Strategy Guide
Madden 09: Reading Defensive Coverages

If you want to improve your passing game, then you have to properly read defensive coverages. So we will teach you how to figure out if the defense is running man or zone coverage, and also how to tell the difference between specific zone coverages. Best of all, we will teach you how to do this before you even snap the ball.

This tip can be applied to any playbook and basically any play. In order to first tell if the defense is in man or zone, you will need to be in a spread (ex: Gun 4 WR) and a compressed (ex: Gun Snugs) formation in your playbook. I like to have one of each in my audibles because it makes for easy access at all times.

Objective 1: Is the defense in man or zone?


Step 1: Come out in any spread offensive set (ex: Gun 4 WR)
Step 2: Audible to any compressed offensive set (ex: Gun Snugs)

Once you complete step number two, just pay attention to the defense, specifically the defensive backs. If the defensive backs run with your wide receivers and line up directly across from them, it is clearly man coverage.

An example of man coverage

However, if they casually slide over to your wide receivers, and the outside guys are slightly shaded to the outside of the wide receivers, it is definitely zone.

Zone coverage example

Objective 2: Once I know the defense is in zone, how do I know if the defense is playing Cover 2, Cover 3 or Cover 4?

Once we know it is zone coverage, we must look for more signs to see what exact coverage the defense is in. The key is to pay close attention to the movement of the outside (or boundary) corners and the safeties. They will tell us exactly what we need to know.

Cover 2

There is no movement by either the safeties or the outer cornerbacks when a Cover 2 is called. This is the only zone with no movement, so it is very easy to recognize. After an audible is called, just remember to watch the corners as they move towards the interior. If they run with their assignments, it’s man coverage. If they pause for a second and sort of slide over, then it is a Cover-2 zone.

Notice how the safeties stay put in Cover 2

Cover 3

The key here is to watch the safeties. The strong safety will drop into the box, and the free safety will rotate towards the deep middle of the field. The SS is a dead giveaway, though, when he drops down into the box.

There's the SS giving away the zone coverage

Cover 4

They key here is to watch the outside cornerbacks. In Cover 4, they will slide up and to the outside. This is very easy to notice.

The outside CB's are a dead give away

Being able to determine exactly what coverage the defense is playing before you even snap the ball provides you with a huge advantage on the offensive end. You will be able to make your reads much quicker because you will know what WR is likely to be open in each type of coverage. This decreases the chance of the defense getting a sack or turnover, and increases the chance of you netting a positive play on offense.

Final Thoughts

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of spread and compressed offensive sets, let me clear it up for you. A spread set is any offensive set where the wide receivers are spread out. Each outside WR will be near each sideline. Gun Doubles, Gun 4 WR, Ace 4 WR, I-Form Pro, etc. are all examples spread sets.

Compressed sets can be identified when your wide receivers are bunched together. Gun Snugs, Gun Trips Bunch, Gun Bunch TE, and I-Form Tight Twins are all examples of compressed sets.

Although a picture may be worth a thousand words, a picture is not going to tell the whole story here -- especially when describing the manner in which the cornerbacks will react to the audible. In order to fully grasp this presnap concept, go into practice mode and practice doing an audible that takes your team from a spread set into a compressed set. Do this against different coverages, and you will see exactly what we have outlined here for you today.

For more strategy articles like this one, be sure to check out http://www.madden-tips.com

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Member Comments
# 1 BigL @ 05/27/09 03:14 PM
Good work. I like to simply motion my WR to see if the CB follows to determine man or not.
# 2 PGaither84 @ 05/27/09 03:18 PM
this is why we finally will see the return of Man lock from legacy gen madden games. Should have never left the game, and should have been in 09 for sure...

Man lock will negate this otherwise obvious article.

Aside from graphics, the last generation of madden games really had a LOT of game play sim-style innovations that are needed to play human vs human.
# 3 PantherBeast_OS @ 05/27/09 03:45 PM
Good read. Hopefully this will help me in madden 10
# 4 DolphinRising @ 05/27/09 05:49 PM
Originally Posted by PGaither84
this is why we finally will see the return of Man lock from legacy gen madden games. Should have never left the game, and should have been in 09 for sure...

Man lock will negate this otherwise obvious article.

Aside from graphics, the last generation of madden games really had a LOT of game play sim-style innovations that are needed to play human vs human.
Oh how i miss man lock (madden 01 was when it was first implemented)
it could be a good combo if used with man allign (introduced in madden 05-07 some where in those years)
# 5 Captain Obvious @ 05/27/09 06:41 PM
man its easy to read what coverage the D is in..

safeties go wide, cover 2 man or zone, and even then you know the difference ( against zone, attack the mid, man, lol anything)

1 safety goes high and the other low, some type of cover 3.
(curls or corners, posts if your quick)

all DBS go back, cover 4
(underneath routes, again curls or crosses and slants)

always read the safeties first, then the linebackers. you can determine what theyre in in a second flat
# 6 themaddenlab @ 05/27/09 07:02 PM
Thank you for the kind words. Stay tuned as we will bring you a new tip every week!
# 7 BlackRome @ 05/27/09 08:23 PM
The last Xbox version might have been the best. While everyone ran out to buy the first madden on 360 the xbox was running the best madden I ever played.

It's a shame that they have been releasing this game for 3 years on 360 and it still has not added certain things from Madden 07.

How about adding the mercy rule to online play. SO if a person quits you can get the score to a certain point in the second half and give the AI mercy.

I want to play humans. Not run up the score on the AI when a person quits.
# 8 Valdarez @ 05/27/09 09:57 PM
I never really played Madden online, but I loved the zone coverage in APF2K8 where players would read zones. All you had to do was figure out their favorite passing routes (everyone has a pattern), and then set them up for a pick with a hot route / hot man towards the area of the field or player they are throwing too. Works pretty good, and can give you that key INT you need in the 3rd / 4th quarter.

In APF2K8 you can look at players stats sheets, see whether they throw short, medium, or long, or to the left, middle, or right of the field. In addition, you can see which side of the field they run to left, middle, right. If you don't get to see their stats before the game then by the half you can have a pretty good feel for how players play (where they run, types of runs they use) and where they pass (types of passes they use).

Reading a defense is good, but always keep an eye out for the adjustment, because if you're playing a good player, you can bet your bottom dollar it's coming.
# 9 oneforthethumb @ 05/27/09 10:48 PM
Thats why I like using the Cover 2 Sink out of the 3-4, Nickel 2-4-5, or the Dollar formations. If you show blitz the safeties will rotate like Cover 3. (SS in box, FS over deep middle). Then put the guys you have over the slot positions into buzz zones. (whether its you LBs or your nickel backs). Since corner routes are a great place to throw against Cover 3. Ive gotten alot of ints because my opponent thought I was in Cover 3 and they tried to go to the corner.

Of course in Madden 10 will be different because you will actually have some protection. So you would realize that the corners arent open.
# 10 boritter @ 05/28/09 12:04 AM
Nice write up.
# 11 rbowlden @ 05/28/09 12:27 PM
Pretty good stuff, i just move my wr in motion and see if the db follows
# 12 tswiatkowski @ 05/28/09 09:11 PM
most of the time i just use motion to figure out the coverage
# 13 maddenmindsocom @ 07/06/09 01:16 PM
when i read zone on madden 09 i go to the screen draws and ddep posts, if its man i just do a drag or corner out. but madden 09 is such garbage if you dont have the right d you can literaly come out in 4 curls and user catch them the whole game

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