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Gridiron Notes: Zone Coverages, Madden Classic and Madden Live

A look at how Zone Coverages work in Madden, the upcoming Madden Classic, Madden Live in September and Community Q&A

Madden NFL 20

Hey Madden Community!

KRAELO here (aka Agent K)! Welcome back to another installment of Madden 20's Gridiron Notes. For those that are new to Gridiron Notes, Gridiron Notes is where we keep you up to date with the latest Madden 20 news. Our goal with this series is to provide you with deeper insight into our game and update you when we have new and relevant information to share about Madden 20.

We have been hearing a lot of community conversation around Zone Coverage and we wanted to bring back an old article with some updates that talks about how Zone Coverages work in general and how they work in Madden.

FROM THE DEVELOPERS

Zone coverage assignments saw an overhaul during the release of Madden NFL 17 and we’ve seen questions about how zone coverages work in Madden NFL 20. With that said we’re bringing back an article that Gameplay Designer Anthony White wrote (updated with a few tweaks). There is a lot of helpful information within this article and it will be a great resource for you to use this season.

Zone coverage is fundamental to pass coverage in the NFL and in Madden NFL 20 there are many options for players to stop opposing offenses. With so many options it can be overwhelming as to what each does and how to use each play properly. In this article we will explain each zone in the game so you can spend more time adjusting and winning games!

Zone Coverage Logic

We’ve consulted with NFL coaches and players to get a thorough understanding of the various coverage concepts, rules for each player’s assignment, and techniques players use in order to carry out their assignments. This resulted in the creation of multiple zone coverage assignments that can be used to create a variety of coverage concepts in the game.

Each zone coverage assignment has rules and logic in place with the idea that they’ll be used in specific coverages. So, in essence, each player in a given coverage concept has knowledge of a global scheme and how everyone’s assignment fits into the scheme. Each player having a global knowledge of the scheme gives them the ability to make “Progression Reads” aka “Pattern Reading/Pattern Matching”. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of Progression Reads for the zone defenders, here’s a high-level overview of zone coverage assignments. Additionally, protect the sticks can be used to help underneath zone defenders play the first down sticks. Protect the sticks will be great to use on 3rd down situations.

The following is a list of zone assignments as well as a high-level overview of what they are and where they’re used. 

Cloud Flat 

Flat zone assignment primarily used in Cover 2 type defenses by the outside cornerbacks. The Cloud Flat player is responsible for protecting the outside deep and short areas of Cover 2. His priority is to protect against deep outside routes first and rally to short outside routes second. 

Hard Flat

Flat zone assignment primarily used in Cover 2 type defenses by the outside cornerbacks. The Hard Flat player is responsible for protecting the outside short areas of Cover 2. His priority is to protect against short outside routes first.

Soft Squat 

Flat zone assignment primarily used in 2 Deep 4 Under zone blitzes. The Soft Squat player based on the route concept ran by the offense has the ability to convert to man coverage. The Soft Squat player also has the ability to jump certain types of out breaking routes by inside receivers. Thus defensive plays where a Soft Squat player is present are sometimes referred to as “Trap” coverages. 

Curl Flat

Zone assignment primarily used by the outside edge players in Cover 3 type defenses. The Curl Flat player is responsible for protecting the outside intermediate and short areas of Cover 3. His priority is to protect against the deeper outside routes first and rally to short outside routes second. 

Quarter Flat

Zone assignment primarily used by the outside edge players in Cover 4 type defenses. The Quarter Flat player based on the route concept by the offense can “match” certain out breaking routes by an inside receiver and “carry” vertical routes by an inside receiver up to a certain depth. 

Seam Flat

Zone assignment primarily used by the outside edge players in Cover 3 type defenses and 3 Deep 3 Under zone blitzes. The Seam Flat player based on the route concept by the offense can “match” certain out breaking routes by an inside receiver and can convert to man coverage against vertical routes by an inside receiver. 

Hook Curl

Zone assignment primarily used by the two inside zone defenders in Cover 3 type defenses. The Hook Curl players are responsible for protecting the inside short and intermediate areas of the field. In certain coverages based on the route concept, a Hook Curl player can also be responsible for the short outside area of the field to his side (Flat). 

3 Receiver Hook 

Zone assignment primarily used by the inside zone defender in Cover 4 type defenses and 3 Deep 3 Under zone blitzes. The 3 Receiver Hook player is responsible for protecting the inside short and intermediate areas of the field. His initial drop is towards the number three receiver in the offensive formation.

Vertical Hook 

Zone assignment primarily used by the two outside edge players in Cover 2 type defenses as well as 2 Deep 4 Under zone blitzes. Depending on what coverage they’re used in as well as the route concept by the offense, the Vertical Hook zones can covert to man coverage against the vertical route of an inside receiver. 

Middle Read

Zone assignment primarily used by the middle linebacker in Cover 2 type defenses. The Middle-Read player is responsible for protecting the deep middle area of Cover 2 defenses. At the beginning of the play he reads the passing strength of the offensive formation to determine if there are receivers threatening the deep middle of the field. To counter the middle-read defender, look towards your Levels passing concept. The deep receiver will drive the middle-read defender downfield, leaving the underneath option open.

User Mechanics

With the addition of the new underneath zone coverage assignments, we took the opportunity to make some tweaks to our Defensive Hot Routes as well as Coverage Adjustments mechanic. Hard Flat is now the defaulted Defensive Hot Route for “Flat”. In Tampa 2 for example, which by default has both cornerbacks in Cloud Flat assignments, a user may decide to have one cornerback play his Cloud Flat and put the cornerback on the other side in a Hard Flat. This is consistent with how some NFL teams make an on-field adjustment to the cornerback’s technique based on a formational tendency.

The Coverage Adjustments “Underneath“ will change all flat assignments including Curl, Seam, and Quarter Flats to Hard Flat. A scenario where this may come into play for a user is in a short yardage situation where they may want to play a Cover 3 defense in order to get an extra defender near the line to play the run. They may also want added protection against short passes in the flat, so Coverage Audible Underneath could be used to put both Curl Flat players into Hard Flat. Coverage Adjustment “Overtop” will put Hard Flat and Soft Squat into a Cloud Flat assignment. Overtop will also change Seam and Quarter Flat assignments into Curl Flat assignments. Over the top coverage has no effect on deep zones.

Be careful when using protect the sticks and coverage adjustments when you’re calling a defense with match rules (Cover 3 match, Cover 4 Quarters and Palms). Putting a defender in a zone who otherwise would be matching leads to them giving up big plays for the offense.

Receiver Count

As we touched on earlier, our underneath defenders in zone coverage now have a global knowledge of the defensive concept they’re playing. The logic and rules that govern how they play, gives the ability to adapt to what the offensive pass concept is as well as complement each other’s assignment. In order to do this, we had to first build a “Receiver Count” system.

Real life defenses from a pass coverage standpoint, will draw an imaginary line down the center of the offensive set, basically splitting it in half. On each side of the offensive set the defense assign's numbers to each receiver starting from the outside, in. Starting with widest eligible receiver on a particular side of the set, the widest receiver is 1, the next receiver inside of him is 2, and the next inside receiver is 3. An offense can have a max of four eligible receivers to one side of the offensive set. 

The following screenshots show some sample offensive sets and the receiver count used by the defense for those sets.

The defense splits the offensive set in half starting at the center/ball location and will number the receivers from outside in on both sides. In the screenshot above, the right side of the offense aligns with #1 and #2 out wide and with #3 in the backfield. To the left side #1 is out wide and #2 is in the backfield.

In this offensive set the right side has four receivers and the left side has one. 

Most offensive sets will align running backs in the backfield directly on the center line. In this scenario, the pass defenders on the right count the running back as their #4. The pass defenders on the left count him as their #2. 

Post Snap Receiver Count

Up to this point everything we’ve discussed concerning receiver count relates to the pre snap alignment of the receivers. In some defensive coverage concepts, just knowing the pre snap receiver count is all a particular defender needs to know when it comes to carrying out his pass coverage responsibility. However, in most cases defenders need to recognize and understand that the pre and post snap receiver counts will change once the play starts and the pass concept develops. 

In the above example, the receivers are aligned in a two-receiver bunch alignment. Pre snap #1 is aligned tight near the pre snap #2. When defenses see these types of alignments from the offense, they’re generally expecting to get some kind of pass route concept where #1 and #2 will switch once the ball is snapped. 

Once the play starts the receivers switch release, meaning they crisscross each other’s path. At this point the original #1 receiver is now the new #2 and the original #2 is now the new #1. Having to know both the pre and post snap receiver counts is a very important aspect of playing a progression read pass defense. In our next blog on our zone coverage improvements, we’ll cover progression reads for our zone defenders in Tampa 2, Cover 3 Match, and 3 and 2 Deep fire zones. 

So, as you can see, you have the tools and options in game to stop any type of offense. Has your opponent been running Four Verticals all game? Or what about short posts routes over the middle of the field? Whatever your opponent is running you will have plenty of options to slow them down. 

***original article from Madden NFL 17 https://www.easports.com/madden-nfl/news/2016/madden-17-additional-gameplay-improvements-zone-coverage

MADDEN CLASSIC

Make sure to Tune into the Madden Classic staring this Friday, August 30th on the EAMaddenNFL Twitch Channel (www.twitch.tv/eamaddennfl). 

What time are the broadcasts for the Madden Classic? Glad you asked! You can tune into the Madden Classic the days and times below:

  • Friday, August 30th starting at 5PM ET
  • Saturday, August 31st starting at 5PM ET
  • Sunday, September 1st starting at 1PM ET and concluding with the Madden Classic Final at 9PM ET

Make sure to link your Madden and Twitch accounts to earn drops! If you are wondering how to do that, make sure to check out our EA Forum article here. All the information you need can be found in the “Sign Me Up. How Do I Do This?”.

Viewers can earn up to 5 packs each day, the longer you watch, the more you earn!

Community Spotlight

What is Madden Live? Madden Live is an EA Partnership program where every month we will be featuring 4 Twitch streamers who will stream with Twitch Drops enabled on their channels. In an effort to capitalize on the continued growth of Good Morning Madden, we want to extend that viewership to the larger Madden Twitch directory.

Below are the 4 Twitch streamers we are partnering with for the month of September

ChewbaccaLemma (MUT): https://www.twitch.tv/chewbaccal

K-Aus (Competitive): https://www.twitch.tv/k_aus23

JayDuhbb (MUT): https://www.twitch.tv/jaydubb3

Shopmaster (Franchise): https://www.twitch.tv/shopmastertv

Make sure to follow their channels so you can get your Madden Twitch Drops and follow @EASPORTS_MUT on Twitter for updates on the Madden Live schedule week to week. We will be also sharing the Madden Live schedule on Good Morning Madden that happens Monday through Friday at 10:30AM ET on www.twitch.tv/EAMaddenNFL.

Community Questions

Just a reminder, if you have any questions regarding Madden 20, please let us know. You can send your questions to us on Twitter at @EAMaddenNFL and @EASPORTS_MUT or share your feedback on our EA Forums here.

Each week, our community team will be working with the Madden development teams to get you answers and context around your Madden 20 questions.

Here are some great questions we have received from the community about Madden 20. Again, thanks for taking the time to ask your questions. We appreciate it!

Q: The last Title Update recently added new Offensive Linemen Abilities into the game. Is there a place that I can see what are the Madden Ultimate Team Requirements for X-Factors and Superstar Abilities for the new Offensive Linemen Abilities?

A: Yes, you can find an updated spreadsheet of the X-Factors and Superstar Abilities in the original article Gridiron Notes: X-Factors and Superstar Abilities in MUT. The X-Factors and Superstar Abilities spreadsheet has been updated for the following positions: OL, FB, and K. The spreadsheet also contains a tab highlighting the Salary Cap costs for the new Offensive Linemen Superstar Abilities.

As changes occur to X-Factors and Superstar Abilities, we will do our best to update the spreadsheet as soon as possible. 

Q: With the recent introduction of Offensive Linemen Superstar Abilities, how does it work against Defensive Linemen Superstar X-Factors and Superstar Abilities? How do these Abilities counter each other?

A: Great question! We had a chance to sync up with both Nick Farah, Technical Designer and Clint Oldenburg, Sr. Designer on the In Game Team to provide some context. 

  • Defensive Line Ability: Pass Rush Elite – Upgrades all pass-rush move wins from normal to super (Power Specialist and Finesse Specialist also do this). Reduces the wait time on the first rush move attempt (the time before a defender can try to shed an engaged block, henceforth the wait timer) by 60%.
  • Counter Offensive Line Ability: Pass Block Elite – Increases the initial wait time by 60%. This completely nullifies the increase provided by Pass Rush Elite.
  • Additional Counter Ability: Secure Protector – Blocks the upgrading of wins to super-wins and adds a minimum timer-delay onto the wait time. This upgrade to blocking nullifies the bonus provided by Pass Rush Elite, Power Specialist, and Finesse Specialist, while the minimum timer-delay ensures that blocks last longer.
  • Defensive Line Ability: Run Stopper – Allows the defender to reach-tackle and reduces the wait time on the initial blockshed attempt by 60%.
  • Counter Offensive Line Ability: Run Block Elite – Increases the minimum wait time by 60% which completely nullifies the increase provided by Run Stopper.
  • Additional Counter Abilities: Power Blocker and Zone Blocker increase the initial blockshed wait time by 30% each. These stack with Run Block Elite to allow the O-Line player to have a cumulative 30% advantage against the D-Line on the specified play-type.
  • Defensive line Abilities: Edge Threat/Edge Threat Elite – These both provide the D-Line player with signature edge rush win animations.
  • Counter Offensive Line Ability: Edge Protector – Blocks the edge rusher from playing the signature edge rush wins (like you see X-Factors like Khalil Mack and JJ Watt use) provided by Edge Threat and Edge Elite. Also prevents normal edge rush super wins that any pass rusher with a 90+ pass rush move rating can use.

Q: Is the Franchise Team aware of an issue where Hidden Dev Trait players where their snap counts are not counting?

A: Yes, the Franchise Team is aware of this issue and currently investigating a fix for the problem in existing leagues with Active rosters. The team is working to address this issue in a future title update. Make sure to follow the Madden NFL 20 Franchise Mode section in the EA Forums for updates. 

Q: How do I qualify to play the Pro Bowl in the Franchise modes?

A: There are a lot of ways to play the Pro Bowl in Franchise mode, and the first thing to keep in mind is this: 

  • When you make it to the Super Bowl in any Franchise mode variant (as a Coach, Player, Owner, or QB1 player) you do not have access to the Pro Bowl in that league.
  • You must meet one of the following qualifications in your Franchise mode variant (i.e. Coach, Player, Owner, or QB1) to have access to the Pro Bowl in that league:
    • When in Face of the Franchise: QB1 mode and you are voted in to play the Pro Bowl, you are player locked as the QB for the full duration of the game.
    • When in offline Player mode and are voted in to play the Pro Bowl, you are player locked as their regular season player for the full duration of the game.
    • When in offline Coach mode you lose in the Playoffs, you will be picked to coach the conference team their regular season team belongs to.
    • When in offline Coach mode and you don't qualify for the Playoffs but have at least 6 wins in the regular season you will be picked to Coach the conference team your regular season team belongs to.
    • When in an online Multi-team League, each human controlled team is paired with another human controlled team of the opposite conference if available, otherwise they'll play against a CPU controlled team.
  • When you are not voted in or qualified to play the Pro Bowl, you will not have a game to play for that week.

Q: Why is my pack count not updating on the Madden Rewards website?

A: Pack counts not updating on the Madden Rewards website has now been fixed. Our systems have been tracking this information correctly as players were able to see their correct pack counts on the Madden NFL 20 Companion App. Thank you again for your patience as our teams worked to address this issue.

What's Next

NFL Kickoff Baby! That is what’s next! I hope you are all excited for the NFL Season this year. Lots of questions in the air as to which two teams will be in Miami for Super Bowl LIV.

The NFL Kickoff Experience this year will be presented by EASPORTS Madden 20. If you are a Chicago Bears fan or in the Chicago area on September 5th, there will be a Kickoff Experience (full-day celebration) a short walk from Soldier Field in Grant Park. The event is free and open to the public. 

Festivities will start at noon and continue up to NFL Kickoff at 7PM Central. At the event there will be a Watch Party, a Mini-Madden 20 Tournament, NFL Combine activities and much more. Bears fans will also be able to get something by Bears Legends. For more details, check out the following article here

Stay tuned to Gridiron Notes for future details on Title Updates, Gameplay Tuning and things coming to Madden Ultimate Team. 


Stay in the conversation by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and EA Forums. Sign up for the Newsletter today to receive updates on Madden, and other EA news, products, and events, all season long.

 

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