estimate)
Height: 6’3-6’7
Weight: 270-290 Pounds
Build: Lengthy, Big, Athletic

Modern defensive ends are often freaks of nature. The best of the best tend to combine length with no shortage of both strength and athleticism.

Who are some of the best Defensive Ends ever?

Reggie White (1984-2000)- Starting his career in the USFL, White quickly established his dominance in his professional career. A Super Bowl champ, and 2x NFL defensive player of the year, White ranks second all-time in career sacks with 198.

Bruce Smith (1985-2003)- The all-time NFL leader in career sacks, Smith’s pass-rushing prowess was nearly unstoppable in his career. In a whopping 13 seasons of his career, Smith managed to tally 10+ sacks. He has since been enshrined to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dwight Freeney - What is a Defensive End in Football

Dwight Freeney (2002-2017) - Peyton Manning got a lot of the attention in Indianapolis, but Dwight Freeney's unrelenting pass rush made him one of the most feared in the league for a decade. Considered under-sized coming out of college, he more than made up for it with his impressive speed and quickness off the snap.

Why is the Defensive End position so important?

An elite athlete at the defensive end position changes the trajectory of a defense in a variety of ways. When combining a unique mix of size, strength, and athleticism, defensive ends have the capability to impact every play within a football game.

As offenses continue to shift towards a pass-happy attack using spread sets, defenses have had to adjust with it. Many defenses add an extra defensive back to their base sets, and look to drop more guys into coverage.

Due to this, elite pass rushers are coveted for any defense, as it allows them to get pressure on the quarterback without having to blitz nearly as often. Whether it’s through getting hits on the quarterback, clogging throwing lanes, or getting home for a sack, defensive ends have a prime opportunity each game to get the opposing team out of rhythm in the pass game.

What is a Defensive End in Football - Aaron Rodgers Sack

A similar theme exists in the run game, as elite defenses are able to defend the run with lighter boxes. Whether it’s handling their gap responsibilities, getting penetration into the backfield, or swallowing up double teams, defensive ends are tone setters upfront for the defensive unit.

Their ability to handle these roles in the trenches allows for defenses to balance filling the run, and having the ability to match personnel and defend the pass with extra players in coverage.

Want More?

Check out our collection of online football coaching clinics.