If you have ever played the Madden video games series you’ve likely heard of the term strafing. This defensive manoeuvre is primarily used by linebackers and allows them to move freely while keeping their eyes on the action in the backfield.
A strafe in football is a lateral shuffle in which a player’s feet do not cross. Linebackers use strafing to move across the width of the field.
Watching: Strafe definition football
When strafing a player should be sidestepping at a consistent pace while making sure their feet never cross. By not crossing their feet these defensive players can be sure to not trip while they move throughout the field.
This is important because while strafing a defensive player should be looking ahead to determine what the opposing team is going to do with the ball.
Strafing also allows for a controlled movement horizontally across the field. This ensures that players will not over commit or lose their angles. Running full speed while attempting to look into the backfield can easily result in a player moving out of position.
By fluidly moving with the play by strafing linebackers can ensure they keep their gap protected as well as keep an eye on the play.
When Do Linebackers Use Strafing?
If you watch football often you may have noticed that linebackers are not strafing every play. Often times they will run directly towards the action or even drop into the defensive backfield in pass coverage.
This is because strafing is only used by linebackers in some situations. Below we will breakdown of a few plays in which strafing is often used by the defense.
Play Action Pass
One of the most common plays in which you will see a linebacker strafe is a play-action pass. A play-action pass is a play in which the offense will fake a rush and then follow it up with a pass.
The linebackers on these plays will often strafe in the direction of the “fake” run. As they move towards the direction of play these linebackers will be able to keep their eyes focused on the backfield.
This allows the linebackers to be prepared for the run as well as the pass. By strafing towards the run these linebackers will be in position if the running back is handed the ball.
If the quarterback decides to keep the ball the linebackers should be aware. Since they aren’t sprinting to the runningback they are able to keep their eyes up and focused on the ball.
This will in most cases allow them to identify if the running back or quarterback kept the ball. If it is a passing play the linebacker will not have overcommitted to the run and should still be in a good position thanks to strafing.
A read option is another play in which linebackers may use strafing to their advantage. On a read-option play both the quarterback or the running back may run with the play.
Once the ball is snapped the quarterback will quickly read the defense and determine which player should rush with the ball.
On these plays, it is important to remain patient as the offense has multiple options for moving the ball. If the linebackers over commit to one option the quarterback will have the ability to take advantage.
By strafing, linebackers will be able to not over commit to either option all while keeping an eye on the backfield.
This will help them retain their angles and leverage on the opponent as well as quickly identify which player has possession of the ball.