How To Beat Cover 3 Defenses In Madden 23
Everything you will ever need to know about beating cover 3 defenses in Madden.
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Cover 3 Zone
What Is A Cover 3 Defense?
Cover 3 is a zone defense where every defender is responsible for an area on the field and not a specific man. The field is divided into 4 underneath zones and 3 deep zones with corners and safeties protecting the deep thirds of the field.
Generally, the deep zones covering the sidelines are played by the 2 outside cornerbacks and the deep zone in the middle of the field is played by a safety. The remaining area is covered by the 4 underneath defenders.
How Is A Cover 3 Defense Played?
Cover 3 defenses balance pass coverage with run defense. The defense has an extra safety in the box to help against the run game while at the same time, the 3 deep defenders will try to prevent big plays deep.
In a cover 3 defense, the 3 defenders in deep zones have no responsibility in the run game and because of that they do not want to ever get beat deep. The 4 underneath defenders have a lot of field to cover. A good offense will attempt to put stress on the defenders in shallow zones.
Cover 3 Defense Play Art (Base)
The image above shows what a typical cover 3 zone defense looks like in Madden without any adjustments made to it. This is the most common Cover 3 defense called Cover 3 Sky but there are other variations of Cover 3 zone defenses that function largely in the same way.
Take note of how there is only 1 deep safety instead of 2. The 2 outside cornerbacks and the deep safety split the deep part of the field into thirds while the underneath defenders split the shallow part of the field into fourths.
Most Common Variation Of Cover 3
The most common variation of a Cover 3 zone defense is turning the Curl Flat (Purple) zones into Hard Flat (Light Blue) zones. This instructs the defenders responsible for the underneath sidelines to play more aggressively near the line of scrimmage.
A similar change can be done in the defensive coaching adjustments by setting the Curl Flat or Cloud Flat zone depths to a shallower or deeper distance (between 0-30 yards). This will change the depth in which the underneath sideline defenders play.
What To Look For Before The Snap
Before you snap the ball, you will want to look over the defense to see if you can figure out what coverage they are in.
As always, the first thing you want to look for before the snap is the positioning of the safeties. In a non-disguised cover 3 defense, there is only 1 safety deep while the other safety comes up closer to the line of scrimmage to help defend against the run game.
Just because there is only 1 safety deep doesn't automatically mean it is a Cover 3. The other option is it could be a Cover 1 man defense.
You will have to diagnose whether it is a Cover 3 zone or a Cover 1 man defense immediately after you snap the ball but remember to use your opponent's tendencies and previous plays to guide your thinking.
What To Look For After The Snap
When you snap the ball after seeing only 1 deep safety, you will know that the defense can only be in either a Cover 3 or Cover 1 (with 95% certainty).
You will want to make your post snap reads within the first 1 second of snapping the ball. As always, we start our reads from the back of the defense and move up toward the line of scrimmage. Starting with the safeties.
If the deep safeties' first step is toward the deep middle of the field, you have confirmed it is a Cover 3 or Cover 1. We then look to the outside cornerbacks. Are they both taking steps back into their deep zones? If so, it is likely a Cover 3.
The final check if you haven't diagnosed the defense yet is to look to the underneath the defenders (circled in yellow). If they are all splitting up the shallow area of the field and looking at the quarterback, it is a Cover 3.
Disguised Cover 3 Defense (Base Align)
High level Madden players will often "Base Align" their defense. Base Align just instructs your defense to stay in their base positions and not shift or rotate based on the defensive coverage or how the offense aligns.
This is done to make it harder for the offense to read the defensive coverage before the ball is snapped. In the screenshot above, the defensive playcall is a standard Cover 3 defense but our opponent is using base align to disguise it.
There are some more advanced tells for diagnosing a base aligned defense pre-snap but for this post, we will stick to making the reads after the snap.
After the ball is snapped, we immediately look to the 2 safeties (like we always do). If either one of the safeties steps back and toward the middle of the field in the first 1 second after the snap, we know it is likely a Cover 3 defense.
Note: It could still technically be a base aligned Cover 1 defense but that is an incredibly rare defensive play call (because it has so many weaknesses).
You can see the safety highlighted in the green box is stepping back and toward the middle of the field while the other safety rotates (usually to the sideline).
At this point, we will look to the outside cornerbacks and underneath defenders to make sure it is a Cover 3 defense and then make the right throw.
Cloud 3 Cloud Variation
Another common variation of a typical Cover 3 defense is a Cover 3 Cloud. This is a favorite among higher level Madden gamers. You still have 3 deep zones and 4 defenders in underneath coverage but it is harder to read pre-snap.
In a Cover 3 cloud defense, instead of the 2 outside corners and 1 safety playing the 3 deep zones, you have 1 outside corner and 2 deep safeties playing deep. It is a subtle change but it can often fool people.
The outside cornerback (in the orange circle) still drops back into a deep third. and the safety (in the green box) still plays the deep middle third.
The main difference is the outside cornerback (circled in red) now plays shallow while the safety (in the purple square) plays the deep 3rd on the right. Basically the safety and the outside cornerback on the right switch coverage assignments.
There is usually 1 very obvious giveaway to a Cover 3 Cloud pre-snap. One of the outside cornerbacks will be in press coverage (red circle) and the other will be backed off (orange circle).
This is a dangerous defense because if you are reading the left side of the defense, it looks like a Cover 3. If you are reading the right side, it looks like a Cover 2.
If you make your pre and post snap reads correctly though, you should have no problem properly diagnosing the coverage.
Simplified Pre-Snap Process
No matter what defense your opponent calls, there will either be 1 or 2 safeties deep (highlighted in the green boxes).
Answer: 1 Deep Safety
Cornerbacks generally line up in 1 of 3 alignments: Inside, Outside, or Even. The corners are circled in yellow.
Answer: Even Alignment
How much cushion are the corners giving your receivers (before any adjustments by your opponent)?
Answer: 8 yards of cushion