pocket in football

What Is The Pocket In Football?

Ever heard people say the quarterback is standing in the pocket? Yes, the word pocket is widely used in football. So, what is the pocket in football?

The pocket is the small area protected by the offensive linemen to allow quarterbacks to make a throw. It is a small area formed around quarterbacks during passing plays.

It’s not a single specific area on the field. A pocket can change on specific plays. It’s a non-linear space that greatly determines how a quarterback throws.

Join me as I take a closer look at the pocket space in football.

How Big Is the Pocket in Football? 

An imaginary pocket in American football is 5-7 yards wide. When watching a football game, you will see two offensive tackles protect a quarterback. The space they give him is the pocket range from 5-7 yards.

It makes sense to have good blockers in your team. They give protection to the quarterback and ensure he has enough time to scan the field. Consequently, this gives the QB enough time to make an accurate pass.

How the Pocket Effects the Rules

The pocket affects the rules in a football game and helps protect the quarterback in many ways. Safety is increasingly becoming crucial in football. More effort is being placed on quarterbacks who are at higher risks of tackles and injuries.

football quarterback holding the football

The quarterback position has the most rules in football. The rules are even more when quarterbacks are inside the pocket. Most of the rules protecting quarterbacks go away once they leave the pocket.

Why? Quarterbacks out of the pocket are viewed more as ball carriers.

Here are some rules that come into place when in the pocket.

One-step Rule

This is the first rule in effect when in a pocket. Once a quarterback throws a football, he can only take a step before being tackled. If he is roughed up after multiple steps, the offending team gets a 15-yard penalty.

However, the rule doesn’t apply once a quarterback leaves the pocket. This is why quarterbacks have to make throws from the pocket.

Low hits

Low hits are penalties when quarterbacks in a pocket are tackled below their knees. A 15-yard penalty is given from tackles below the knee inside the pocket. The rule doesn’t apply outside the pocket.

Intentional grounding

This is one rule that is not based on safety. Quarterbacks can throw the ball out of bounds without any penalty under the following criteria.

  • The quarterback must be out of the pocket
  • The ball must pass the line of scrimmage

However, a quarterback throwing the ball from the pocket gets an intentional grounding rule.

You’ll always see quarterbacks escaping and rushing towards the sidelines to make a throw and evade the rule.

What Does Stepping up in the Pocket Mean?

Stepping in the pocket means the quarterback is moving closer to the line of scrimmage. This usually happens due to pressure from the defence.

The defence applying pressure from the outside can force the quarterback into the pocket. In most cases, the defensive players rush around the offensive tackles to get to the quarterback.

The quarterback will be forced to step in the pocket and find some space for a pass.

What Does it Mean When the Quarterback is Out of Pocket?

When a quarterback is out of pocket, it means the quarterback is scrambling to get out of the pocket. This can happen during a blitz. The quarterback will try to get out of the pocket to avoid a sack from a defender.

football player in white jersey holds the football

The defence will try and force the quarterback from making a complete pass like a bubble screen. This can result in an incomplete pass or interception. No quarterback knew how to get out of the pocket better than Michael Vick. He would draw defenders and then end up making a pass.

How Much Time Does a QB Have in the Pocket?

Quarterbacks usually have 2-3 seconds to make a throw in the pocket. The NFL average time for a quarterback to throw is 2.72 seconds.

So far, the longest time a quarterback has taken to make a throw is 3.2 seconds. This was by Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns. The shortest time is 2.49 seconds by Nick Foles of the Chicago Bears.

What Does Staying in the Pocket Mean?

Staying in the pocket means the quarterback is protected and going to make a pass. However, the quarterback is not allowed to make a pass without an eligible receiver with high chances to catch the ball.

When staying inside the pocket, a quarterback cannot throw the ball out of bounds. The quarterback has to move out of the imaginary pocket to throw out of bounds.

When Can the Quarterbacks Throw the Ball Away?

A quarterback can only throw the ball away when he is out of pocket. After a blitz, a quarterback can throw the ball away to avoid a sack. However, they must be outside the pocket to make the throw.

It simply means a quarterback can’t throw the ball after receiving it because of a blitz. He has to get out of the pocket. They are also not allowed to throw the ball downfield where there is nobody to receive it.

When quarterbacks make such throws, an intentional grounding rule applies.

What Is Intentional Grounding?

Intentional grounding is when a pass with the imminent danger of losing the ball throws a forward pass without any chance of completion. It’s intentional because the passer is under pressure, and the throw does not have any receiver to catch it.

Related Football Terms and What They Mean

player passing football

Pocket Passer

The pocket passer is a term referring to a quarterback that prefers to throw from the comfort of the tackle box. Such QBs rely on their IQ and good arm strengths. They rarely run with the ball.

Stepping Up In The Pocket

Stepping up in the pocket refers to a quarterback moving closer to the line of scrimmage due to pressure from the defense.

Pocket Presence

Pocket presence is the awareness of the quarterback of what’s happening around him. A quarterback in the pocket needs to know when pressure is coming.

Who Protects the Quarterback in the Pocket?

The offensive tackles are tasked with protecting the quarterback in the pocket. They usually give him 5-7 yard space to make a pass.

Can You Hit the QB in the Pocket?

You can hit a quarterback in the pocket or outside the pocket as long as he is set as the passer. However, the hit must not be below the knees.

What Is Pocket Presence?

Pocket presence is the awareness of a quarterback in the pocket of what’s happening around him.


There you go! That wraps everything from me about a pocket in football. Now you know a pocket in football is the area behind the offensive tackles where quarterbacks are protected. 

A pocket can change depending on the play, with quarterbacks having 203 seconds to pass the ball. It is an important area that can affect play.

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