I know alot of you guys are really frustrated about defense this year. And to be honest, I don't blame you. I was very close to giving up on Madden this year. But a few days I got in the mood and went into practice mode and things became much clearer.
Defending the shallow middle
Crossing routes eat man coverage alive so alot of the time you need to use zones to cover this area of the field. The problem is that hook zones don't seem to work no matter where they are and what you do with them. Here are some solutions:
1) QB Spy
Having a QB Spy will go along way in stopping shallow crossing routes, especially if the spy has good speed. It also keeps the QB in from running for yards. The problem with this is that spies can be manipulated by your opponent by simply moving his QB. You can counter this weakness by blitzing from the outside to keep the QB from moving side-to-side.
Another thing you can do is have two spies. This takes away even more from the QB. The problem with this is that you are using two guys to do this which takes too much away from your pressure and coverage. This is great for when your opponent is inside the 10, but I wouldn't do this often anywhere else.
2) Manually Cover
This is the obvious solution but not always the easiest. The advantage is that you can easily abandon it if nobody is there and cover elsewhere. The disadvantage is that shorts passes aren't easy to react to.
3) Specific plays with setups
As I've said in previous years, all hook zones are not equal. They do different things depending on the play. We can take advantage of this because there are some plays that do a great job in covering the shallow middle with the SS. Make sure you have a fast SS.
34 Under Cover 3 - Show Blitz
34 Under Weak Blitz 3 (flipped) - Show Blitz
34 Even MLB Cross Fire 3
34 Over Cross Fire 3
Dollar Cover 1 Press (flipped) - Show Blitz
Note: The above plays are not nanos or anything like that. Those setups purpose is to make the SS cover the shallow middle.
Getting beat deep
1) Setup your deep coverage
If you are getting beat deep, my advice is to back your coverage up. By doing this the AI prioritizes the deep zones to make sure they don't get beat deep. Also, spread your deep coverage so that the deep middle zone doesn't let a deep post route run by him as the QB scrambles.
The problem with this is that you are sometimes gonna be open to a post route underneath the deep middle zone but overtop the LB's. You can counter this by moving your deep middle zone right around where the MLB would normally lineup. make sure he's fast enough or he will get beat deep.
2) Bring pressure
This is basic football here but it gets overlooked. Sometimes you simply have to be confident in you pass rush. With the pass rush being much better this year, you can be more confident that he won't have time to throw that post route against your cover 2 shell. And I don't mean setup a 4-man a-gap blitz. If you do that and he sets up his blocking correctly, you are screwed. You have to have faith in predicting what your opponent wants to do and send 5 or 6 of guys.
Corner routes are a pain this year because they easily get in front of the deep zones for the easy catch. The crappy part too is that sometimes purple zones don't get played properly by the defender and he's not in position to make the stop either even without a route combo.
1) Man coverage with good matchups
Man coverage is good at stopping corner routes provided that you are not mismatched. Yes, if you are covering a fast WR (or a good TE) with an OLB, you will get beat. But if you are smart about it, you should be fine.
Bring pressure from the side you are expecting the corner route from. This will get the QB to backup the other direction (will will often mess up his pass lead) and prevent him from rolling out to get a better passing angle.
3) Outside CB in purple
I have found that outside CB's in purple zones do a good job in shutting down corner routes. I find that hooks zones don't go deep enough and safeties, LB's and slot CB's just don't play it the same.