The evolving role of running back.
In this current style of football most offenses use only one running back. When there are 2 running backs in the game one of them is primarily a blocker. The running back aligns behind the QB or just to the side of him in the backfield. The position is called running back because he is the player most likely to get the quarterback’s handoff and run with the ball. In running plays, the running back is trying to avoid all 11 defenders who are trying to tackle him. That’s 1 versus 11 on running plays.
As offenses have evolved into the game you see today, you can find the running back lined anywhere on the field. He can be aligned as a receiver in any of the eligible positions in the formation. His role has evolved much like offenses. He must not only be a good runner, but must be able to catch the ball as well as a receiver. One of the most underrated of all his duties is his ability to block as a pass protector. You might see one running back in the game on early downs and a different one on third down. That can be for a number of reasons.
The third-down back is most likely a better receiver and pass protector. At times, it is simply to give the early down back a rest. The running back position is no longer run to daylight position. The position is far more intricate and complicated than in past years. The running back must be able to identify defenses and his protection assignment as well as know and execute his pass routes.
The running backs of today’s game are fast, powerful, durable, elusive, explosive, and knowledgeable of all aspects of the game.
The best runners have great vision of the field as the play unfolds in real-time and can make a cut instantly to attack an opening.
Today’s running backs come in all shapes and sizes. They might be short, stocky and powerful or tall, lean and fast. They sometimes take the most violent and vicious hits on the field. They are one of the toughest players in the game.
For details on other position players see my book.