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Example of tight end positioning in an offensive formation.

The tight end (TE) is a position in American football on the offense. The Tight End is sometimes the last man on the Offensive Line, but has a slightly different build and a different role than other Linemen. The role of Tight Ends can change depending on the tactical preferences of the head coach, but their main jobs are: block for the Running Back or Quarterback who is carrying the ball, catch passes from the quarterback, and help develop a stronger pocket by assisting fellow Linemen in blocking during passing plays. The Tight End usually lines up next to an offensive tackle, adding a man to that side of the Offensive Line. The side the Tight End is on is called the "strong side"; the side without one is the "weak side". (Linebackers, by extension, have "strong-side" or "weak-side" roles depending on which side of the defense they line up on; similarly, the safeties take their places in the secondary on the side the opposing tight end plays.) Tight ends can also come in motion before a play. Though usually lined up on the Offensive Line, unless an open call is made in the huddle, the Tight End is not considered an Offensive Lineman, but rather a 'Y' slot receiver.




Some plays are planned to take advantage of a tight end's eligibility (i.e. that they may lawfully catch a forward-passed football). At times, the tight end will not be covered by the defense, a situation that rarely occurs with the regular receivers. The tight end is usually faster than the linebackers who cover him and often stronger than the cornerbacks and safeties who try to tackle him. However, tight ends are typically chosen for their speed and catching ability and therefore tend to have less size and blocking ability. Although contemporary tight ends are expected to catch acceptably, their multiple roles in blocking for the runner and blocking against the pass rush means they don't often catch balls. Tight-ends can also be used on special teams for the "hands teams" which consist of the best receivers on the field.


In the National Football League (NFL), tight ends are usually larger and slower than a wide receiver, and therefore able to block more effectively.[1] It is the job of the tight end, along with the fullback, to open up a hole in the defense for the tailback to run through. Tight ends can also be used along with the offensive linemen to protect the quarterback during passing plays. Often, tight ends are employed in a fullback position called "H-Back" in which he is still beside the tackle, however off the line of scrimmage. Tight Ends may also pass block like other offensive linemen. Some teams employ tight ends solely to block, however this position is sometimes filled by an offensive lineman who has reported to the referee that his number is now an eligible receiving number; this makes him "Tackle Eligible".

Most modern offenses (due to the introduction of the West Coast Offense) now use Tight Ends more as receivers than blockers. Traditionally Tight Ends were just blockers eligible to catch passes; however, now Tight Ends are more like bigger and slower receivers who can also block more effectively than most Wide Receivers. Most Tight Ends are generally large in size which an average height of 6'3" and a weight exceeding 240 lbs.

The origin of the two tight end set is unclear. The Detroit Lions[2] and the Washington Redskins[3] have been credited with being the first teams to utilize two tight ends as part of their base offense. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick also claims to have developed the formation while he was an assistant coach of the Lions. Currently, the San Francisco 49ers, under Coach Mike Singletary and Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye II, use the formation extensively with Tight Ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.

Jersey numbers

In collegiate and high school football, tight ends are restricted to numbers 1-49 and 80-99. In the NFL, numbering regulations state that tight ends must wear numbers 80-89, or when those are unavailable, 20-49.


  1. ^ Football 101: Tight Ends and Quarterbacks by Mark Lawrence. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
  2. ^ Double trouble: Cowboys' Parcells jumping on two-tight-end trend, September 20, 2006. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
  3. ^ Too Deep Zone: Running with Multiple Tight Ends by Mike Tanier, 20 Oct. 2006. Retrieved 2010-02-25.

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