Gridiron Glossary: Pocket

  1. The area in the backfield from which the quarterback throws the ball after dropping back.
  2. The space for accepting a handoff created by a ball carrier’s hands.
  3. Putting it in his pocket, a phrase describing a quaterback taking a sack on a pass play by protecting the ball instead of continuing to try to throw

Here is a picture of the pocket from (1)

Pocket Passing

The pocket is created by the blocking scheme.  Ideally it should be a protected area where no defenders are.  When that happens, like in the photo above, it is called a clean pocket.

The pocket a running back creates is the safest way to accept a handoff and is generally accepted as the proper way to accept the ball.  Note that the running back in the picture below is not reaching for the ball but allowing the quarterback to place it in the pocket.

Pocket handoff

The third usage of pocket is a metaphor for a quarterback’s decision.  The quarterback is said to put the ball in his pocket if he stops trying to throw the ball either because of coverage or the risk of a sack or fumble.

Gridiron Glossary is a resource for football terms that are often used by commentators, coaches and players but rarely defined.  If there is a term you have questions about or a definition you don’t agree with, let me know at


About Billy Koehler

Billy Koehler is the founder of and a contributing writer at He has been covering college football since 2006. You can follow him on twitter @billykoehler.
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