Madden 21: Beginner’s guide to defense – Controls, tips, and more

A beginner’s guide to defense in Madden 21.

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Having a strong defense can be a game-changer in Madden 21, for a variety of reasons. Not only will a tough defense stop the opposing offense dead in its tracks, but can also force turnovers and give you great field position. However, playing good defense in Madden takes more than just talented players and a good playbook. There are a number of controls and features that you need to know and be comfortable with in order to dominate the competition. With that said, let’s guide you through what you need to know to play defense the right way in Madden 21.

Know the controls

Before we go over our tips for playing defense in Madden 21, let’s talk controls. Studying the controls is a necessity, or otherwise, you will be stuck during a game. Let’s go over some of the basic controls in Madden 21:


  • Show Play Art – LT/L2
  • Player Lock – Left Stick (x2)
  • Coverage Audible – Y/Triangle
  • Defense Hot Route – A/X

During the play

  • Strafe – LT/L2
  • Defensive Assist – LB/L1
  • Sprint / RT/R2
  • Strip Ball – RB/R1
  • Dive Tackle – X/Square
  • Breakdown Tackle – A/X
  • Move Player – Left Stick
  • Press – A/X + Left Stick
  • Hit Stick – Right Stick (Up)

Ball in air

  • Ball Hawk (Interception) – Y/Triangle
  • Swat – X/Square
  • Play Receiver – A/X

Be comfortable with your user

When playing defense in Madden 21, it’s important to know how to utilize your user, which simply is the defensive player you will be controlling during the play. Most Madden players tend to control either a linebacker or a safety in order to break up and pick off passes, but you are free to use whichever play you feel comfortable with. In order to select a user in Madden 21, hit B (for Xbox) or Circle (for PlayStation) to change the user.

If you are planning on controlling a linebacker or safety, keep a close eye on the opponent’s wide receivers. If you do, you will be able to see which receivers are open. Your job is to make sure that you are covering those receivers so that the opposing offense doesn’t make big gains on your defense.

New skill stick can change games

This year, the Madden developers introduced a new defense-based skill stick. This new stick is for pass rushers, as now it has become a bit easier to break through against the opposing offensive line. Players can perform a rip (right stick up), a bull rush (right stick down), a club, or a swim (right stick left or right). Pass rushers can also perform a spin move by rotating the right stick clockwise or counter-clockwise.

So how should you use this new skill stick? A good defensive plan is to change up your user every now and then. As we mentioned previously, most Madden players have stuck with using either a linebacker or safety in defensive coverage for quite some time. However, because the new stick has made it a bit easier to break through opposing linemen, it might not be a bad idea to try to throw the opponent off by controlling a coverage linebacker one play, and a defensive lineman on the next play. Not only will this make you more unpredictable, but it also can help you take advantage of weaker offensive linemen.

Audible if necessary

An audible can be a great way to get yourself out of a sticky situation, and here’s why. Suppose the offense comes out in a shotgun formation with three wide receivers and one tight end. Unless it’s a draw play, it’s highly likely the offense is running a pass play. But what if you are running a blitz and were originally planning for a run play? Perhaps it’s a good idea to audible out of the current play you are running and switch to a Cover 2 Man or a Cover 3 to prevent a completed pass.

To run an audible, hit X/Square, and you will be able to call a different play based upon what formation you are currently in. To change the formation and audible into a different play, hit either left or right on the pad. You probably won’t have to call an audible on every defensive play, but it’s still important to know. The last thing you want to happen is be stuck in a bad playcall and cede a lot of yards to the opposition.

Watch for tendencies

Much like with running plays on offense, you want to keep a close eye on what plays your opponent is running. If the opposition is calling different plays on different downs, it’s going to be harder, but not impossible for you to stop. However, if you see that the opponent likes to run the football on first down, and a pass on second down, it will be easier to to gameplan for future drives. Why? Well, if you see that the opposition likes to run on a certain down, then you, in response, can call a run-stuffing play like a blitz to stop the running back dead in his tracks.

Keeping an eye on these trends can give you a competitive advantage against sloppier players, so be mindful of them while playing in online affairs

Other tips

  • Man v. Zone Coverage – Know the difference between man and zone coverage plays. For those who might be new to football, man coverage is simply when a defensive player (i.e. cornerback, safety, etc.) is assigned a specific receiver to cover during the play. In zone coverage, a defensive player is assigned a zone. That player’s job is to cover that specific area of the field. You need to know this because some players will look to exploit certain coverage plays. For instance, some players will go for short passes to beat Cover 3 or Cover 4 Zone plays.
  • Look for speed – If you do plan to user with a linebacker or safety, you might to look for a fast player to control, especially since players move a bit slower in Madden 21 as compared to Madden 20. If you are playing in MUT or Franchise mode, try to target players with high Speed and Acceleration attributes. If you are playing Online Head to Head, look at the rosters and find teams that have agile linebackers and safeties.