There are few two-way players in the National Football League (NFL), as most offensive players do not play defense and vice versa. Myles Jack, a UCLA linebacker who also played running back, was named Pac-12 Conference Offensive and Defensive Freshman Player of the Year. He is the first freshman to win the award since 1958.
However, many former college football players who have gone on to play in the NFL have done so as both a quarterback and defensive player. These include Ken O'Brien, Jim Plunkett, Ron Jaworski, Brett Favre, Randall Cunningham, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton.
In addition, several current quarterbacks were drafted to be full-time defenders, including Pat White, Brandon Weeden, Tim Tebow, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, and Colin Kaepernick. Wide receivers often play defense too, such as Deion Sanders, Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Hakeem Nicks, Antonio Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, and A.J. Green.
The ability to cover ground well and hit hard is important in all areas of defense, but especially at linebacker and cornerback where physical skills are required.
Both Jack and UCLA teammate Jordan Howard were selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Other big league clubs, including Anthony Gose, Brett Eibner, and Trey Ball, have begun to test some of their prospects as two-way players. However, there are several exceptions to this rule, most notably running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Tyrell Williams. Both players are expected to contribute on both sides of the ball for their teams this season.
Two-way players are essential in modern football because they can help their team in multiple ways by playing both offense and defense. This is especially true for running backs and receivers who often see action on both sides of the ball. Two-way players are vital for coaches to utilize their best athletes and get the most out of them. Additionally, the players themselves enjoy the challenge of playing both defense and offense because it means that they are being tested in different situations. Finally, two-way players develop mental toughness in consistently facing new challenges every week.
There are only a few places where you can find two-way players in the NFL. Most commonly, these individuals can be found on college campuses during training camp and pre-season games. Every year, many top recruits choose to stay in school instead of entering the draft, mainly because they want to continue playing both defense and offense.
Players such as Ole Miss' Robert Nkemdiche, USC's Adoree Jackson, and UCLA's Myles Jack (before to his season-ending injury) are among the leaders in a new crop of athletes that play both offense and defense, which has been lacking in college football since the 1940s.
Prior to 1941, almost all football players saw action on "both sides of the ball," performing both offensive and defensive duties. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) permitted unrestricted replacements from 1941 to 1952.
Patrick Ricard, who played both fullback and defensive line in the NFL in 2017, is an example of a two-way player. A two-way player can be asked to play multiple positions during the course of a game, like Ricard was during his time with the San Francisco 49ers.
Other examples of two-way players include Cameron Jordan (defensive end for the New York Jets), Ryan Kerrigan (outside linebacker for the Washington Redskins), Brian O'Neil (cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens), and Derrick Thomas (linebacker for the Denver Broncos).
Two-way players help their teams by playing multiple positions during a single game. By doing this, they give their coaches more options on how to use their talent. The majority of two-way players are used as backups because they don't have a clear position in which they can really make an impact. However, some players such as Ricard and Jordan have managed to make a name for themselves by playing several positions on the field during one game.
Many athletes are capable of playing many positions. It's quite prevalent on both offense and defense. Some players roam around and perform different roles depending on the defense. Depending on the offensive formation, running backs can also play receiver. Wide receivers can line up at defensive end or tackle.
The most famous example of a player who can play multiple positions is Bill Belichick's favorite trick: the switch-er. Switch-ers can be used as defensive ends by switching their jersey numbers (usually the top number is switched to make it easier to identify them). They can then be used as linebackers by switching their hats or gloves. The term "switch-er" comes from the fact that they can switch defenses easily since they wear the same uniform as one of the other teams' players.
Another example is Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall. He can play any of the five positions on the field: he can be used as a cornerback or safety when covering the slot area of the field or can even play some inside linebacker if needed.
Even though these players can fit many roles on the field, that doesn't mean they will be used in such ways. Defense coordinators prefer to have a clear picture of what type of defense they are going to use, so they usually assign specific roles to their players.