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    Defensive Specialist FAQ by JWatson

    Updated: 04/03/02 | Printable Version | Search Guide | Bookmark Guide

    Madden NFL 2002 Defensive Specialist FAQ
    Version 2.0
    written by: Jeremy Watson
    Web Version: in progress
    
    A small note about this FAQ, this faq will concentrate on strategies only 
    and then extras will be added later. If there is anything I might have left 
    out or you as the reader wants added...
    
    E-mail me at jeremy_w24@yahoo.com
    
    How to read this FAQ:
    +++ If you want to design your own strategies, read only the tips...
    *** Need strategy help? Read about the formations...
    ||| Need specific play help? Read about the plays...
    ### Want the ultimate team? Read the trade/sign/draft info...
    
    
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Defensive Tips
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    
    I'll start with defense since it is obviously the key to becoming a madden 
    expert. One of the best things about madden is its ability to allow situation 
    specific substitutions and save these settings for later use. This feature 
    allows maximum customization of your roster to shutdown that week's opponent. 
    However, depending on the rules (human tournaments) you might not be able to 
    do any of this, so I'll provide some other tips to help.
    
    ++++++++++++++++++++ Tip #1 - Situational Substitutions +++++++++++++++++++++
    Know your players! Your typical 4-3 is not meant to cover 4-5 WR sets. Also 
    your starting LB may not be your best cover LB. Try using your fastest LB in 
    the Dime defense while putting the best tackler in the 4-3. Why have a 
    run-stop defensive lineman in on the Nickel or Dime defense? Granted your 
    starting DT might be better overall, but when it comes to pass-rush, he just 
    doesn't cut it. Remember what you need when drafting and picking up 
    free-agents in franchise mode. Just because a player is better overall does 
    not mean they fit your defense.
    
    Another benefit of substitutions is that your players will be fresh for those 
    long drives. This couples with the fact that some of your rookies that don't 
    start will get much needed playing time experience.
    
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++ Tip #2 - Bend Don't Break +++++++++++++++++++++++++
    This is a good strategy against the computer to keep them from scoring. Pick 
    defenses that are at least a one man deep zone. This means at least one of 
    your safeties retreats deep into a zone taking away the huge pass play and 
    sometimes a long run. Control your MLB and have him cover either the TE 
    (if uncovered) or the RB/FB out of the backfield. If the RB stays in to block 
    you have the option of blitzing or droping into a short middle zone. This 
    style of play works well on first downs because it doesn't give up too much 
    and can stop the run.
    
    If you like an aggressive defense, see tip #3...
    
    ++++++++++++++++++++ Tip #3 - Pressure Pressure Pressure ++++++++++++++++++++
    Mix it up, blitz 2 LBs, drop in a zone, and play bump and run coverage. Next 
    play, bring the SS, double the X reciever, and shift you DL left. You'll be 
    surprised how much this helps against a human opponent. Shifting your DL to 
    the strong side on every play is not the best bet. If you can get to the QB 
    a fraction of a second earlier, he may throw an errant pass and it is 
    turnover city! Also watch the battle in trenches between the OL and the DL. 
    See if you can find a mismatch early in the game and try to exploit that often.
    
    An example of a mismatch is when your right DT is getting double-blocked 
    everytime unless you bring your ROLB on the blitz and shift your line left. 
    This allows your right DT to beat the single-block and get more pressure.
    
    If you like a conservative defense, see tip #2...
    
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++ Tip #4 - Know The Coverage ++++++++++++++++++++++++
    This is where you can win or lose a game. You need to know the coverage and 
    stick with it. If you are controlling the MLB and he is supposed to drop into 
    a short right zone, then do it even if there is no WR in the area. You might 
    try and cheat a little, but if you don't play the right area, the opposing 
    team's QB will eat you for breakfast. I'll go into the specifics of each 
    defense later. Make sure that if you audible to a bump and run type coverage 
    that you have a least 1 man in a deep zone if not 2.
    
    The ultimate key to coverage is matchups on both sides of the ball. Obviously 
    your opponent is going to try and get a LB one on one with a WR. You might 
    see a lot of motion to try to get those matchups. One all around strategy is 
    to pick a coverage that puts at least one DB on each WR. Be careful because 
    your opponent may try and stack one side of the field with WR or put a WR 
    in the backfield. If you have to cover a RB or WR with a LB, make sure you 
    bump them off line the line (its legal!) and have a safety deep just in case. 
    Some teams like Baltimore and Kansas City like to throw to the TE, so watch 
    for this as well.
    
    ++++++++++++++++++++++ Tip #5 - Know The Coverage Part 2 ++++++++++++++++++++
    If you don't already know who you should be covering, don't move your player 
    (keep your hands off the control pad!) until you see where he is going. If 
    he isn't running towards a offensive player, chances are that you are in a 
    zone. Zone means you have a little freedom to move around. If your defensive 
    player moves towards an offensive player then that is his coverage.
    
    As you play more games of madden, you'll get better at recognizing these 
    coverages for different formations, defenses, and even against motion. I have 
    played about 60+ games of Madden 2002 and I have about 20-25 different 
    defensive schemes that I know the coverages inside and out for. Once you get 
    to that level, you can at least stop the computer and most people from doing 
    pretty much anything (excluding luck of course)! Try to learn the coverages 
    to stop specific plays, then graduate to formations, and finally teams 
    (or players).
    
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++ Tip #6 - Who to use??? ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    There really isn't a best option here. Some people like to control the guys 
    rushing the QB while others always use one of the safeties to guard against 
    the deep ball. I've noticed that the best defense in Madden is if your LBs 
    lead the team in tackles. If your current strategy is not producing these 
    results, consider switching it up and trying to get one of your LB to lead 
    the team in tackles. What I suggest is to control the MLB (pick one if you 
    are running the 3-4 or Nickel), when he is not blitzing the QB. Know his 
    coverage... (see above) Usually the MLB should shadow one of the running 
    backs out of the backfield, cover the TE man to man, or play a short middle 
    zone.
    
    The reasoning behind using the MLB is that you can actually see the part of 
    the screen that he is supposed to be in. If your coverage takes you off the 
    screen, simply switch using X to the closest rusher and hope you MLB can 
    handle things on his own. It is better than making wild guesses where you 
    should go while off the screen. Most good Madden players will make effective 
    use of the off-screen WRs in order to frustrate opponents into blitzing more. 
    The biggest thing is to get as close as you can to the coverage before it 
    leaves the screen. Stay calm and things will happen, hey keep in mind that 
    your opponent can see what going on out there either and if you get a few 
    tips or an interception, he might think twice about trying his luck out 
    there again.
    
    
    
    
    
    *****************************************************************************
    Defenseive Formations
    *****************************************************************************
    
    This section will focus on which defensive sets to use and what players you 
    should try and get to have success.
    
    ********************************* 3-4 ***************************************
    To stop the run with this defense, you'll need great LBs who have high 
    awareness and tackling ability. Most opponents won't have any success running 
    the ball to the outside against a 3-4 defense, but watch for the inside 
    running game. If you overpursue and don't fill those gaps, you'd better have 
    some good safeties!
    
    To stop the pass with this defense, you'll need to either bring the blitz and 
    hope for pressure before an overmatched LB loses his coverage, or drop into 
    a zone that will probably give up 7-8 yard passes. Make sure that if you 
    decide to drop into a zone, you stay over the top of any WR/RB who are covered 
    by a LB. Also watch for motion, and try to keep your coverage LB lined-up as 
    close to his coverage as possible.
    
    To maximum this type of defense, I recommend two fast and agile LBs, one on 
    each side of the defense. The other 2 LBs should be aware and good tacklers. 
    This will bring a little balance to your LBs. I also recommend 2 good tacklers 
    at the SS and FS positions, because most likely you are not going to go man 
    to man with these guys. As for the defensive line, it depends what you want 
    to try and do. If you want to get some pressure with only a 3 man rush, then 
    go with a fast and agile DL. If your 3-4 is having trouble stopping the inside 
    running game, then put in those strong monster DL.
    
    ********************************* 4-3 ***************************************
    To stop the run with this defense, you'll need two good tackling OLBs and a 
    run-stop SS. The only way you are really going to give up a lot of yards on 
    the ground with this defense is if your team overpursues all over the field. 
    Think of the SS as a last resort tackler.
    
    To stop the pass with this defense, you'll need to get pressure and work 
    those line matchups. Chances are that your MLB with be covering either the 
    TE or the RB, so you'll need a good coverage MLB (speed and awareness). This 
    means that you need to establish just enough pressure to force the opposing 
    team's QB to throw the ball before your MLB either loses his coverage or goes 
    off the screen (where you can't see).
    
    To maximize this type of defense, I recommend two OLBs who can tackle well, 
    and a MLB who is an excellent cover guy. Your FS should be used as a 3rd DB 
    and should be another good cover guy. The SS should be used as the last 
    resort tackler with high awareness and tackling ability. Mix your DL with half 
    speed guys and half strength guys for a more consistent pass rush.
    
    ******************************* Nickel **************************************
    To stop the run with this defense, you'll need at least one good tackling LB 
    and shift the DL. Whichever way you shift the DL, control the opposite saftey 
    and use him to protect against the sweep or toss. If you want you can shift 
    the LBs instead of the DL. This in effect, turns the Nickel into a 4-3 and 
    really shuts down the run well.
    
    To stop the pass with this defense, you'll need to be aware of coverage 
    matchups. If your opponent comes out with only 2 WR, think about blitzing 
    your extra DB or a LB. When your opponent has 3 WR and you want pressure, try 
    blitzing a saftey. Against 4 WR, control the LB opposite to your extra DB 
    and stay underneath the 4th WR. Against 5 WR, control the safety opposite 
    the extra DB and stay in his designated coverage.
    
    To maximize this type of defense, I recommend an all around type 3rd DB. One 
    LB who is better at coverage and a good tackling SS. Make 3 of your DL focus 
    on the pass-rush and 1 DT focus on run-stop. This should balence your defense 
    and allow you to deal with most 3 and 4 WR sets. Watch for the TE (if there 
    is one), because most likely he will draw a LB in coverage.
    
    ********************************* Dime **************************************
    To stop the run with this defense, you'll need your safeties to be mainly 
    run-stoppers. Most likely you'll have the match-ups you want coverage wise, 
    so control one of the safeties and focus on the run.
    
    To stop the pass with this defense, you'll need your best coverage LB in the 
    game. Also make sure all 4 CBs are strong in coverage as well. Against a 3 WR 
    set, I recommend doubling the outside WRs and force the opponent to use his 
    RB or 3rd WR to beat you. Hopefully your LB can handle the RB and then you 
    can focus on that 3rd WR. Against 4 WR, I recommend matching CB to WR one to 
    one. Use the safeties to protect deep. You can try extra pressure against 5 
    WR, but I recommend using the MLB to drop into a middle under zone, hopefully 
    your DBs will contain the outside.
    
    To maximize this type of defense, I recommend the best coverage MLB you can 
    get. Usually you can draft a LB who is low overall but covers really well. 
    Look for them! Your safeties should be great tacklers since they will often 
    be your last resort. Forget a run-stop DL with this defense! Go for quick, 
    rested pass rushers. I don't recommend using this defense against short 
    yardage situations. Mix up your coverage style from normal to bump and run. 
    Use more bump and run if you can get pressure on the QB.
    
    ******************************** Goaline ************************************
    To stop the run with this defense, you'll need to clog up the middle with a 
    big and strong DL. All of your best tackling LBs should be in the game and 
    you might even consider putting an extra DL in there. Coverage should be 
    strickly man to man with maybe a safety deep. Goaline is mostly used in short 
    yardage, so substitue accordingly. Use one of the LBs that is off the line to 
    defend the sweep/toss play.
    
    To stop the pass with this defense, you'll need your best coverage saftey in 
    the game. Control the weak-side LB that isn't lined up on the line. Watch the 
    TE coming off the line and pray that your DB can do the rest (since they 
    are off the screen).
    
    To maximize this type of defense, I recommend a big strong DL that allows 
    absolutely no offensive line push. If you get beat off the ball in this 
    defense, you are through! You can usually draft a big strong DL who is lower 
    overall and will never get a sack (except by luck), but at least there is no 
    room to run. Stay away from blitzing too much in this defense, you already 
    have 5 DL and you can put in a 6th!
    
    ****************************** Punt Return **********************************
    Against the computer, just pick regular return unless you suspect a fake. 
    Against a human opponent, pick punt block. If your opponent chooses not to 
    use extra blockers, go for the block. Time the snap and rush all out. If your 
    opponent uses the extra blockers, use an audible to punt return safe (make 
    sure you have this as an audible, the default is usually R1).
    
    To maximize your punt returns, the number one thing I look for is speed and 
    ball handling for my returner (I fumble more on punt returns than anytwhere 
    else). Forget the overall rating of a player, since you are controlling him, 
    it doesn't matter! Also make sure you put in our best run blocking defensive 
    players. You'll be surprised how much better your returns are. Sometimes 
    your worst defensive player is a great special teams blocker. Give those 
    starters a rest!
    
    ****************************** Field Goals **********************************
    This is a tough defense! The only time I've ever blocked a field goal is 
    when I controlled an interior defensive lineman and did a perfect swim 
    move combination with a jump and a low kick. I've come close a few times by 
    using the outside rushers, but that leaves you vulnerable to a fake. Use 
    these plays to practice getting by a OL with your DL.
    
    
    
    
    
    |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    Defensive Tips
    |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    
    This section contains some of my favorite defensive plays and how to use 
    them effectively.
    
    |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 3-4 - OLB Blitz ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 5 (3 DL + 2 OLBs). You'll need to control one of the MLBs 
    in this defense to protect the middle of the field. You don't really need to 
    worry about the run because of the rush. I usually shadow the RB or TE 
    (whoever is in the deeper route). Your safeties should protect against the 
    long ball.
    
    |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 3-4 - Double TE ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 4 (3 DL + 1 OLB). This defense is great for stopping 
    your opponent from throwing to the TE. This defense can be weak against the 
    run since two of your defenders are occupied by the TE. I suggest controlling 
    the weak side MLB and shadowing the RB.
    
    |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 3-4 - Storm ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 6 (3 DL + 2 ILBs + 1 OLB). You can do 2 different things 
    here. Control the OLB that isn't blitzing and bump the TE off the line or 
    you can control one of the safeties and play his coverage. I rarely use this 
    defense, but it makes a good change of pace from the 3-4 Double Man.
    
    |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 3-4 - Double Man |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 3 (3 DL). I like this defense against the Pro Form or 
    Near formations. It spreads the defensive coverage out and doesn't give up 
    the big play because of a blown coverage, someone else is usually in the 
    area. Control one of the MLB and let him make the first moves (don't press 
    the control pad). See who he follows and then blanket that guy!
    
    ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 4-3 - Whip Man ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 6 (4 DL + 1 OLB + 1 MLB). Do you want a lot of sacks or 
    some extra pressure? This is a very aggressive defense that can produce! Try 
    shifting your DL and LBs all over the place. I recommend controlling the SS 
    to prevent any lucky sweep/toss plays or to defend against the deep ball. 
    You can't cover everyone with this defense so be prepared for a 3-step drop 
    and throw. A lot of people like to use bump and run coverage, but I usually 
    mix it up.
    
    |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 4-3 - Under Man ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 4 (4 DL). This is a good change of pace from the 4-3 
    Whip Man. I usually control the MLB and wait to see where he goes before 
    taking over (don't press the control pad). This is a good defense to use on 
    1st and 2nd downs since it usually doesn't give up much beacuse of the 2 deep 
    zone. Watch for motion and don't be afraid to shift to get matchups.
    
    ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 4-3 - Thunder |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 4 (4 DL). At first I thought this defense was useless. 
    I found that this defense works well against those 2 TE sets. Control the 
    MLB and watch the TE that breaks free first. Your OLBs will completely shut 
    down the flats that most RBs run. This defense also works well against the 
    run.
    
    ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 4-3 - Sam Blitz |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 5 (4 DL + 1 OLB). Make sure you bump the TE or 3rd WR 
    off the line with your non-blitzing OLB. This play completely stuffs any 
    strong side RB draw plays. I use this defense in conjunction with the 4-3 
    Whip Man and the 4-3 Under Man to mix it up and get matchups so I can 
    maximize pressure.
    
    ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 4-3 - Man Lock ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 5 (4 DL + 1 OLB). As you can tell, I love the 4-3! It 
    gets good pressure and stuffs the run. This defense is perfect for those 
    situations where your opponent lines 2 WR up on the same side of the field. 
    Your CB will adjust to cover them and you'll even have a safety moving over 
    there in a zone. I usually control the OLB that starts out over the TE and 
    try to bump him off the line while protecting against the sweep (the key is 
    bumping the TE on his outside shoulder in case he tries to block you). You 
    can even shift your LBs so that you can use your MLB to bump the TE. I have 
    rarely seen any play with stacked WRs (2 on the same side) ever work 
    against this defense.
    
    ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| Nickel - LB Blitz |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 5 (4 DL + 1 LB). I like this defense against the 
    Singleback 3 WR formation. The reason is you can control the LB who isn't 
    blitzing and bump the TE taking him out of the play. You then have one to one 
    coverage (CBs on WRs). This allows one of your safeties to watch the running 
    back and the other to double the deepest WR. If you mix up your shifts well 
    on the DL and get good matchups, this defense could produce a lot of sacks.
    
    |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| Nickel - Man Lock  |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 4 (4 DL). I recommend this defense for those who use 
    the Nickel LB Blitz, but always seem to get beat by the RB out of the 
    backfield. This defense only rushes 4, but it frees up that other LB to 
    cover.
    
    ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| Dime - Man Lock  ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 4 (4 DL). I don't usually use Dime unless my opponent 
    likes to run 5 WR all day. This defense doesn't get much pressure and isn't 
    that great against the run. Control your best coverage LB to protect the 
    middle. Good tackling safeties make this defense even better. The only real 
    threat is the quick out, be sure to tackle immediately!
    
    ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| Dime - Double WR ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    This defense rushes 4 (4 DL). Want to force your opponent to beat you with 
    his 3rd and 4th WRs? This defense locks your backup CB on the 3rd and 4th 
    WRs man to man. You don't have to worry much about the #1 and #2 WR. As with 
    most Dime plays, you'll want to control the MLB and cover either the RB, TE, 
    or 5th WR depending on which formation your opponent is in. A good rule of 
    thumb if you don't know who to cover is to not push the control pad until 
    you see where your LB is headed. You'll learn quickly where your coverage 
    is for different formations and next time, it will be much better.
    
    
    
    
    
    #############################################################################
    Defensive Tips
    #############################################################################
    
    This section contains my tips for improving your defensive players through 
    free-agents and draft picks. I highly recommend that you not use this 
    section and develop your own strategy because this part of the game is the 
    most fun.
    
    ############################## Who to draft??? ##############################
    There is a lot of debate on what position to draft first. Should you use your 
    #1 pick to always get the best CB or fill the positions that you are weakest. 
    Believe it or not, I say that the LB position is the most important position 
    on defense and in the game. You can get a variety of specialist LBs to handle 
    situations and make your defense very tricky. Although CBs are much coveted 
    in the game of Madden, I've noticed that there isn't much difference between 
    a 75 overall and an 85 overall CB. There is a huge difference bewteen a 75 
    overall LB and an 85 overall LB however. A LB with 72 speed might have 7 
    sacks in a season and 8 passes defenced, while one with 67 speed will only 
    record 3 sacks and 5 passes defenced. This could be the difference between a 
    win and loss in more than one game.
    
    So who should you draft? Basically draft what you want. If you'd rather have 
    that CB who 6'2'' but a bit slower rather than a CB who has blazing speed and 
    is only 5'9''. I say go for it. Keep in mind that the computer usually drafts 
    any decent DL and CB in the first and second rounds. After that, just look 
    for specialist players like a third down pass-rusher, a tank of a man to clog 
    the middle, or a speedy coverage LB.
    
    Should you make defense your main priority in the draft? In a word, yes!
    Defense always seperates the good Madden teams from the bad. Think about it, 
    on offense you control the player with the ball and you can make up for a 
    bad player with weak stats. On offense there are really only two things you 
    can't make up for, one is poor blocking and the other is dropped passes. On 
    defense, however, you control only one player at a time, some of your players 
    are sometimes off the screen and sometimes you just get blocked into the 
    ground. Since most of your defense is computer controlled, you want the best 
    computer controlled players you can get.
    
    ############################ Expensive Free Agents ##########################
    Most people buy up all the free agents they can afford and then trade them 
    for draft picks. I think this ruins the idea of Madden, but if you want to 
    get high draft choices every year by doing this then go right ahead. Free 
    agents are a good way to bolster a team quickly while waiting for rookies to 
    improve. Take a chance a sign an older veteran to a 1 year deal if you have 
    the extra cash. Sometimes you might run across a younger free agent who is 
    still improving and has quite a few years left in him.
    
    For me age is the biggest factor in free agency. Always look for good 
    corners and safties to improve that Nickel and Dime defense. You won't get 
    many chances to draft a start corner, so free agency is the best bet.
    
    ################################## Trades ###################################
    Want a higher draft pick? Need some salary cap room without a penalty? How 
    about trying to get your favorite player? Most of the time I would recommend 
    only trading to get draft picks or younger impact players. Trading away 
    players who cost a lot can avoid any salary cap penalties. Usually the 
    computer will accept trades when you offer 3 players for their 1. Don't make 
    any quick decisions when making trades. A good general manager will get all 
    they can out of what they have to work with.
    
    Not to be mean, but I usually trade away veterans who will no longer hold 
    their starting role and cost way to much to sit the bench.