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Defensive Specialist FAQ by JWatson

Updated: 04/03/02

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 

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 

||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 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 

||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 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.

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