Weird Football Term Glossary

The phrase “Green Right Strong Slot Spider 2 Y Banana” looks like a lot of gibberish to most people. I am sure some of you are asking yourself: “What is a green right?”; “What is a spider 2?”; “And what the heck is a Y Banana?”

This play, which is a staple in many heavy passing offenses, sounds like drivel, but it makes perfect sense if you understand how to break up the parts and understand what each part actually means. The play sets up offset I-formation, with an outside wide receiver, a second (slot) wide receiver lined between the wide receiver and offensive line, and a tight end with his hand in the dirt next to the right tackle. The receiver runs a go-route (straight line), the slot receiver runs a slant across the middle of the field and the tight end runs a banana-like route, with the fullback running a quick out route to the right-hand side of the field. The plays reads “Green Right” which means an offset I-formation; “strong slot” means the receiver lines up in the slot on the left side of the offensive line, “Spider 2” is a slide protection by the offensive line (meaning the offensive linemen will slide their blocking to the left), and “Y Banana” is the route the Y receiver/tight end runs, which looks like a banana (or is supposed to). Take a look below.


Does that make sense?

I, among most sports writers, am guilty of often throwing around terms like “X receiver”, “A-Gap” and “5-technique” among other often uber-specific terms. It is my goal to help you understand a few words or phrases that are thrown around often.

0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7 technique: The picture below shows exactly what “technique” a defensive lineman is going to line up in depending on the defensive formation.

(h/t BleedingGreenNation)

A Zero Technique is a nose-to-nose nose guard that is going to bull rush a center, and then the numbers extend outward depending on which gap (explained below) the defensive linemen is going to rush, by lining up at either the right or left shoulder of the offensive lineman.

3-3-5 defense: A defensive formation that has three linemen (two defensive ends, one defensive tackle), three linebackers, and five defensive backs (three cornerbacks and two safeties).

3-4 defense: A defensive formation with three linemen, four linebackers and four defensive backs.

4-3 defense: A defensive formation with four linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs.

A/B/C – Gap: This simple illustration should explain what each “gap” is in a normal offensive line with a weak side tight end formation. The “A-gap” is aligned with the right or left shoulder of the center, the “B-gap” is over the inside shoulder of each tackle, the “C-gap” is on the outside shoulder of the tackle, and of course, the “D-Gap” is on the outside shoulder of the tight end.


(h/t BreedingGreenNation)

Box: The box is the area that the defensive linemen and linebackers line up – usually less than five yards deep from the offensive line of scrimmage. Sometimes you hear the phrase “eight-in-the-box”, which means that an eighth player has entered this area, usually a blitzing safety.

Checkdown: A checkdown is an option for the quarterback to throw if there are either no open deeper receivers, or if he finds himself under pressure. It is usually a simple route from the tight end or running back.

Cover Zero/One/Two/Three/Four: There are two types of defensive coverage – man-to-man or zone. The coverage that relates to those different types of set-ups:

  • Cover Zero: Man-to-man coverage with no safety help

(h/t HogsHaven)

  • Cover One: One safety is available in a man-to-man formation for additional help

(h/t NationalFootballPost)

  • Cover Two: Zone coverage with two deep safeties, who each help cover one half of the field.

(h/t NationalFootballPost)

  • Cover Three: Similar to cover two, but with an additional defensive back helping to cover and additional one-third of the field.


  • Cover Four: Four defensive backs are responsible for each covering one quarter of the field.

(h/t American Football Monthly)

Dime Defense: A defensive set-up with six defensive backs. You should expect to see Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Vernon Hargreaves line-up at cornerback, with Brian Poole, Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs playing safety roles in the dime package. Florida played approximately 75% dime or nickel packages last season.

Flat: Often used to describe a route ran by a receiver, the flat is a box that expands from the line of scrimmage to 10 yards deep into the defensive backfield and goes from the left or right hashmark to the sideline.

Gunner: The gunner is a special teams term for the player who is expected to get down field to tackle a return man or offensive special teams player. On a defensive special teams play, the gunner may also come from the outside and try to block a kick.

Hitch Route: A route in which a receiver runs one or two steps before stopping and turning for a quick catch. A hitch “out route” is a turn toward the sideline, and a hitch “in route” is a turn inward.

Mike Linebacker: The Mike is the middle linebacker in a defensive formation.

Nickel defense: A nickel defense is a formation with five defensive backs, as seen below. You would expect to see Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson line-up at cornerback, Brian Poole to lineup at nickel back, and a combination of safeties, likely Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins. Again, Florida played approximately 75% dime or nickel packages last season.

(h/t FirstBaseSports)

Pulling Guard: A pulling guard, is an offensive guard that sprints out in front of the running back to block as the lead blocker. An example of two pulling guards is visible in this YouTube video

Route Tree: This tree below explains the different routes that can be run from the line of scrimmage.

(h/t National Football Post)

Sam Linebacker: The Sam linebacker is the strong side linebacker in a defensive formation. The strong side usually is the side that contains the tight end.

Will Linebacker: The Will linebacker is the weak side linebacker in a defensive formation. Often plays are not run his way, so he is expected to chase down the ball carrier. An example of the Will/Mike/Sam linebacker set up in a 4-3 is below.(h/t BleacherReport)

X/Y/Z receiver:

  • X Receiver: The outside wide receiver that must line-up on the line of scrimmage. They are usually on the opposite side of the field than the tight end. A famous X Receiver would be Calvin Johnson.

  • Y Receiver: Often called a “slot receiver”, this receiver is lined up off the line of scrimmage and is usually the quickest, or shiftiest wide receiver on the field. A famous Y receiver would be Victor Cruz or Wes Welker.

  • Z Receiver: Sometimes called a “flanker”, is usually going to line up a few yards off the line of scrimmage on the same side as the tight end. A famous Z receiver would be Mike Wallace, who will be a flanker for the Miami Dolphins this season. Ultimately, the X and Z receivers can be interchangeable. For Florida’s sake, they do not necessarily call it the Z receiver, they call it the “F Position”, which is a flanker, but it can also line-up at tight-end, receiver, fullback, or running back – basically a role for Trey Burton.

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Daniel Thompson
Dan Thompson is a 2010 graduate of the University Florida, graduating with a degree in Economics and a degree in Political Science. During this time at UF, Dan worked three years for the Florida Gator Football team as a recruiting ambassador. Dan dealt daily with prospects, NCAA guidelines, and coaching staff. Dan was also involved in Florida Blue Key, Student Government and Greek Life. Currently, Dan oversees the IT consulting practice of a Tampa-based company. Dan enjoys golfing, country music, bourbon, travel, oysters, and a medium-rare steak. Dan can be found on Twitter at @DK_Thompson.