The 3-4 Madden defense has regained popularity in the past decade, something evidenced by the number of teams in Madden 23 with 3-4 playbooks. However, the only issue is that there aren’t many packages from the 3-4 base, so many defenses will have similar, if not the same, plays.
Below, you will find Outsider Gaming’s list of the best 3-4 playbooks in Madden 23.
1. Baltimore Ravens (AFC North)
- Cover 3 (Bear)
- Sting Pinch (Over)
- Weak Blitz 3 (Under)
For nearly all of Baltimore’s near three decade existence, their identity has been formed around their defense. While quarterback Lamar Jackson has shifted that a bit, Baltimore still provides a stout defense out of the 3-4 base defense.
Marlon Humphrey (90 OVR) leads the way in the secondary, your shutdown corner. He’s joined in the back by free safety Marcus Williams and corner Marcus Peters (both 86 OVR), with Kyle Fuller (80 OVR) rounding out the secondary members rated 80 OVR. Up front, Michael Pierce (88 OVR) and Calais Campbell (87 OVR) should create issues for the offensive line. Outside linebackers Justin Houston (79 OVR) and sleeper pick Odafe Oweh (78 OVR) round out the defense.
Cover 3 is a zone defense that should present few openings with the speed and coverage abilities of the Baltimore defense. Sting Pinch is a blitz that sends three backers for extra pressure, leaving the team in man defense. Weak Blitz 3 is a zone blitz that could become a handy third and fourth-and-long situations as only the flats and short passes are conceded to guard the middle and deep zones.
2. Los Angeles Chargers (AFC West)
- Cover 3 Buzz Mike (Over)
- Tampa 2 (Odd)
- 1 Robber Press (Under)
While much of the talk has centered on the development of emerging star quarterback Justin Herbert, the championship goals of the AFC’s Los Angeles team really depends on the performance of the defense, which should be one of the best in the league.
Strong safety Derwin James, Jr. (93 OVR) is the highest rated Charger in Madden 23. He’s helped in the secondary by cornerbacks J.C. Jackson (90 OVR) and Bryce Callahan (82 OVR). The front seven is a strong group led by defensive stalwarts Khalil Mack (92 OVR) and Joey Bosa (91 OVR) at outside backers. They’re joined up front by end Sebastian Joseph-Day (81 OVR).
Cover 3 Buzz Mike is a zone blitz that sends an outside backer as added pressure, with the end on the blitzing side attacking inside to hopefully draw the tackle toward them, opening up the lane for the blitzing backer. Tampa 2 is your typical Tampa 2 zone defense, a solid choice on any and-long situations. 1 Robber Press is a man defense with the safeties in zone, the secondary pressing on the receivers, to disrupt their routes immediately.
3. Los Angeles Rams (NFC West)
- Sam Mike 1 (Bear)
- Cover 1 QB Spy (Under)
- Sting Pinch (Over)
For many, the lasting image of the defending Super Bowl Champion’s victory is the pass from Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp. However, it was really the play of Aaron Donald (99 OVR) in those last few minutes that sealed the title for the now-Los Angeles Rams, becoming the second team to win the title in their home stadium. Interestingly, it had never happened until Tampa Bay two seasons ago and has now occurred two consecutive seasons.
Led by seemingly perpetual member of the 99 Club in Donald, the NFC’s Los Angeles teams also has Jalen Ramsey at corner, who just missed the 99 Club at 98 OVR. Former divisional rival Bobby Wagner (91 OVR) is now manning the middle of the field for Los Angeles, forming arguably the best trio of defensive lineman-linebacker-defensive back in the NFL.
Cover 1 QB Spy keeps a safety in a deep zone while sending both outside backers on a blitz, leaving the others in man defense. Sam Mike 1 is a blitz that sends the Sam and Mike backers, providing pressure through the line and off of the edge. Sting Pinch is more of a risky play with the amount of pressure sent, but with the Rams, the coverage and pressure shouldn’t be an issue.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North)
- Cross Fire 3 (Even)
- Cover 4 Drop (Odd)
- Saw Blitz 1 (Over)
A team long renowned for running a 3-4 defense, Pittsburgh should have another top-ten defense in the NFL this year.
Led by the most recent dominant Watt on defense, T.J. Watt (96 OVR), the Steelers will need their defense to remain competitive considering the lack of clarity on the quarterback situation. Joining Watt in the front seven are Cameron Heyward (93 OVR), Myles Jack (82 OVR), and Tyson Alualu (82 OVR). The secondary is led by Minkah Fitzpatrick (89 OVR), with Ahkello Witherspoon (79 OVR) and Terrell Edmunds (78 OVR) joining him.
Cross Fire 3 is a zone blitz that sends the inside backers on a cross blitz through the line. You’ll only have to worry about short passes to the flat or over the middle, really. Cover 4 Drop may become your go-to third and fourth-and-long play as it readily gives up the short passes to create a nearly impenetrable defense with the mid and deep zones. Saw Blitz 1 is a man blitz that sends two backers for pressure, hopefully allowing Watt to sack the quarterback.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC South)
- Will Sam 1 (Bear)
- Cover 3 Sky (Cub)
- Cover 1 Hole (Over)
With the offense predicted to take a slight step back, Tampa Bay’s quest for a second title in three years will come heavily on the backs of their defenders.
Tampa Bay is led in the front by Vita Vea (93 OVR), Lavonte David (92 OVR), and Shaquil Barrett (88), a strong trio in the box. The secondary has second-year player Antoine Winfield, Jr. (87 OVR), son of former 14-year veteran Antoine Winfield, who also played in the secondary (though at corner to his son’s free safety). The secondary is strong, being rounded out by corners Jamal Dean (82 OVR), Carlton Davis III (82 OVR), and Sean Murphy-Bunting (79 OVR), along with strong safety Logan Ryan (80 OVR).
Will Sam 1 sends both outside backers on a blitz, keeping a safety over top in a deep zone with the others in man coverage. Cover 3 Sky is going to be a good long distance defense play. Cover 1 Hole should provide you with a enough pressure and the safeties’ zones over to mitigate big plays.
Madden 23 has many teams with the 3-4 in their playbook, but these represent a solid combination of playbook and personnel. Which playbook will you choose for yourself?
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