In American football, the 5–2 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of five down linemen and two linebackers.

The defensive linemen almost always line up to the weak side, with the backside lineman on the outside shoulder of the end man on the offensive line of scrimmage.

Because the extra defensive lineman makes this a strong defense against the run, it is more popular in leagues (or specific situations) that favor the running game. Thus, this defense is most often used in middle school and little league, and occasionally in different looks and variations in the NFL or college. The 5-2 used to be more popular in college football, when the running game was much more prevalent; for example, teams in the 1980s would often employ the 5-2 to combat the extremely run-oriented offenses of the time. From the mid-1950s until the early 1990s, the 5-2 was the base formation for most teams in the Big Eight Conference, due to the powerful rushing attacks of the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Oklahoma Sooners, and later in the 1980s, the Colorado Buffaloes. Currently, the Arizona Cardinals use this defense regularly, in addition to their base 3-4.

The benefit of having a 5-2 is that it adds size to your defense by replacing a linebacker with a defensive lineman. This helps in short-yardage situations where you want to stall the line of scrimmage and not give up the inside run. The disadvantage is in pass coverage—most 5-2 teams will rush all 5 defensive linemen leaving only 6 pass defenders. In some circumstances a 5-2 team will drop one of the linemen, typically an end, off into coverage. But this is primarily a situational defense, and not often used in situations where downfield pass coverage is a significant concern.

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