“The pocket” is a u-shape area behind the offensive line of scrimmage that temporarily protects the quarterback on passing plays during football games. This u-shape space is a made-up area where the offensive line keeps defenders away from getting to the passer for a bit. So, what makes this area so important for a QB to stand in during a game? Here is the complete breakdown of what the pocket is in American Football.
How Big is the Pocket in American Football?
The imaginary pocket in the offensive backfield is around five yards deep and seven yards wide. When watching a game on TV, you might see the announcer highlight the pocket between the two outside offensive tackles on a play. Typically speaking, having good blockers gives quarterbacks enough time to scan the field and make a pass before a defender gets to them.
Why is the Pocket Important in American Football?
The pocket is the offensive lineman’s protective bubble for the QB to throw the ball before a defender gets there. Having a good pocket presence means the QB can focus on their receivers while sensing where the defenders are. Having a lousy pocket presence means a QB is looking around at the defenders and not seeing open receivers down the field.
What Does Stepping up in the Pocket Mean?
Stepping up in the pocket is a common phrase you hear analysts say of a QB who stays in the pocket. For instance, Drew Brees is not a fast QB but has a great eye to find an open receiver downfield. Drew Brees can wait in the pocket and quickly release the football to a wide receiver right before a defender gets to him to disrupt the play.
How Long Does an NFL QB Have in the Pocket?
Some of the best QB’s in the game get the ball from a hike and release it to a tight end or wide receiver in under three seconds. According to Bleacher Report, Tom Brady takes 2.6 seconds to throw on average to one of his teammates. By releasing the ball under 3 seconds, Tom Brady avoids sacks while making intelligent and accurate throws to his teammates to move the offense down the field.
Do Coaches Care about this Area?
Football coaches break down videotapes of quarterbacks in College Football and the NFL to look for flaws. One common flaw is if a QB moves too much within the pocket, which means their feet aren’t set when they throw. By not having your feet set in the direction of the throw, they might not make an accurate pass, which could lead to interceptions.
What Does it Mean When the Quarterback is Out of Pocket?
When the pocket collapses, like on a blitz, you might see the QB scramble out of the pocket zone. By scrambling away from a defender, the QB is trying to limit a sack rather than complete a pass. Sometimes, for a defense, getting a slow QB to run out of the pocket disrupts that passing play, turning into an incomplete pass or interception.
Why Do Some QB’s Move out of the Pocket?
Michael Vick was an elite quarterback and pass-rusher in 2006 for the Atlanta Falcons. What made him so dangerous was that he could leave the pocket and draw defenders toward him because they were unsure if he would run or pass. By having the defense commit one way or another, Michael Vick could capitalize on passing or running with the ball. He averaged 6.4 yards per pass and 8.5 yards per run during that year.
When Can the QB Throw the Ball Away?
A QB can throw the ball out of bounds when they are outside the pocket area. That means a QB getting away from a defensive end on a blitz can throw the ball out of bounds. However, a QB can’t throw the ball out of bounds when they are in the imaginary pocket.
For example, a QB can’t get the ball and immediately throw it out of bounds during a blitz play while being in the pocket. The same goes for immediately throwing the ball deep down the field where nobody is, so they don’t throw an interception. If a QB does either of those things, it is intentional grounding.
What is the Penalty for Intentional Grounding in American Football?
The penalty for intentional grounding is a loss of downs and having the ball move back 10 yards from the previous line of scrimmage. With that penalty being the case, some QB’s elect to take the sack and hold the ball tight so they don’t fumble it. Where QB’s get in trouble is when they run backward on a blitz and get sacked for more than ten yards.
If a passer performs intentional grounding with less than ten yards to their own end zone, the play results in a safety. A safety occurs because the offense moves back ten yards, which would mean that they would start their next drive in their touchdown area, so the safety call occurs. Getting a safety is two points for the defending team, and the defense gets the ball back to start a fresh set of downs.
Conclusion: What is the Pocket in Football?
In summary, the pocket is an imaginary area of the field that sits behind the offensive line of scrimmage. The protected area is about five yards deep and seven yards wide. The pocket is crucial because it is this protective bubble that the offensive line creates for the QB. Getting those few seconds can allow them to make a successful pass to a teammate.