Madden 21: Defensive basics that will shut down the opposition

Madden 21 is in its first month and despite a rocky start, players are getting going into the new season.

They say defense wins championships, so if that's the case you will want to know how to play lights out?

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Here's the key things you need to know about defense in Madden 21.


Choose a formation matching offensive personnel

When your opponent picks a play it tells you their personnel. It will show how many HBs, TEs and WRs.

READ MORE: 9 tips to master passing in Madden 21

You need to pick a defense to match this. If they select a play with 3 WRs and you choose a 3-4 or 4-3 play, that means you are leaving a WR to be picked up by a linebacker. With the difference in speed this is a great matchup for the offense.

There are some situations where it can work, especially if you are adamant it will be a running play, but a good opponent will audible at the line to take advantage of your defense.

As a general rule, if there are 3 or more WRs then select a Nickel, Dime or Dollar defense. If there are 2 WRs or less then select a 3-4, 4-3, 4-4 etc.

Understand Coverages


Understand the basic coverage options and what the pros and cons are.

The most common are Cover 2 Man, Cover 2 Zone and Cover 3. These are the most used.

READ MORE: How to lateral in Madden 21 and score points in The Yard

Man defense has most of your defenders accountable for a particular player on the opposition. It is good for long yardage situations where you want everyone covered.

The downside is that if a player loses the battle, it can often give up bigger gains. Also the QB isn’t accounted for, so if playing a mobile QB, avoid using it too much or have a DL spy the QB.

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KNOW YOUR PLAYERS: Know their skills and abilities and play to them


Zone gives the defenders areas of responsibility to cover. This means that even when catches are made they can be contained quicker as there will always be some defenders near.

The con of zone defense is that it can be picked apart with timing. As the WR crosses zones there are gaps where they will be free, this is what the opposition is aiming to do.

READ MORE: Best offensive and defensive playbooks in Madden 21

Most players in Madden like to stick to zone for the majority as its much more effective, especially Cover 3. Its worth knowing what your defenders are better at, they have a man cover and a zone cover stat.

User the Linebacker or Safety

There were some question marks over whether the new pass rush system would change the recommended approach to usering in Madden 21.

We still recommend usering a LB or S across the middle.


This allows the AI to handle the pass rush, but they will be more effective when you are controlling the coverage and playing tighter.

READ MORE: Madden 21 – Everything you need to know about Ultimate Team

It takes a lot of practice, but once you get the hang of it then this skill separates average from good players and they get a lot of turnovers.

Use the LT/L2 button to strafe and face the QB but then turning and running and following the WR. If you are playing zone you can cover a couple of receivers at the same time for parts of the play.

Coverage adjustments

Press Y/triangle to bring up the coverage adjustment options. These can help to manage the opposition depending on the scenario.

Give cushion – up LS – this moves the coverage deeper and is good if you are expecting a deep bomb.

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SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS: Don't get beaten by preventable things


Press – down LS – this moves the coverage tighter and is good on short-yardage situations where they only need to get a small gain for a first down. Be careful as this can leave fast WR 1-on-1 and lead to big plays.

Show blitz – left LS – this brings the players into aggressive positions. If you have an aggressive play selected it will amp up the risk/reward, and if you have a normal play selected it can confuse the opposition into thinking you are blitzing.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about The Yard in Madden 21

Base align - right LS – this hides the play design and so opponents can’t tell what coverage you are playing as easily.

Shading coverage  – up/down/left/right on RS – this forces your defenders to gamble on a certain side. If a player is using the same play a lot this can help to mitigate it. A great example is drag routes are very popular.

Drags are good against zone and can pick up 4-5 yards each play. If you shade down using down on RS, the defenders will come down to meet them and force a contested catch on a drag. But be aware, it leaves behind them more open.

Double cover – on the play you want to be the double press A/X, up on the RS, then the icon of the receiver you want them to man cover, if they already have a man assignment they are now doubled. Be aware this will leave holes in your defense, but if an opponent is spamming someone this makes it difficult for them.


Defensive line play

Press left on d pad to bring up DL adjustments.

Move DL - up/down/left/right on LS – this moves their starting point, the main ones are to spread (better for pass-rushing but leaves middle open) and pinch (better for stopping the run but leaves sides open)

READ MORE: Madden 21 Ultimate Team: The Fastest Way to Grind XP

Point of attack - up/down/left/right on RS – this targets the DL at attack a certain gap. So slant inside will aim for the middle of the OL.

QB Contain – press RB/R1 twice and your defensive ends will go into contain. They aim their pass rush outside. This makes a sack less likely, but it does make it harder for a mobile QB to break out the pocket and can force them to pass.

Linebacker play


Press right on d pad to bring up DL adjustments.

Move LB - up/down/left/right on LS – same principles as the DL.

LB Assignments - up/down/left/right on RS – This mixes a zone coverage and blitzing element, but as always this is high risk and reward to change the base play.

READ MORE: Best offensive scheme for Madden 21

Spy QB – on a player you want to spy the QB press A/X and then left on the RS. This will put that player into a spy on QB and so they will follow the QB along the line of scrimmage. You can tell them to attack the QB by pressing in RS at any point.

Coaching Adjustments

These were new additions in recent Maddens and have been further developed for Madden 21. Before selecting a play there is a section for coaching adjustments.

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COACH EM UP: Use the adjustments in key situations not the whole game


They all represent a risk/reward ration of helping to change the game in your favour. They can be crucial later in the game when youre either chasing or defending a lead.

Zone Drops – these can change the depth of your zones across your plays. If someone keeps hitting you with crossing routes over the top of your zone you can drop your zones by 10-15 yards.

Tackling/Strip Ball – these can be set to aggressive or conservative and either increase or decrease the chance of a fumble vs penalties.

READ MORE: Offensive money play for Madden 21 – score TDs deep

Ball in the air defense – you can set to swat the ball or play the man if you just want to try and force a 4th down. Or go for the ball if you need a turnover.

Cornerback matchups – if you are playing a team with fast WRs you can set your CBs to matchup by speed to negate this. You can set it by route running or by overall as well as depth chart. We find route running to be the most effective choice.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about pass rush in Madden 21