Strategy Guide
Madden Training Tips

OK, so you’ve started up a new franchise and you’re ready to turn your team into the next dynasty. You’re going to have to get it done on Sundays, but first you need to learn how to get it done on the practice field. Here are a few tips to help you master some of the drills, and build your players into superstars. (Note: these tips are for the standard training drills, not the virtual trainer)

Running Back Challenge – Offense

This is a pretty standard drill. The best real tip I can give you, besides “don’t get tackled,” is to follow your blocker religiously. I can’t stress enough how important this is. A good move has a decent chance of shaking a defender, but a good block never fails. Following your blocker is so important that you should slow down, or even stop if you have to, to allow him to get out in front.

You’re almost always going to want to get outside in the drill, since the pads which represent your O-line are not very effective at interior blocking. Instead, refrain from abusing the sprint button and try to let your fullback get out and take the first defender. Remember, you can sort of steer your blocker based on where you run, so consider pretending to make a move up field to encourage your blocker to cut in and take out the defender, then cut back and bust outside. Once you are headed for the corner, then you can hit the gas and sprint to glory. The initial burst you get from sprinting is as dangerous a move as you have, so use it wisely.

Perhaps the best move to make in this drill, or whenever you are running, is the spin move. It’s quick, deadly, and can make multiple defenders miss. At the higher difficulties of the drill, when you start to encounter more and more defenders, you are going to need to use the spin. I like to start outside, allow my blocker to take out one defender, and then spin back towards the center of the field as soon as the defenders appear to have the angle and be within striking distance. Experiment with the spin move, or even multiple spin moves, to see how they can be used to take out multiple defenders.

Running Back Challenge - Defense

The defensive side of this drill offers a much different challenge. Here, the trick is to avoid getting blocked at all costs. There are a couple of strategies you can employ here, but I feel the safest is to take the liberty of being the last man back no matter who you are controlling. When the ball is snapped, strafe backwards as long as you have to, to make sure you won’t miss the angle on the running back. If your other defenders get picked up or miss their tackles, you need to be ready to track down the back and keep him out of the end zone.

Sometimes breaking inside can work to stop the back in the backfield, but it’s a risky endeavor. If you miss, or run into one of the pads, the running back will quickly be out of reach. Your computer teammates are generally very aggressive, so let them worry about charging in and focus on being the safety net. When the ball is snapped, identify where the back is going to go. If he appears to be running up the middle, keep strafing backwards until he’s clear of the blockers or until your other defenders slow him down. Make sure to maintain an angle, and come in to make the safe play. The only thing that matters in the drill is making the tackle, so don’t even bother trying to strip the ball or lay a hit stick on him. If the runner starts outside, beat him to the corner and keep him contained. If you can get there before his blockers do, you can make a very easy tackle for no gain or even a loss. Remember, always keep the angle. What I mean by this is don’t allow yourself to be running behind the back attempting to catch up to him. Stay upfield of him and beat him to the spot where your paths should cross.

An alternate strategy that I’ve experimented with is to immediately charge in with the player you are controlling at the start of the play. This can lead to one of two things. Either you break into the backfield and tackle or slow up the ball carrier before he even gets back to the line, or you get picked up immediately by the blocker. If this happens, quickly switch players and then handle the play as you normally would. The blocker will be engaged and you’ll have more room to make the play. The advantage to this is that the blocker will be forced to react more quickly than he would if you allowed the computer to be the first defender, freeing up the tackle lanes more quickly. The disadvantage is that sometimes the computer makes boneheaded first moves on defense, and you could find the other players out of position by the time you switch back to them. Experiment with this strategy to learn the timing of exactly when to switch players and how to react when you do.

Coverage Challenge – Offense

Alright, this drill is all about big points. The easiest way to rack up big totals is by touchdown streaks, so forget about making catches in the colored zones, and think about getting yourself in a position to score every play. The best way to do this is not to catch the pass in the end zone, however; in fact it’s quite the opposite. You usually want to get an easy catch near the line of scrimmage, and beat the defender after the ball is in your hand.

Depending on who you are using in the drill, the best strategy is often to run a drag across the middle of the field. I like to start to the outside at first, almost as if running a fade, and then make a quick cut inside with the right stick. If you can get the defender off balance and catch the inside seam, all you have to do is keep running across the middle of the field and call for the ball. The QB should throw it out in front of you and you can just catch it in stride and run. If the defender can reach you, he will often blow the tackle, so just stay poised. Even if the defender is on you, if you are fast enough you can usually get separation by the time you get all the way across the field. Just keep running towards the sideline and eventually the QB will air out the pass.

You also need to watch where the defender positions himself. Sometimes he cheats inside to take away exactly the play we just talked about. Honestly, I usually stick with the drag even if he does this because I usually have a fast enough player to get separation across the middle. However, if you are quick, you can cut back outside or outside and upfield to try and get separation away from where he positioned himself. Watch for where he positions himself, and what he does when you make your first cut, and react accordingly. Sometimes you can get the defender to bite really hard on a fake inside and then you can get separation downfield for an easy touchdown. Still, that is much tougher than just running a long drag across the middle.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to come towards your QB if you feel like the defender is all over you. Even if you catch the pass at or behind the line of scrimmage, you will probably be able to run away from your defender after you catch the ball. In fact, running a drag that ends up bringing you back towards the line of scrimmage as you near the sideline can often be the deadliest route. The reason being that you will get enough separation from the DB by coming back upfield to break free after the catch. Also, the ball gets to you much quicker when it's thrown so the back has no time to gain ground on you while you try to field the pass. It makes it easier to catch in stride, and eliminates the possibility of a PBU.

Coverage Challenge – Defense

I covered how to run this drill in my article on playing the cornerback position. Basically, the computer wideout is going to do one of three things. He will start straight up field and then either keep running the streak, cut inside, or hitch. You can tell if he is going to hitch because he will call for the ball a split second before he stops and turns around. If you see the wideouts hand go up while he’s running downfield, expect him to stop and turn for the pass.

The best way to counter all three options is to cheat inside. Before the snap, position your defender well inside of the wideout. When the play is snapped, strafe backwards with the wide receiver but maintain the inside edge. If he keeps going downfield, turn your hips as soon as he passes you and ride with him. If he cuts inside, you’re already a step ahead of him so just stay inside and take away the pass. If he hitches, jump the route. Proper positioning can help to ensure that you never fail to make the play.

Try to strafe as much as you can here, and don’t sprint unless chasing down the ball carrier. Strafing makes it much easier to make precise movements, where as sprinting makes it harder. When responding to the pass, you really only need to break it up since the key is minimizing the offense’s points and not scoring your own. If you are smart and disciplined, this drill is really easy to master.

QB Challenge

Last is the QB challenge. This drill is pretty tough because you are really going to need at least two consecutive touchdowns to pass All-Madden, and you start very far away from the end zone. The key here is to recognize your safety route. There will almost always be one player who runs a shallow route, be it a cross or a flat. This is your best option. If you find the guy at the right time, you can get tremendous YAC. You may have to wait for him to get clear of his defender, but he should be the easiest option. Tight ends are very valuable in this play, because if it looks like nothing is going to work you can quickly fire it to them and its usually good for at least a few yards. Be aware of your downfield threats but don’t force them. If you find a guy with a serious mismatch or a tremendous amount of space, air it out to him. Otherwise, stick to the safety route.

The first thing to watch for is the blitz. If there is a blitz, make sure to get the pass off. It almost doesn’t matter who you throw to in a blitz scenario. There are so few defenders to begin with that usually just by getting the pass off you score an easy touchdown. Sometimes they only blitz one or two guys. Try to identify who they are and exploit those areas if possible. Again, the most important thing is that you get the pass off.

One little trick that can be very effective in this drill is the pump fake. If you don’t abuse it, it's usually good for one easy touchdown every time through the drill. If you have a play with no safety route, and all the receivers seem covered downfield, throw in a quick pump fake. If you see a defender flinch, immediately throw at his assignment. Don’t get carried away with this, but don’t be shy either. Sometimes a good pump fake can be the difference between a pick and a touchdown.

I say it all the time and I’ll say it again. Practice practice practice. These drills are really quite formulaic and just by playing through them a few times you can start to really understand the nuances and exploits of each one. I highly recommend training your team every week. First, this helps you get better at the drills, and second, the points really add up. You can train certain guys something like nine or 10 times a season. That can amount to anywhere from 7-20 attribute points depending on the stat. Even if player progression really isn’t working (I still can’t tell if it is or not), this still allows you to progress your own players in some way.

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