In American football, the pocket is the small space where the quarterback might either become trapped, or be provided excellent protection, depending on the quarterback's mental acuity and athleticism and the quality of defense afforded by the offensive line.

Upon initiation of most offensive plays, the quarterback takes the ball and backs away from the offensive line while searching for a receiver or running back. As the defensive line presses in to stop the play, the offensive line bows and bends around the quarterback as if he were the focus of a lens. Ideally for the offense, the pocket will hold its integrity, allowing the quarterback enough time to hand the ball off to a running back or pass to a receiver or tight end. Ideally for the defense, the pocket will buckle and break, allowing for a linebacker or another defensive player to penetrate the offensive line, thus allowing him to tackle the quarterback, intercept or block a pass, or halt the advance of an offensive runner.