Outside linebackers are tough, quick leaders on the field.
Outside linebackers are quite different depending on the front a defense uses. Outside linebackers in a 3-4 front are primarily pass rushers. Teams that prefer a 4-3 defensive front have outside linebackers who perform like inside linebackers. They align off the ball at 5 yards and are pass defenders more than pass rushers. They must be quick to diagnose runs and passes.
Versus the run game, they have a gap or multiple gaps to fill based on the offensive running play design. They will have to be strong enough to take on and shed the blocks of the offensive lineman. They must also be able to stuff and shed a lead blocker in the hole.
A 4-3 outside linebacker has to defend every aspect of the offensive game plan. Quick key and diagnosing ability is a must. Because the offense will run the ball to the tight end more frequently, the outside linebacker to the tight end is usually the bigger of the two linebackers.
The weak outside linebacker is most often the faster. The weak outside linebacker will be unblocked more often to pursue the ball on action away. There is a wide range regarding the height of the 4-3 three outside linebackers. The basic parameter would be 6’ to 6’5”. Weight can vary from 230 to 255 pounds.
Outside linebackers and a 4-3 must be able to play man and zone coverage concepts. In plays that call for man-to-man coverage they will be responsible most often for the tight end or back. On occasion, they must also cover a wide receiver.
Although pass rushing is not the primary role of the outside linebacker, they are used as blitzers fairly often. They can rush inside or outside. Players who are excellent rushers are valued highly in today’s game.
Like the inside linebacker position, the outside linebackers are involved in the action play after play.