While some Madden players bemoan the idea of playing defense, even going as far as simulating it all together, playing on the other side of the ball often brings the opportunity to make something out of nothing.
From the prospect of lighting up ball carriers in open play, to forcing turnovers by picking off the quarterback with a ball-hawking secondary, there aren’t many more satisfying feelings in football than taking away a ball that wasn’t yours to begin with.
So, let’s dig into the top tips and tricks that you can use to operate a mighty defensive unit.
Use defensive play-calling wisely
First, for new players, let’s start by defensive play-calling. Your players will carry out their individual assignments shown in each play’s diagram.
Irrespective of your experience in Madden, the tip is not to overthink things.
Many successful defensive teams, both in Madden and real-life football, stick to simple schemes to curb both the run and pass, with a “bend, but don’t break” mentality.
Sure, the plan is to prevent a first down, force the opposition to point, or even turn the ball over, but don’t be disheartened if your opposition is marching down the field with relative ease.
Once your opponents reach your red-zone (inside your defensive 20-yard line), things become quite congested and, therefore, easier to defend. Preventing the touchdown and only conceding a field goal is definitely a moral victory.
Control the right player
A good place to start your approach is to work out which player you are going to control. To change player, press circle on the PS4 or B on the Xbox One, guiding the selection with the analog to pick the player.
For new players, it’s strongly recommended that you select a player in the first two levels of the defense: the defensive line (nearest to the opposition offense), and the underneath coverage, which sits between your defensive line and defensive backs.
Gradually, through more experience, you’ll find that playing as the middle linebacker to cause havoc is the way to go.
On top of this, it’s also best to control a player looking to pursue the ball carrier or quarterback, which can be seen by revealing your team’s play art.
To do this, press L2 or LT. Playing as a defensive back predominantly, particularly as a new player, can lead to burnt coverages and downright disastrous results without any experience.
Dominate at the line of scrimmage
Containing opposing offenses is the objective, though the ultimate goal is to prevent any forward movement, either by swamping the running back on a rushing play or by an incomplete pass from the quarterback.
Through the slightly tweaked controls in defensive engagement, you can swim past or drive over offensive linemen to make a play.
For experienced Madden players, you may notice that there have been changes to moves at the line of scrimmage, with the right stick being crucial for beating offensive lineman.
Bigger lineman will favor the bull rush and rip moves (down and up on the right stick, respectively), with your more nimble linemen likely favoring the swim and club moves (left and right on the right stick).
Tip: In the early build of Madden 21, the swim and club moves seem the most effective at breaking through the defensive line.
If your defensive pursuit doesn’t reach the quarterback in time, all is not lost. Either the pressure mounted on the thrower will cause enough duress to force a mistake, or even turn the ball over.
From here, it’s worth quickly changing which player you control to a member of your backfield so that you can pull off a play.
With the default controller settings, pressing circle in-play will automatically change you to the player most likely player to pull off a play in the secondary.
Once a member in your backfield is selected, holding down Triangle or Y will trigger an attempt to intercept the pass. While picking off the pass is the ideal result, forcing an incomplete pass is the next best thing.
Tip: If you are controlling defensive backs for the entirety of the play, the L1 or LB buttons for defensive assist and the strafe (L2/LT) are your best options. Your player’s change of direction rating will help when reacting to the pass and the intended receiver, but your ability to blanket receivers will force the quarterback to look elsewhere.
Learn your best plays in a defensive pursuit
There will be times when you’ll be scurrying to bring down ball carriers. In open play, it can be tricky to lineup the ball carrier for a safe tackle on the ball.
Attempting big hits with the right stick can result in knocking the ball loose, though the timing and direction are fickle and can result in you being embarrassed by the ball carrier.
Conservative tackles with X or A in open play are the best options, with hit sticks made safer against the QB or in tight spaces with more surrounding defensive pressure.
Holding L2 or LT to strafe will help line your defenders up to make tackles, but you don’t need to be a mathematician to work out that multiple pursuers of the ball will swing the odds in your favor.
Make the most of your best defensive players
Finally, and especially for those relatively new to the Madden game franchise, it’s crucial to know how to use your team’s superstars.
The cream of the NFL will be equipped with X-Factor abilities, so look out for the “X” icons under your players, and consult your team’s depth chart to see how to best use your prized assets.
Use practice and training to harness your defensive skills
Make sure to invest some time in the practice mode and the Skills Trainer to give you the best opportunity to build on your defensive skills without the consequences of conceding a barrage of points.
Experiment with the different positions to find the best approach for you, and through practice, you should reach a point where you feel that you’re making the biggest possible influence on the game.
Now, you should be well-equipped to dominate opposing offenses with the defense in your hands.
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