Scout's notebook glossary

After recently finalizing the 21-part Scout’s Notebook series, a reader suggested further explaining some of the terms used. Here are 10 of them, with further explanation:

ANCHOR: A term that was used in relation to both offensive linemen and linebackers, the anchor is a player’s ability to take on an opponent and not give ground. For example, when a left tackle is in pass protection, he anchors by planting his feet in the ground and not being pushed back further by a rusher.

BALL SKILLS: A player’s ability to make a play on the ball and the skills involved with either catching or defending it. As a receiver, ball skills refer to hands, adjustments on the ball, and leveraging defenders at the point of the catch. As a defender, ball skills refer to the ability to intercept passes, tip passes, dislodge the football from a ball carrier, and make plays on the ball when it is in the air.

FUNCTIONAL ATHLETICISM: We use physical tests like the 40-yard dash and 3-cone drill to measure a player’s raw athleticism, but it doesn’t always translate onto the field. How often does a guard actually run 40 yards in a straight line during an NFL play? Functional athleticism refers to how well a player makes use of his athleticism in relevant domains to his position. Although Tom Brady is a below average raw athlete by NFL standards, he has the footwork and poise to show strong pocket presence, suggesting he has enough functional athleticism to be elusive within the pocket.

GUNNER/VICE: A gunner serves as the outside player on the punt team (often a defensive back or wide receiver) who is able to release down the field immediately upon the snap. He is a primary coverage player for the punting team. The vice is the player (or often two players) charged with deterring a gunner from getting down the field. Vices are most often defensive backs.

POINT OF ATTACK: The point of attack is simply where an offensive and defensive player meet. For linemen, it’s where a block occurs. When a linebacker is tracking a running back, it’s where the two collide. All football players must be strong at the point of attack.

QUICKNESS VS. AGILITY: These are two of the primary facets to measuring athleticism, and although they are extremely similar, there is one primary differentiator: quickness refers to vertical movements (going forwards/backwards), while agility relates to lateral movements.

REACTIVE ATHLETICISM: The ability of a player to mirror the movements of an opponent. Defensive backs have to have strong reactive athleticism to keep up with receivers.

SET THE EDGE: This term has differing meanings on either side of the ball. On offense, setting the edge refers to the blocker to the play side who is responsible for sealing off a defender so that the running back can run around him and have a free lane to the perimeter. On defense, it refers to the defender who has the task of locking out his blocker and turning the play inside, thus reducing the field for the defense.

STACK AND SHED: As was discussed in the context of inside linebackers, one of their primary jobs is to take on blocks squarely (stack) and accordingly fight off the block to make a tackle (shed). Jerod Mayo is amongst the best in the NFL at stacking and shedding.

TWO-GAP: Defensive players have responsibilities for a gap (the area between two offensive linemen) that is specific to their defense. To two-gap is to play squared-up on a blocker and defend the gap on either side of his shoulder. A 3-4 defensive end often engages an offensive tackle, allowing him to defend the gaps to both his inside and outside. It is more typical for 3-4 defensive linemen to two-gap than 4-3 defensive linemen.