In Madden NFL 25, there were too many holes in Zone Coverage and there was a little too much separation versus certain routes in Man Coverage.
The Madden development team worked on both Zone and Man coverages in concert for Madden NFL 15. Starting with Zone Coverage, we wanted to look at the each Zone starting from the shallowest to the deepest.
Let’s start with the Flat Zones. The first major issue was that Flat Zones were playing too shallow, jumping the Flat versus every route combination that had a Wide Receiver, Tight End, or Running Back going short. Flat Zones also didn’t carry at all. Cover 2 corners would chuck a receiver and turn him free almost immediately after, regardless of whether there was something pulling them to the Flat or not.
Our first goal was to have Flat Zone defender get more depth in an effort to fix the hole along the sidelines between the cornerback and safety.
The biggest Zone principal is “Play Deep to Shallow.” Deep Routes take priority over shallow routes, so you have to cover the deepest threat in your area then rally to the Flat. Now a Flat Zone defender does not want to get out-leveraged, so he will come off that deeper route if a shallow receiver crosses his face going to the outside.
We also didn’t want Flat Zone defenders sitting right on the line of scrimmage where you could easily drop in a dump pass over there head. We have them playing off the LOS by several yards so they would be in better position to cover the entire Flat area, not just the LOS and the offensive backfield. Players are now in better position to play a Deep Out or a Curl Route, instead of sticking to the LOS like a fly stuck to tape.
These changes to Flat Zone logic alter the way everyone plays Madden. Holes that you thought were there would be immediately gobbled up by a lurking Flat Zone defender. So instead of the Flat Zone defender jumping every Swing, Dart, or Flat route, they would now give underneath support on shallow routes then rally to the Flat like real life.
Hook Zone defenders in Cover 2 now have the logic to read through the three step of the QB. If there is no vertical threat and everything indicates that it is going to be a short pass, the Hook Zone defender will abort his drop and look to break on the throw.
Defenders now start breaking to where the ball is going as the QB is making his throwing motion. This was another change that causes people to completely rethink their passing strategy. In previous versions of Madden, Hook Zone defenders would be late to react to passes thrown right at them. Now, a defender’s break on the QB’s arm movement is based on their Play Recognition rating. Middle Linebackers have a higher likelihood to react quicker to those quick pops over the middle.
A common theme you will see in Zone Coverage is drop back, take away the deep, and then come crashing down hard to anything underneath. Hook Zone defenders are now in better position on shallow route combinations, which mixes perfectly with Flat Zone defenders being in better position on deep route combinations.
In Man Coverage, we have redone the system for reacting to cuts by WRs. Instead of waiting for the right point in the cut for the defender to react, we ensure that the defender gets to a specified coverage point based on the cover type (off Man or Trail), the route type, and player ratings (Route Running vs. Man Coverage).
Ratings matchups will play more of a role as defenders vie for underneath or overtop positions. There’s no more “wait and break” positioning, as it is more realistic. If players do get beat, the separation will not be as exaggerated as in past years of Madden.
Remember: Only certain defenders have outstanding Man Coverage (MCV) ratings, so keep that in mind when calling Man defense. Know your players’ abilities and put them in position to succeed.
Man Coverage is the perfect complement to Zone Coverage, so it’s important to keep your opponent’s offense off balance. To help you, we have provided plays in playbooks that are one coverage, but show a different coverage.
In Madden NFL 15, Cover 2 has the Corners rolled up five yards off the line pre-snap, but you can call get them 7-8 yards off the line by calling Cover 2 Show 4. At the snap, those Cover 2 corners will come up into the chuck Zone and reroute the receivers.
There are also plays like Cover 1 Thief Show 2, which mimics a Cover 2 before the safety drops into the hole. Be on the lookout for these plays because the CPU will also run them in an attempt to confuse you.
As you can see, lots of attention has been paid to both Man Coverage and Zone Coverage in Madden NFL 15. Happy ballhawking!