Football is one of the most popular sports in the world, with millions of fans tuning in to watch games every week. It is a sport that requires a lot of strategy, athleticism, and teamwork. There are many positions on a football team, each with their own specific responsibilities. One such position is the WILL linebacker.
A WILL linebacker (or weak side linebacker) lines up on the weak side of the offensive formation, meaning the side of the field with fewer offensive players. This is decided by the formation of the offensive line on the line of scrimmage and the style of defense being played - such as 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
The WILL linebacker position also depends upon the location of the middle linebacker (mike linebacker) and the strong side linebacker (SAM linebacker). They tend to line up between 4-10 yards off the weak side of the offensive formation, but this will vary between running plays and passing plays.
What are their responsibilities?
The Will Linebacker plays a vital role in the defense team. The primary responsibilities of a Will Linebacker are:
Covering the run: The WILL backer is responsible for stopping the run game. They are typically positioned on the weak side of the formation, where they have more space to move and can attack the ball carrier with speed and agility.
Coverage: The WILL backer is also responsible for covering the pass game. They are often asked to drop into pass coverage to defend against running backs, tight ends, or slot receivers in their area.
Blitzing: The WILL Linebacker is frequently used in blitzing situations, where they are sent on a rush to try to pressure the quarterback or disrupt the opposing team's play.
Pursuing the ball carrier: The WILL backer needs to be a fast and agile player who can track down the ball carrier and make tackles from sideline to sideline.
Making defensive calls: The WILL backer is often tasked with making defensive calls, communicating with other players on the team, and adjusting the defensive alignment based on the offensive formation.
What makes a great WILL linebacker?
A great WILL (Weakside Inside Linebacker) linebacker in football typically possesses a unique combination of physical and mental traits, including:
Speed and agility: The WILL backer to be fast and agile enough to pursue running backs and receivers in open space and cover the short and intermediate zones.
Quick reflexes: They must be able to react quickly to changes in the play and make split-second decisions.
Strength and tackling ability: They should be able to take on blockers, shed them quickly, and make strong, secure tackles.
Coverage skills: They should be able to cover tight ends, running backs, and slot receivers in man-to-man coverage and zone coverage.
Football IQ: They should have a deep understanding of the game, including the offensive schemes, formations, and tendencies.
Leadership: They often calls the defensive plays and must be able to communicate effectively with the other members of the defense.
Instincts: A great WILL linebacker has an innate sense of where the ball is going, which helps him anticipate the play and make a quick read.
Famous NFL WILL linebackers
Dick Butkus: Butkus was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a six-time First-Team All-Pro. He was known for his physicality and hard hits, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
Brian Urlacher: Urlacher was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a four-time First-Team All-Pro. He helped lead the Bears to a Super Bowl appearance in 2006 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.