What is the Definition of Flanker in American Football?

The flanker is a critical position in American Football, as it plays an essential role in a team’s offensive strategies. A flanker is a type of wide receiver who lines up behind the line of scrimmage, usually on the same side as the tight end and opposite the split end. This position offers unique responsibilities and contributes significantly to a team’s success in both passing and running plays.

Flankers are often tasked with being the second or third option on passing plays, but their contributions extend beyond catching passes. They also provide valuable blocking support on running plays and are known to go into pre-snap motion on many plays to create confusion among the opposing defense. This versatility and adaptability make the flanker an integral part of a team’s strategy and demonstrate the importance of understanding their role in the game.

Key Takeaways

  • Flankers are versatile wide receivers who contribute to both passing and running plays
  • They line up behind the line of scrimmage, usually on the tight end’s side of the field
  • The position’s unique responsibilities include going into pre-snap motion and providing blocking support

Flanker Position and Role

A flanker in American football is a type of wide receiver, also referred to as a wideout. Wide receivers are crucial skill position players within the offense, responsible for catching passes and advancing the ball downfield. The flanker position is unique due to its specific alignment and responsibilities on the field.

Unlike other wide receivers, flankers typically line up on the same side as the opposing team’s tight end (the strong side) and the opposite side of the defense’s split end (the weak side). This positioning with a gap between them and the rest of the offense allows the flanker to use pre-snap motion more effectively. The pre-snap motion helps create confusion for the defense while allowing the offense to recognize defensive coverages.

Flankers are not usually the main target of an offense, often serving as the second or third option on passing plays. However, their abilities to stretch the field and provide outside blocking support on running plays make them valuable assets. Flankers are expected to run precise routes and have excellent hands, enabling them to catch passes in tight coverage.

As flankers line up closer to the line of scrimmage, they have a greater chance of facing press coverage from defensive backs. To excel in this position, flankers must possess quick footwork and agility to evade defenders and gain separation. Their exceptional route running skills and ability to find open space on the field make them a constant threat to defenses.

In summary, the flanker position in American football is distinct from other wide receiver positions due to its alignment on the field, specific responsibilities in the passing game, and contribution to running plays. A flanker’s speed, agility, and reliable hands make them valuable contributors to a team’s offensive strategies.

Formation and Alignment

Pro Formation

The Pro Formation is a traditional offensive alignment in American football, characterized by having two running backs and a tight end aligned in the offensive backfield. The formation usually consists of a quarterback under center, a running back directly behind the quarterback, a fullback one to two yards behind the running back, and a tight end adjacent to the offensive line. In addition, a flanker is positioned off the line of scrimmage, typically on the strong side of the formation, which is the side where the tight end is positioned.

The Pro Formation is versatile, allowing offenses to run various types of plays, such as inside and outside runs, play-action passes, and quick passes. This versatility can create defensive challenges and mismatches that can be exploited by the offense.

Spread Formation

The Spread Formation is a more modern offensive alignment in American football that emphasizes spreading the defense horizontally across the field. This formation features four or five wide receivers, one of which is often the flanker, and one running back. The quarterback is typically in a shotgun position, lines up several yards behind the center and receives a direct snap.

Key aspects of the Spread Formation include:

  • Horizontal spacing: By using a wider formation, the offense aims to create wider running lanes and more one-on-one matchups for receivers.
  • Quick passes: The quarterback’s job is to quickly identify and exploit mismatches in the defense by delivering the ball to an open receiver.
  • Option plays: Many spread offenses utilize option plays, giving the quarterback a choice to hand off the ball, keep it himself, or pass.

The flanker in the Spread Formation can line up in various positions, such as in the slot or out wide, allowing them to exploit mismatches and create opportunities for big plays. This offensive alignment has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its ability to stretch defenses and create space for speedy playmakers.

Key Skills and Attributes

Speed and Agility

Flankers in American football must possess exceptional speed and agility as they play an important role in the team’s passing game. Their ability to accelerate quickly and change direction allows them to gain separation from defenders and create space on the field for successful pass plays.

Route Running

Another crucial skill for a flanker is route running. This includes understanding the proper depth and angle of routes, as well as the ability to deceive defenders with sudden, sharp cuts. A flanker who can effectively run a variety of routes will be more difficult for defenders to cover and ultimately create more opportunities for successful plays.

Catching Ability

A flanker must have excellent catching ability, as their primary function is receiving passes from the quarterback. This includes having reliable hands, proper catching technique, and the ability to make difficult catches in tight coverage. Additionally, they must be aware of the sideline and have the coordination to keep both feet in bounds when making a catch near the edge of the field.

Blocking Ability

Although their primary role is as a receiver, flankers should also have competent blocking skills. Being able to hold a block helps improve the effectiveness of their team’s running game and can contribute to the overall success of the offense. A flanker who can effectively block will not only support their teammates but also attract more attention from defenders, potentially creating more opportunities for explosive pass plays.

Famous Flanker Players

The flanker position in American football has seen some exceptional players who have maximized their speed advantage and skillset to excel in the game. These players are known for their athleticism, quickness, and dependable hands.

Jerry Rice is undoubtedly one of the most famous flankers to have ever played the game. Rice’s stellar career includes two Offensive Player of the Year awards in 1987 and 1993, which demonstrates his dominance in the role. Another notable player who has won the Offensive Player of the Year award as a wide receiver is Michael Thomas in 2019.

Lance Alworth, often referred to as “Bambi,” was a pioneer in the flanker role, showcasing tremendous speed, leaping ability, and a precise route-running ability that allowed him to become a Hall of Famer. His impact on the game and the flanker position is still celebrated today.

Other remarkable flankers in recent history include Cooper Kupp and Justin Jefferson. Kupp’s 2021 season saw him claim the Offensive Player of the Year award, adding another impressive accolade to his already illustrious career. Justin Jefferson received the same honor, showcasing his exceptional talent at the flanker position in 2022.

These players exemplify the skills, versatility, and impact a flanker can have on the field, with each of their careers filled with memorable moments, awards, and records that cement their place in football history.