A defensive alignment that uses five defensive backs. The nickel is one of the most common alternative defensive alignments in use today, and it is considered to be primarily a passing defense. The defense uses an extra defensive back to combat offenses that have a dynamic tight end or use three wide receiver sets regularly. The nickel defense is more effective against the pass due to the extra defensive back, but it can be susceptible to running plays because the defense will have one less linebacker or defensive lineman than usual.
The nickel defense is a very common defense in today's game, particularly due to the evolution of passing offenses in recent years. Many teams will utilize extra wide receivers, and defenses have had to turn to extra defensive backs in order to minimize the coverage concerns that can emerge when linebackers have to guard wide receivers. Nickel defenses can also be handy if the team has a particularly effective tight end who causes matchup problems for the linebackers.