Interior linemen

What is the Definition of Interior Linemen in American Football?

In American Football, interior linemen play a crucial role in the game’s strategy and outcome. These athletes are part of the offensive and defensive lines, where their primary responsibilities include blocking, protecting, and engaging with opposing players. The term “interior” refers to their positions on the field, specifically within the central part of the line.

Interior offensive linemen comprise the center and the two guards on either side, while the interior defensive linemen are typically defensive tackles or nose tackles. Their roles and responsibilities vary based on their specific position; however, their ultimate goal is to provide support and stability for their teammates, both in the running and passing game. Interior linemen require a unique set of skills and attributes, such as strength, agility, and technique, to excel at their positions and contribute effectively to their team’s success.

Key Takeaways

  • Interior linemen play pivotal roles in both offensive and defensive line strategies
  • Their responsibilities revolve around blocking, protecting, and engaging with opponents
  • Success in these positions requires a combination of strength, agility, and technique

Roles and Responsibilities of Interior Linemen

Offensive Linemen

Interior offensive linemen in American football include the center, guards, and, sometimes, offensive tackles. These players form the core of the offensive line, and their primary responsibility is to protect the quarterback and create running lanes for the team’s running backs.

Center: The center has the crucial task of snapping the ball to the quarterback. They need to accurately and consistently deliver the ball while also blocking defensive players. In addition to snapping the ball, the center is responsible for identifying defensive alignments and communicating with his teammates to execute the right blocking scheme.

Guards: Guards play on either side of the center and have a vital role in pass protection and run blocking. They must protect the inside gaps (A gaps) by blocking defensive tackles and often work with the center to double-team powerful interior defenders. In the run game, guards need to open up running lanes for the ball carrier and pull to the outside if the play requires it.

Offensive Tackles: Although commonly classified as exterior linemen, offensive tackles can also be considered interior linemen in certain circumstances, as they flank the guards. Their main responsibility is to secure the edges, which involves protecting the quarterback from dangerous pass rushers and sealing the edge in the run game.

Defensive Linemen

Interior defensive linemen are players like defensive tackles and nose tackles, who line up in the center of the defensive line. Their primary duties involve disrupting the opposing team’s blocking schemes, stopping the run, and applying pressure to the quarterback.

Defensive Tackles: These players line up between the offensive tackles and are responsible for controlling the line of scrimmage. Defensive tackles use their size, strength, and quickness to shed blockers and disrupt the offensive line. Some tasks include occupying multiple blockers (allowing linebackers to roam freely), stopping the run, and collapsing the pocket to pressure the quarterback.

Nose Tackles: Nose tackles are primarily used in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Their job is to align directly over the center and occupy multiple blockers to free up space for linebackers. Nose tackles need immense strength and size to hold their ground and clog up running lanes. By occupying blockers, they create opportunities for fellow defensive players to make plays on the ball.

To summarize, interior linemen in American football have essential roles on both sides of the ball. Offensive interior linemen work to protect the quarterback and open running lanes, while defensive interior linemen focus on disrupting the offensive line, stopping the run, and pressuring the quarterback.

Key Positions and Techniques


The Center is the player who initiates every offensive play by snapping the ball to the quarterback. This player is responsible for calling out blocking assignments and making adjustments based on the defensive formation. The center must be quick and agile to block defensive linemen and linebackers on both running and passing plays.


Guards are the interior linemen positioned next to the center, with one on each side. Their primary role is to block on both running and passing plays, protecting the quarterback or creating running lanes for the team’s running back. Guards must be strong and have excellent footwork to effectively engage with and control opposing defensive linemen.

Defensive Tackle

The Defensive Tackle is a key interior linemen position on defense. Defensive tackles are typically larger and stronger players responsible for stopping the run and disrupting the quarterback’s passing game. They play next to the defensive ends and are typically responsible for engaging multiple offensive linemen to free up other defenders to make plays.

Nose Tackle

The Nose Tackle is a specific type of defensive tackle utilized in certain defensive formations where they line up directly over the center. Their primary responsibility is to clog the middle of the offensive line and occupy blockers to allow linebackers to roam free and make tackles. Nose tackles are usually larger and heavier players who can generate power and maintain a low center of gravity to dominate the line of scrimmage.

Skills and Attributes Required

Interior linemen in American football play crucial roles in both offensive and defensive strategies. There are certain skills and attributes required for these athletes to excel in their positions. In this section, we will discuss the importance of physical strength, agility, and communication skills for interior linemen.

Physical Strength

Physical strength is a primary attribute for interior linemen, as they often engage in intense one-on-one battles in the trenches. It enables them to:

  • Hold their ground against the opposing force
  • Drive their opponents off the line of scrimmage
  • Control blockers or shed them to disrupt the play
    To develop and maintain their strength, linemen must participate in rigorous strength training programs focused on building power in their legs, core, and upper body.


Despite their size, interior linemen need to demonstrate agility and quickness to excel in their roles. This is important for the following tasks:

  • Quickly change direction to create space or close gaps
  • Maintain balance while engaging with opponents
  • React and adjust to the opponent’s movements
    Enhancing agility involves practicing footwork, flexibility, and reaction time, using drills specifically designed for linemen.

Communication Skills

Finally, effective communication is vital for interior linemen, as they rely on teamwork and coordination to execute plays. Good communication skills entail:

  • Speaking clearly and concisely to relay information
  • Understanding verbal and non-verbal cues from teammates and coaches
  • Adjusting strategy based on the shifting dynamics of the game
    To develop communication skills, players should actively participate in team meetings, study playbooks, and foster strong relationships with teammates on and off the field.

Famous Interior Linemen

Offensive Linemen

Quenton Nelson is a well-known interior offensive lineman who plays guard for the Indianapolis Colts. Since his rookie season in 2018, he has been named First-team All-Pro three times and has already made a significant impact on the league. His strength, technique, and agility make him one of the most dominant guards in the NFL today.

Another notable interior offensive lineman is Zack Martin from the Dallas Cowboys. A six-time Pro Bowler and four-time First-team All-Pro, Martin consistently earns praise for his solid pass protection and run-blocking skills. Over the years, he has solidified his status as one of the league’s premier guards.

Marshal Yanda was a dominating force at right guard for the Baltimore Ravens during his 13-year career before retiring after the 2019 season. Known for his toughness, durability, and versatility, Yanda earned eight Pro Bowl selections and was named First-team All-Pro twice.

Defensive Linemen

Aaron Donald is arguably the most dominant defensive tackle in the NFL today. The Los Angeles Rams’ superstar has been named Defensive Player of the Year three times and First-team All-Pro six times since his debut in 2014. With his unstoppable blend of strength, technique, and explosiveness, Donald frequently overpowers offensive linemen and disrupts opponents’ game plans.

Ndamukong Suh has consistently been one of the most feared defensive tackles in the NFL since entering the league in 2010. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ lineman has received five Pro Bowl selections and been named First-team All-Pro three times. Suh’s size, power, and aggressive play have made him a dominant force on the defensive front throughout his career.

Fletcher Cox of the Philadelphia Eagles is another top-tier interior defensive lineman. A six-time Pro Bowler and one-time First-team All-Pro, Cox has established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line. His ability to pressure quarterbacks and disrupt running lanes has made him a key contributor to the Eagles’ defense since 2012.

Understanding Different Defensive Schemes

In American Football, interior linemen play a crucial role in defensive schemes, helping to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. Two common defensive schemes that leverage the skills of interior linemen are the 4-3 Defense and the 3-4 Defense.

4-3 Defense

The 4-3 Defense consists of four defensive linemen and three linebackers. The interior linemen in this scheme typically include two defensive tackles, who line up close to the center. Their primary responsibilities are:

  • Controlling the gaps between the offensive linemen
  • Stopping the run
  • Collapsing the pocket to pressure the quarterback

The defensive tackles in a 4-3 scheme commonly use the following techniques:

  • 0 Technique: Lining up directly over the center.
  • 2 Technique: Lining up over the offensive guard.
  • 4 Technique: Lining up over the offensive tackle.

It is important for interior linemen in the 4-3 Defense to be strong and able to hold their ground against double-team blocks.

3-4 Defense

In the 3-4 Defense, there are three defensive linemen and four linebackers. The interior linemen in this scheme primarily consist of one nose tackle, who lines up directly over the center. Their main responsibilities include:

  • Controlling the gaps between the center and the guards
  • Occupying multiple blockers to free up linebackers
  • Maintaining their position to prevent the offensive line from reaching the second level

The nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme often uses the following techniques:

  • 0 Technique: Lining up directly over the center.
  • 2 Technique: Lining up over the offensive guard.
  • 4 Technique: Lining up over the offensive tackle.

Interior linemen in the 3-4 Defense are typically larger and rely on their size and strength to clog up the interior and disrupt the offense.