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Madden NFL 19: Defensive Gameplay Breakdown

Madden NFL 19

Madden NFL 19: Defensive Gameplay Breakdown

I’m back with the second part in a two-part series breaking down gameplay in Madden NFL 19. Part 1 was all about the offense. Today, I’m covering the defensive side of the ball. There have been some big changes to the defense in Madden, and much like the rest of the game these changes help to bring the game closer to being an accurate representation of football. Because defense has to cover all options, instead of breaking it down between passing and running defense, I’ll be going over changes to user defense and the defensive looks you can expect from the CPU.

Disclaimer: All games were played on All-Pro Simulation

User Defense

  • Man defense has been greatly improved. It’s always been pretty good against the CPU but was really poor against other users, particularly in Madden 18. With the changes that have been made to player movement with the Real Player Motion technology, defenders can now better stay step for step with their man instead of getting burned when the receiver makes his break. This is particularly apparent when using man to cover “C routes.”
  • WR/DB battles have been refined so that there is far more attempts to strip the ball when a receiver is going to make the catch. There seems to be more animations with defenders going up in the air, and instead of being stiff and rigid, the animations look fluid and you’ll see hands where they are supposed to be — and swatting the appropriate things.
  • Tackling has been very much improved. I’ve seen very organic looking tackles, and it seems the over the top tackle animations have been toned down. In Madden 18, it wasn’t uncommon to see hits that would undoubtedly cause serious injury, but fortunately in Madden 19 those type of tackles are few and far between. Tackles now look more realistic and there are some very good looking two-man tackles in the game.
  • Hit stick animations look like they’ve been completely reworked. They’re also harder to line up, and you have to be a bit closer to the runner and line up a clean shot in most instances. Whiffing on a hit stick will pretty much take that defender out of the play since the recovery animation is so long. Also, the low hit stick fumble is gone so the only way to cause a hit stick fumble is to go up high.
  • Pre-play adjustments work the way they’re intended to. Last year there was a well known bug where choosing to protect the sticks didn’t work. This year it will actually change coverage to protect the first-down marker. Pass commit has also been adjusted to be more in line with run commit. Now you can’t just pass commit and expect to still be able to effectively stop the run.
  • There still seems to be too many user drops on interceptions and with that comes a lot of pinball effects for the football. Many times a DB will have an open shot at a pick and it’ll bounce off of him. The ball will then ricochet off of every single closing player in the vicinity. It’s not a game breaking thing by any means, but it looks pretty bad. Hopefully this can be cleaned up in the future.
  • Pass rush for users is still a bit frustrating. Where the CPU seems to peel off of blocks quickly, a user defensive lineman seems to get sucked up into a block for at least 2-3 pass rush moves. More often than not, it’ll be a CPU teammate that will pressure the QB before you get a chance to. It’s still a more rewarding experience to play as a linebacker on defense.
  • Speaking of user linebackers, you can no longer patrol a third of the field at a time. RPM prevents the circle strafing and unrealistically fast cuts from last year. In Madden 19, it’s very important to stick to your assignment with only a little bit of wiggle room. Great users will still be able to anticipate how a play will unfold and can leave their assignment based upon their diagnosis, but most players will want to play their zone or their man accordingly.
  • One of the most hated aspects of user defense from Madden 18 is gone. This year, holding down L2/LT will put your defender in a strafe, and while strafing you will no longer get faked out by ball-carrier moves. It is essential that players use the strafe mechanic to stay in front of the ball carrier as it actually adds more realism to the game.
  • Another aspect of strafing is a new mechanic called the strafe burst. This mechanic is the defensive counter to the one-cut system and will help the defender keep pace with a back who utilizes one cut for a fast change of direction. By hitting the sprint button when coming out of a strafe, the defender will burst towards the direction he’s going. I’ve actually seen many instances of strafe burst being used in coverage to jump routes so there is some potential for good users to exploit strafe burst to get user picks.
  • The new cover 4 defenses are quite good. Of course, like many other defenses they can be situational but with a bit of pre-play adjustment, cover 4 can be used to play both the pass and the run.
  • Varying your defensive coverage is more important than ever in Madden NFL 19. CPU play calling has been improved, and on the higher difficulty levels the CPU will exploit you for over committing or running the same vanilla defense too many times.

CPU Defense

  • The CPU rarely drops interceptions and has a habit of having linebackers jump a bit too high for balls over the middle. This is especially true in cover 2, and in situations where the linebacker is sitting in a mid read and you have receivers on crossing routes. I’ve even had a linebacker intercept a pass to a receiver on a deep post. It doesn’t happen all the time but it happens enough that it’s something to game plan for.
  • There are still instances where a DB will get an unrealistic speed boost so that they can make a play on the ball. Especially on out routes, a defender will be 3-4 yards behind only to become Usain Bolt and make a play on the ball as it approaches the WR. It’s an annoying legacy issue that still seems to be present in the game.
  • The 91 zone threshold is gone. No longer will DBs make a psychic break on the ball either. Now, a defender has to have eyes on the QB or the ball to make a break, otherwise a pass will get through to the receiver or even bounce right off of the defender’s back. 99 zone defenders have the best chance for making instant breaks on the ball, but even with the highest rating in the game it doesn’t happen every time.
  • CPU pass rush is really good. This is the first Madden in a long time where I have had multiple coverage sacks in a game. The CPU pass rush gets in quickly, and if you can’t get the ball out in rhythm you’re better off throwing it away. This adds a lot of strategy to the passing game and actually makes draw plays an effective counter to a strong pass rush.
  • CPU defenses will play largely according to the coaching scheme. If they’re primarily a zone dominant defense, then you can expect to face mostly zone — the same is true for man to man. Press coverage is more effective too so don’t expect to always beat press coverage with fly routes. While adding to the immersion, having defenses play according to scheme allows the weekly practices to actually prepare you for the opponent.
  • The CPU does a good job of adjusting to users who have the habit of running the same play over and over. It seems as if they start jumping routes and heading to the hole on running plays. Overall, the CPU defense just plays a much smarter brand of football this year. Late-game defense is especially good as the CPU becomes very effective at causing turnovers. It never feels cheap, however.
  • CPU still has a nasty habit of blocking too many clutch field goals. I’ve had six blocked field goals happen to me in the first season of my franchise. The animation is exactly the same so you know that it’s coming, and it remains a frustrating legacy issue.


  • Using coach adjustments will affect your slot corner so choosing to have best on best or matching up by speed has the potential to nullify that specialty depth chart position.
  • Blitzing is stronger by virtue of man defense actually working well this season. Mixing in blitzes and using pre-play to show blitz, man align, give cushion, etc. adds layers to your defensive coverage, especially in user vs. user games.
  • Fumbles remain a mess to try and recover. There are too many leapfrog animations, and often when a defender recovers a fumble cleanly he will stumble and fall needlessly to the ground — only then to lay on the ground for far too long. It looks like this was done on purpose to prevent fumble recoveries for touchdowns but it kills immersion in the game.
  • While I’m not 100 percent sure, it seems like the defense is still a step faster than the offense. Even when using sprint lightly and only in the open field, I’ve seen slower defenders start to close on speedy offensive players on a breakaway. They don’t always catch them, but it definitely seems like something is up with speed levels for each side of the ball.
  • Mobile QBs are effective even when using QB contain pre-play adjustments. There are a lot of ways to get out of the pocket and scramble, but one of the most common is to step up and through the pocket thereby nullifying having the edge set.

Final Analysis

There are some minor gripes and some lasting legacy issues, but defense in Madden NFL 19 is ultimately more rewarding and successful than in the past. As long as you have a fundamental knowledge of defense and football in general, it’s possible to lock up opponents and dominate. User linebackers have been toned down a little bit but are definitely still the best way to play defense. Man defense is effective against users and make man blitzing a viable strategy. Overall, playing defense has been more fun for me than in any Madden since the hit stick was introduced. Again, there are some minor issues, but EA has done a great job on moving gameplay forward and making it engaging to play.


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  1. Thank you. I was playing on all-pro/simulation last night with the saints and noticed that when your cbs are in press coverage and the wr runs a fade, the cb will sometimes just watch the wr go through the fade route without engaging the wr and the wr burns the cb with no chance of catching up. I have a video to show this in the event no one else has seen this happen.
    It was just odd to see desean Jackson toast Marshon Lattimore in press coverage. Especially, when lattimore doesn’t appear to even “recognize” that his wr is running a fade. Thoughts?
    Note: I was user controlling Cameron Jordan during this. The cpu was controlling lattimore for me when this happened.
    Excellent post and breakdown.* Man coverage is much improved for the CPU, no question.* I hope this does not get tuned down.* However, I've noticed that CPU cornerbacks have a penchant for playing outside* technique too frequently.* This may not be a programming fault and may simply be representitive of corners playing outside leverage properly whilst having zone help in the middle with robber or hole defenses.* While this may have been done to nerf corner routes, it has opened up other areas of the field a bit too much.* It doesn't always happen as I've seen the CPU defender play inside leverage and jam my receiver on a slants and in-breaking routes at times.
    While playing on All Madden, I did witness some" holy-leaping-warping-"linebacker animations.* For example, the hole defender moving in one direction, would magically leave his feet and float backwards and up in the opposite direction to swat or pick the ball.* There is nothing RPM about that.* On All Pro, the hole defender still played with great awareness, but balls thrown with touch would trigger him to "look up at the ball as he went thru a very realistic pursuit animation.* If I attempted a bullet-type throw in the same situation, the linebacker would then either swat or intercept the ball as would normally play out.
    While I play as a sim-style user, I do like to play the game.* I use the lead stick when passing and I do switch to user catch, although* I do not control the receiver to try to bump, swerve or any of that other nonsense to gain an advantage.* In Madden 19, it really is a must that you click on and user catch.* Timing routes must now be, well thrown with timing as they should be.* However, you will become very frustrated if you perfectly line up an out route, let the ball go just before your receiver breaks and........he simply runs out of bounds while catching the ball.* You have to click on "A"* for X BOX or "X" for PS to make sideline catches.* This is also helpful when squeezing a throw between defenders as it will trigger the receiver to catch and go to the ground.* Also, while drops are a natural occurrence in the NFL, I feel they happen a little to frequently in M19.* All the more reason to user catch on the higher difficulty levels.**
    ?Again, the same issue mentioned in the defensive gameplay breakdown.  The superman LB thing is an IMMENSE detriment to the enjoyment of the game.  I disagree--it happens ALL the time.  I play on All-Madden with slider adjustments and I've had some fun and challenging games against the CPU until these "out of nowhere" LB interceptions over the middle kill the game.  I really hope they get word of this.  LBs miss bullet passes probably like 95% of the time in the NFL if they're only 3 yards behind the LOS.  It's really discouraging when it happens because the game can be really good if they clean some things up.   There's no way a linebacker should have 5 passes defensed in one game like some all-pro cornerback.  They can take a few approaches to fix it, but I'd start with tuning down the linebackers for sure.  RPM becomes obsolete in these moments because they side step one way, then suddenly leap and jump in the other direction and they ALWAYS catch it.  Should they be aware of passes over the middle? Absolutely.  But they need to be tuned to react humanly––with their head and eyes, and a failed attempt at a reach as the ball zips over their heads.  This has been a legacy issue but goes back and forth with getting better and worse each year.  This year it's been the WORST yet because it's always an interception, and half your playbook is useless if there's an LB playing a hook, spy, or one of those other yellow zones.  No slider mitigates the issue unlike the reaction time slider which used to work.  This is similar to the sideline catching  issue which also regressed this year.  It's like EA doesn't watch football games.  The number of sideline tip toe catches that happen in the NFL are staggering.  It's a common skill that is actually practiced in the league.  This should be the next new rating category starting next year.  For now I might turn on the "makes sideline catch" tendency for all the WRs.
    "... defenders can now better stay step for step with their man instead of getting burned when the receiver makes his break. This is particularly apparent when using man to cover “C routes.”
    But here's the thing. I thought in "simulation mode" players will play to their ratings. But this statement seems to be a direct contraction to that notion. If the defender's ratings dictate that he can stay w/ his man, then so be it. This statement suggests no matter what the ratings are, he's going to stay with his man.
    "... defenders can now better stay step for step with their man instead of getting burned when the receiver makes his break. This is particularly apparent when using man to cover “C routes.”
    But here's the thing. I thought in "simulation mode" players will play to their ratings. But this statement seems to be a direct contraction to that notion. If the defender's ratings dictate that he can stay w/ his man, then so be it. This statement suggests no matter what the ratings are, he's going to stay with his man.

    They can “better” stay with the WR in man coverage. I was comparing it to man coverage last year, which was really bad. The ratings obviously matter, but C routes were automatic last year whether it was a 7th round rookie or Patrick Peterson covering it. This year, it’s not an automatic route.
    I agree with being frustrated at first about how slower players catch up to speedy ones, and how easily winded a player becomes so a long TD is potentially nullified.
    Putting fatigue at 46 and speed threshold to 10 pretty much solved these issues! Plays much more realistic now.
    The stumbling during a fumble recovery needs to go, it does really ruin the immersion.

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