Game Play Thursday : 8 in The Box

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I’m in the process of trying to really learn the game. As in, I totally understand everything that is going on on the field, everything the announcers say, what the lingo and play calls mean, ALL of it. It’s an uphill climb, but I’m loving it!

So I wanted to start sharing with you all the little bits of knowledge I’m picking up throughout the week. We’ll call it Game Play Thursdays.

Today, it’s an explanation of something I kept hearing but had no idea what it meant: having “8 in the box.” Here’s the breakdown:


  • 8 refers to the number of defensive players who are occuying “the box”
  • The box is the defensive area directly across from the offensive line (the 5 man line consisting of the Left Tackle, Left Guard, Center, Right Guard, and Right Tackle)
  • Usually, there are 7 defensive players in the box – linemen and linebackers.
  • When a defense is trying to stop a running play or wants to blitz the QB, they might have another defensive player – usually the Strong Safety (the Safety who is playing on the same side of the field as the Tight End) – come down from his usual position upfield where he defends against the pass and “shake down” into the box. This gives the defense the advantage of having an extra man in coverage near the line of scrimmage.


Here’s a visual, thanks to a screen shot from FOX and a breakdown on Bleacher Report (I just added the numbers) of 8 in the box:

Roman Harper, the strong safety, is the “8th” in the box, and his path is identified by the red line in front of him.

This play ended up not going very well for the Saints. RGIII, the Redskins QB, totally sold the run. But it was a fake – he was actually going to throw it to his Wide Receiver, Pierre Garcon, down the field. And he did. And Garcon caught it. BOOM.

And thus the disadvantage of bringing 8 in the box: less protection against passing plays.

Does any of that make sense?