I wanted to create blog series about defensive strategy in Madden NFL. Unlike a lot of other web sites that sell you nano-blitzes or what not, I want to talk about how to use an effective simulation style defense to play against the AI and friends.
To begin, we have to acknowledge that Madden NFL is not a football simulator. It's a casual representation of the sport with lots of legacy flaws, but that doesn't mean we can't still have fun with it. For example, the pass blocking in Madden is tied directly to the defensive play. You can't trick the AI with a cleaver blitz. Well, you can, but you have to use some questionable tactics that I don't really want to address here.
What this means to me as a defensive play caller in Madden is that any play which drops a defensive lineman into coverage and replaces him with a pass rusher from somewhere else is a complete waste of time. In real life, this can be a cleaver and useful trick. In real life you can confuse the pass protection by the offensive line which can lead to a player going unblocked for quick pressure. This can also lead to confusion by the QB. The QB might only see the linebacker on the blitz and will try to throw to the area he assumes is now open, only to throw it right at the defensive lineman dropping into his zone. This can lead to swats and even interceptions. However, in Madden, you are not going to confuse the O-line, nor are you going to confuse the computer controlled QB. You also are not going to foll most experienced Madden players who have a bird's eye view of the action.
Additionally, I subscribe to the old adage "Don't play defense defensively." I don't think you will ever see me call a play that sends less than 4 pass rushers at the QB. Remember, 5 or more is a blitz, not 4. Not only do I dislike sending so few in real life, but doubly so in Madden. In real life you can bluff the blitz and create a 1-on-1 mismatch with your elite pass rusher and an offensive lineman while dropping 8 into coverage giving the offense no where to go. In Madden, you are letting 5 linemen block 3. The QB should have all day every time. The QB gets too much time in the pocket for my tastes with 4. I wouldn't dream of only sending 2 or 3. So, with those basic "rules," it becomes easier for me to build a custom defensive playbook and to find plays I want to call.
I will be focusing on the 3-4 primarily, but the concepts remain the same with the 4-3. I might make Part 2 versions to cover the 4-3 in the future.