The sports quote-turned-cliché is true, defense truly does win championships. The quote, credited to legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, has been constantly proved decades his six national championships with the Crimson Tide. It is exciting to break a 50-yard touchdown run in an online Madden match, but the game could come down to what happens when you do not have the ball.
Picking a defensive scheme in football is like building pasta at an italian restaurant. The formations are the base, or in this analogy, pasta. Ingredients, or coverages, must accompany the pasta. Many combinations of pasta and ingredients are possible, but the dish is not good for any occasion. Angel hair and garlic tomato sauce is not ideal for a date, and fettuccine Alfredo should not be ordered when your mother made it earlier in the week.
Part one of this tip series will cover five formations available during the game. Keep in mind the numbers in the forms are read from the players closest to the line of scrimmage to the backfield (or secondary).
Considered a classic formation, the 3-4 features three defensive linemen and four linebackers. While it looks like there are five lineman on the field, the two outside players are actually linebackers. With those linebackers up front, the other two line up about five yards behind the linemen.
This formation can be used when trying to establish a sense of what the opponent may do, especially in a game like Madden where scouting is difficult. It also keeps the offense guessing, as the only constant presented is the threat of pressure near the ball. The presence of five players on the line is enough for the offense to consider the potential challenges.
A lot of different converges are possible with this form, but the overall success depends on several key factors. The defense has to have at least one great player at almost every position (lineman, linebacker, and the secondary). The play caller must also anticipate the offensive play. Despite the 3-4’s versatility, this type of defense is vulnerable to passes towards the sidelines and down the middle.
This type of defense looks exactly like it reads, four defensive lineman take their position on the line of scrimmage while three linebackers line up behind them.
Because an extra lineman stands behind the linebackers, the strength of this formation revolves around the effectiveness of this position. Having a third linebacker defends against running backs who charge up the middle (aka the A Gap) and against short pass offenses (aka west coast offenses) to receivers in the middle of the field.
Madden players typically use a custom playbook, but if they use an opponent uses a team’s default settings, organizations such as the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens utilize the west coast offense. Those teams are ideal to run this defense against.
The middle linebacker also becomes a sign for the offense to figure out the form. If the quarterback makes the correct read, they will understand the middle of the field (aka the box) is off limits, and will adjust the play accordingly.
Nickel (2-4-5, 4-2-5, and 3-3-5)
The nickel package is named after the value of the U.S. currency coin to describe how many players are in the secondary. Joining the five secondary members are a combination of players that appear on the field just like the play reads. The only exception is the 2-4-5, when the two lineman are joined by two linebackers.
This formation is made specifically to defend the pass by putting an extra secondary player. With the extra secondary member specializing in defending the pass, it is effective against teams like the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. Both teams feature quarterbacks who help lead their offense downfield through the air.
Because the defense has subsituted a player from the box with an extra secondary player to focus on the receivers, it leaves this formation vulnerable to run plays with less size near the line of scrimmage.
The dime package is similar to the nickel, except with six secondary players on the field. Adding yet another secondary player sacrifices size in the box, so this formation should only be called with a high certainty that the pass will happen.
The only reason this formation should be selected is to defend against the deep pass when the offense is trying to make a comeback late in the fourth quarter. This package adds a secondary player against an opponent trying to gain the most amount of yards in the least amount of time. Typically, the three deep variation of this form is the call against a hail marry.
These formations are just the bases to pick a defense. The coverages that accompany them will be examined in part two.