Difference Between Strong Safety And Free Safety In American Football (NFL)

Difference between Strong Safety and Free Safety varies by the size and athleticism of a player. A defensive player plays in both positions.

In Football, the safety position is a defensive position that supports the team’s run and pass. They are the last lines of defense and prevent big play from happening. They are divided into two types, i.e., Strong safety and free safety.

The Free Safety is responsible for providing in-depth coverage in the defensive backfield. They are lined up farther back from the line of scrimmage and are also called the center fielder of the defense.

Whereas strong safety is the players lined up close to the line of scrimmage. They are responsible for stopping the run, covering tight ends, and are slot receivers which provide extra support in the pass defense. They are heavier and more physical than the free safeties.

Both players are extremely important to the line of defense.

Strong Safety vs Free Safety

Difference between Strong safety and Free Safety can be determined after knowing the skillset of both positions.

Between the two safeties, the player from strong safety is larger and more physical and is used as an extra defender in the box near the line of scrimmage. Their job is to help the defense stop the run and provide support against it. 

On the other hand, players in free safety positions are more athletic and have more speed than strong safety. They are usually positioned deeper in the field, and their main job is to prevent big plays in the passing game.

Strong safeties are usually called to cover the tight ends and slot receivers in the passing and running games. They must have the strength to take on the blockers and make tackles.

Whereas for the free safeties, their main job is seen in the passing game, where they cover the deep passes and protect their end against the deep ball.

Free safeties are often used as the last line of defense when the opposing team gets past the defensive line and the linebackers. The player from the position must be quick and agile as they have to cover a lot of ground and make plays on the ball. 

Their playing style is also the key difference between them. Strong safety plays as the enforcer of the defense, whereas free safety is the playmakers. 

Both positions are used quite differently in a game. Strong safeties are used as extra defenders in the box, while free safeties are always the last line of defense in every team.

The skillset that players from both positions have to have is also quite different. Strong safeties need to be strong and physical, whereas free safeties need to be leaner and quick.

Strong safety strength helps them to take on blocks from the blockers and also helps them in making great tackles. The free safety speed helps them cover a lot of ground, which helps them make plays. 

Both safeties have to communicate with players from other positions as well. Strong safeties often communicate with the defensive line and linebackers, whereas free safeties often have to communicate with the cornerbacks.

Is Strong Safety Or Free Safety More Important?

Strong safety is more important than free safety.

Both positions are vital in football, but in comparison, strong safety is more important. The strong safeties from today’s generation must simultaneously be strong and fast.

Apart from their physicalities, the players from that position must be versatile. They are often called to cover the tight ends in the passing game, but they have even greater work in the running game as they have to block the blockers and make the tackles.

The NFL of today is played at a very high speed. Today’s teams believe more in the passing game, and for a passing game, strong safety can effectively stop an opponent’s run. And in the running game, strong safety helps to keep the opposing team from gaining yardage and scoring points.

At times Strong safeties are also used as Blitzer to pressure the quarterback, which can disrupt the opposing team’s passing game and force mistakes. This added pressure is extremely valuable in the goal-line situation where the opposing team is likely to pass the ball.

On the other hand, free safeties are positioned deeper with the primary responsibility to prevent big plays in the passing game. Though this is an important responsibility, the versatility and ability to stop the run make strong safety a much more important player on the team.

Role Of Strong Safety

Strong safety is the player responsible for providing support to the defense in both passing and running games. They are also known as a box safety.

The box safety is usually lined up closer to the line of scrimmage with the key responsibility to cover the tight ends and slot receivers, and blitzing the quarterback. To perform the responsibilities the player needs to have the ability to read and diagnose the plays quickly. 

Famous Strong Safeties of All time 

Some of the famous Strong Safeties of all time are :

  • Troy Polamalu
  • Ken Houston
  • Dennis Smith
  • John Lynch
  • Darren Woodson
  • Leroy Buttler
  • Tim McDonald
  • Carnell Lake
  • Donnie Shell
  • Rodney Harrison

Role Of Free Safety

The vital position that is responsible for providing deep coverage in the defensive backfield is Free Safety. They are also known as the center field safety.

The center field safety typically lines up farther from the scrimmage line and is responsible for preventing deep pass plays. They also make sure that tackles are performed in an open field. 

The major responsibility of free safety is to prevent deep passing plays, which require the player to have good coverage skills. They must make quick decisions and react while the ball is in the air. 

Moreover, the free safety has to be able to tackle the player in the open spaces. The coaches around the NFL choose their most athletic player to play in this position.

Famous Free Safeties from All time

Some of the famous free safeties from all time are :

  • Ronnie Lott
  • Ed Reed
  • Willie Wood
  • Larry Wilson
  • Paul Krause
  • Darren Sharper
  • Steve Atwater
  • Yale Larry
  • Jake Scott
  • Eugene Robinson

The strong safety and free safety positions are both important in American football, but they have distinct responsibilities and require different skill sets. Understanding the differences between these positions is essential for players, coaches, and fans alike, as it allows them to appreciate each player’s unique contributions to the defense.