ZAN December 17, 2011 0

Hey guys, welcome back to issue #4 of Forward Progress.

I’m over my vent sessions. From now on, you’re only going to be hearing what I preach; that’s real football and how to take it and apply it to your Madden game in order to make you into a better Madden player.

A few weeks back, I introduced a way to implement the traditional Cover 2 or Tampa 2 style of defense into your system by forcing an inside release with your individual coverage assignments. This week, we take a look at a more traditional style of defense; a style of defense that you seen played a lot in the NFL by teams with elite safeties. You’ll see guys like Troy Polamalu, as well as many other safeties in history (Ronnie Lott, for instance) that thrived in this fast paced, high action, -but still fairly conservative, style of defense.

This week, we look at the “Robber Coverage”. But first, I’d like you to watch all 3:15 of the video below. This is, hands down, the the best video I can find of Troy Polamalu playing what is, primarily, the robber position in the Dick LeBeau defense. There are a lot of other nice plays mixed in, as well.

What did you notice in the majority of those highlights? Troy Polamalu was playing AGGRESSIVELY underneath. That’s exactly what robber coverage is about.

See, regardless of your base defense, -whether you play a 4-3, 3-4, 4-6, or a hybrid 3-4/4-6 (like Rex Ryan), all these defenses are capable of implementing robber coverage.

Take a look at the diagram below.

This is your traditional, zone-based, Cover-2 Robber look out of a 4-3 set. The free safety (FS) is clearly labeled as the Robber. Look at his freedom. His job is to play strong side run support (note he is on TE side). Now, the robber is not only a strong side run assignment. Against teams that run a traditional spread offense, the robber is often assigned to play on the side of the best pass catching option on the other team. Notice how early in the above video how Polamalu jumps UNDERNEATH Kenny Britt, the Titans #1 WR receiving option, for a one-handed interception. He actually shoots underneath for interceptions against man coverage in this video.

The beautiful thing about Robber coverage is that it can be done in man and zone coverages. In the first play diagram shown earlier above, you’ll notice that is shows a zone-based robber coverage; but that doesn’t mean that all robber coverage is zone-based. There are many man based schemes that utilize robber coverage in real life. Let’s look at the Oakland Raiders, who play a man bump coverage. Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff are both very good in run support, as well as playing underneath pass coverage. This is because when Oakland’s defense keys on the run and/or faces a very physical receiver (like they did when Brandon Marshall was with Denver), they bring down Huff or Branch on Marshall’s side to jump him as he broke off the bump. The Raiders also often left Nnamdi Asomugha on the opposite side of the robber, because he was such an elite cover corner; without him, you don’t see nearly as much faith in robber coverage from Oakland this year, but they still employ it.

Now for the question you all are probably asking…”How do I inject this into my Madden defense?”

Well, with the majority of top players manually taking control of their free or strong safeties, they somewhat ALREADY play a robber coverage; even if they are responsible for a deep half, third, or quarter of the field. Most players eagerly jump routes underneath, but are subject to getting beat by a deep ball over the top. In order to lower that risk, and still allow “user stick” and this aggressive style to succeed, let’s look at the traditional “Cover 1 Press” play below, which can be found in pretty much any traditional 4-3 based defensive playbook (Chicago, for instance).

Notice how the Strong Safety and Free Safety are assigned deep middle and hook zones respectively? The Free Safety in hook zone coverage your “robber”. Typically, you’d want to stay in 2-man under until your opponent consistently gets yards with the power run, or routes that beat man coverage. Once your opponent is consistently beating your man to man coverage, you can drop a safety down to “rob” the short middle pass or to play run support.

Now, when I discuss base robber coverage with people, I traditionally get asked about pressure: “IT IS OKAY TO BLITZ WITH ROBBER COVERAGE?”. In fact, I encourage it. If your opponent is beating you with the pass, bring an outside linebacker on the same side as the robber. Like I said, the robber has that freedom. By blitzing the OLB on the same side as the robber, you ensure quick pressure to the opponent’s QB, whether it be a free defensive end, or the OLB himself. However, if the WR or runningback that the OLB was once assigned to is on a route, the robber assumes that assignment. This is why the Robber is a flexible position with a lot of freedom. There are rules, but there is great freedom. The good news is that unless the RB stays in to block, the throw is most likely being forced short and to the side of the field that the pressure is coming from; that’s where you, as the robber, are responsible for making plays happen! Smoke that RB on the swing pattern. Jump in front of that slot WR as he runs his slant over the middle. If you take away that initial read as the Robber, you either force a sack or you put yourself in position to pick off a pass. -That’s what competitive play is all about!

Take the Robber coverage concept, implement it into your defensive scheme as soon as possible, and I promise that you’ll be on your way to winning more ballgames.

Thanks, and until next time,
ZAN (Zac Neal)

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