Free Safety

Football is a popular sport that has been around for over a century. It is followed by millions of people around the world, and it involves two teams of eleven players each. The objective of the game is to score more points than the other team by carrying, passing or kicking the ball into the opponent’s end zone.

One of the positions in football is the free safety. But exactly is a free safety, and what do they do?

The free safety (FS) is a defensive player in American and Canadian football who lines up in the secondary, which is the area behind the line of scrimmage. Usually the free safety positions themselves in the deep part of the field, behind the linebackers and other defensive backs.

The primary role of the free safety is to cover the pass and prevent the opposing team from scoring. This is unlike a strong safety (SS) who is more focused on stopping the run on the strong side of the field, and therefore positions themselves much closer to the line. Despite having different responsibilities, free safety and strong safety should work together to be the last line of defense.

What are their responsibilities?

The responsibilities of a free safety can vary depending on the defensive scheme and the specific play call, but generally include the following:

  • Coverage: The primary responsibility of a free safety is to defend against the pass. They must be able to read the quarterback's eyes and anticipate where the ball is going, while also staying aware of the movements of the opposing wide receivers. The free safety must be able to cover a large area of the field, and must be able to react quickly to any changes in the play. Depending on the pass play the free safety may be asked to play man coverage or zone coverage.

  • Run support: While their primary role is in pass defense, the free safety must also be able to provide support against run plays. This may involve filling gaps, tackling ball carriers, or assisting other defenders in stopping the play.

  • Communication: The free safety is often responsible for calling out defensive adjustments and communicating with other defenders. They must be able to read the offense and adjust their own positioning and the positioning of their teammates accordingly.

  • Blitzing: Depending on the defensive scheme, the free safety may also be called upon to blitz the quarterback or disrupt the offensive line.

What makes a great free safety?

A great free safety in football is typically known for their athleticism, speed, agility, and ability to read and react to the opposing team's offensive plays. Here are some specific qualities that make a great free safety:

  • Field Vision: A great free safety should have excellent field vision, which allows them to quickly analyze the play and read the quarterback's intentions. This enables them to anticipate the play and move to the right position to intercept the ball.

  • Speed and Agility: A great free safety should be fast and agile to cover a large area of the field and quickly change direction when needed. This also helps them to make tackles on opponents who are attempting to break through the defensive line.

  • Intelligence: A great free safety should have a high football IQ, allowing them to recognize and anticipate offensive plays and adjust their positioning accordingly. They should also be able to communicate effectively with their teammates to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

  • Tackling: A great free safety should be a reliable tackler, able to bring down ball carriers in open space and prevent them from gaining extra yards.

  • Ball Skills: A great free safety should have excellent ball skills, including the ability to intercept passes and knock down potential receptions. They should also be able to recover loose balls and fumbles.

Famous NFL free safeties

  • Ed Reed: Reed is considered to be one of the greatest safeties of all time and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

  • Ronnie Lott: Lott is widely considered to be one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

  • Earl Thomas: Thomas was a key member of the "Legion of Boom" defense that helped lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory in 2013. He is known for his speed and range as a free safety.