Top 15 Madden NFL 19 tips and tricks

Just cracked open Madden 19? If you've been slaying the competition, congratulations — you're a regular ol' savant! But Madden is an incredibly deep game, and you shouldn't feel ashamed when you can't quite run the rock or throw the ball like your opponents can.

We're going to help you step your game up by outlining some general gameplay tips to ensure you're getting the most out of your players out there on the gridiron. Take heed to these Madden 19 tips and tricks and you'll be on your way to glory in no time.

Hit the Skills Trainer

For the absolute beginner, we'd first recommend heading to the game's Skills Trainer. Madden 19's Skill Trainer provides an excellent tutorial not just for figuring out the controls, but also for learning fundamental football concepts. It's not enough to know how to throw the ball to a receiver (press the button that appears over their head).

Knowing the difference between cover 2, cover 3, and cover 4, knowing how to identify when the defense is in those coverages, and knowing how to attack it are all important things to know if you're going to be successful. So, before you play a single game in Madden 19, complete the Skills Trainer.

Offensive tips

Once you've figured out the basics, you'll need to figure out how to apply that knowledge in a game of football. While it'd be impossible to cover every situation that'll be thrown at you, the following tips and tricks will help you sustain drives on offense, which means more touchdowns and more points.

How to figure out what coverage the defense is in

On nearly every single play, the first thing you want to do is figure out what the defense in, as this will inform how you'll execute the play. The skills trainer should have given you a good idea of how to read a defense.

Almost every play should begin with you checking to see how the defense lines up. This is made easier by holding R2 as it will force the camera to zoom out to give you a better look at the field.

If there are two deep safeties, expect cover 2. Three deep safeties? Cover 3. Motion a man to see if anyone follows him, and that means they're in man coverage. And if you see any of the linebackers or safeties move toward the line of scrimmage, there's a good chance they're sending an extra player on a blitz.

Use the information you gather to see if the play you've called is appropriate for the situation. For instance, if your opponent is bringing a lot of pressure with a blitz, it may not be a good idea to run the football. This is where you want to use the audible mechanic to change the play at the line of scrimmage.

As you get more experienced, you'll find yourself going as far as motioning receivers and blockers into new positions and completely changing their routes. Your adjustments could also be as simple as flipping a run to the other side. Whatever you have to do to get yourself into a better play, do it with no fear.

Mix it up with run and pass

Offensive balance is one of the most important things to practice in football. If your opponent knows for certain you're going to run the ball every play, then it'll be much easier for them to stop you. Try to keep a healthy balance of run and pass plays.

To that same point, don't run the same few plays over and over again. Experiment with different formations and different plays within those formations. Eventually, you'll find yourself coming up with mini schemes by conditioning your opponent to expect one thing while you throw something entirely different at them.

Don't abuse the sprint button

In previous years, holding R2 to keep your players going full speed at all times was a no-brainer. Who wouldn't want to run as fast as they can at all times? We're here to tell you that isn't going to fly in Madden 19.

This is thanks to the game's new Real Player Motion system, which makes it harder to maneuver the gridiron the faster you're going. Just as in real life, you're going to need to pump the brakes a bit when you want to make a fast cut up the hole or turn the edge on a run play.

Looking to juke someone out of their shoes? Let go of the sprint button and see just how much more precise you can be. Spins and natural cuts also benefit from patience. The trick is to throttle the sprint button like you would in a racing game. Let off the gas when you need to make your move, and then step on it when there's no one else in front of you!

Lead your receivers

When you're throwing the football, use passing modifiers to keep the ball out of the reach of defenders. Pushing the left analog stick in any given direction will let you place the ball in a place where only your player can make a play on it.

As an example, if you have a receiver streaking to the right of the sideline and a defender is trailing a couple of steps behind him, push the left analog stick to the right in order to throw the ball ahead of the receiver toward the sidelines. Where the defender might otherwise have a good chance to make a play on the ball, your receiver gets to attempt a catch and you get to save yourself the embarrassment of throwing an interception. You can also hold L1 to throw a pass high and L2 to throw a pass short. Modify the pass to be a lob by quickly tapping your receiver's icon, or as a bullet by holding it, the former being used when you have someone open deep, while the latter is useful for shorter throws and tighter windows.

These mechanics are paramount to a lethal passing attack. Be careful using these tools with less accurate quarterbacks, however, as the ball can sail in very unintended and unfun ways every now and then.

Go through your reads when throwing the ball

It can be tempting to quickly fire the ball to your first read on any given play, but patience is key. Looks can be deceiving in Madden 19, and what may not be there one second might show up in full force the next — that is, some freakishly athletic defenders can close the distance in a hurry and pick the ball off if you haven't properly assessed the coverage.

Take your time and go through your reads. Start with your hot read, which is the receiver who is most likely to be open in the event that the defense is blitzing, and then look at each receiver before considering whether to throw them the ball. As you gain more experience, you'll start noticing those moments when you can break the rules and throw an Aaron Rodgers-like zip to the slot receiver the moment you receive the ball.

Make key adjustments

Get yourself familiar with the adjustments menu on your playcall screen. This menu allows you to change the way your players play. You can direct them to be more aggressive and get extra yardage, or play the conservative game to protect the football more.

It's up to you to decide which adjustments are necessary based on the action unfolding. If your opponent is going for a big hit on every play to try and force a fumble, tell your players to wrap the football up and go down to the ground safely instead of trying to spin out for a first down.

There are pros and cons to each adjustment you can make, so be sure to weigh those options before applying them. (But know that you can make as many adjustments as you want over the course of the game, so be liberal in your experimentation!)

Go for the safe catch

Everyone wants to rip off the big catch and run for a touchdown, but don't go for broke every play. Take what the defense gives you. If your deep routes are covered, look for something underneath. A 6-yard completion might not be as flashy as a 40-yard bomb, but it's easy positive yardage and that might be all you need in some scenarios.

And when you're going to make the catch, it's not always wise to turn upfield immediately. If a defender is nearby and getting ready to hit your receiver in the mouth, hold the possession catch button to secure the ball and fall to the ground. You'll surrender a few potential yards, but you'll see a lot fewer fumbles and incompletions.

Defensive tips

Sometimes, the best offense is a great defense. You won't win many football games if you're giving up touchdowns and field goals like candy. Use these tips on the other side of the ball to stop your opponent from scoring.

Match personnel based on the offense's players

Before every play, you're given a chance to see the personnel your opponent is coming out in. You won't know which exact formation they'll be in, but you'll know exactly how many wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends that'll line up. This information is useful because it can help you determine what sort of defense to call. You typically want to match personnel in this regard.

The easiest way to do this is going by receiver headcount. You should match two receivers with a base 4-3 or 3-4 formation. If they dole out three receivers, come out in nickel. Four wide receivers can be met with nickel, dollar, or dime defense. And for five receivers, you'll want to use a quarters formation.

You should have a basic idea of what these formations are typically used for if you went through the Skills Trainer, but the main thing to know is that they'll have enough defensive backs to cover the number of receivers your opponent has on the field. Deviate from this plan and you'll be forced to cover your opponent's receivers with linebackers (and trust me, you don't want to do that).

Control the middle linebacker

While the easiest thing for a beginner to do is to plop their cursor down on a defensive linebacker and rush the passer every play, it's not going to do you any good in your quest to improve your defense. Instead, we'd suggest starting by controlling the middle linebacker.

It can be scary at first, but by taking control of the middle linebacker you can affect the play in far numerous ways than with any other position. Against runs, you can hit the whole or deny the edge. Against the pass, you can cover the running back or tight end (man coverage) or patrol the middle of the field (zone coverage). Believe me, you don't want your AI teammates to be doing that themselves. It'll take some getting used to, but it's worth getting into this habit early.

Swat the ball

There's no more satisfying play on defense than intercepting the ball, but more often than not it's not the correct play to make. That's because it's extremely risky, and if you don't come up with the ball on an interception attempt then you're giving your opponent a higher chance to not only catch the ball but also take it the distance.

Instead, go for the swat by pressing the Square button. You'll find that it's much easier to defend passes this way and you won't be giving up massive chunks of yardage, as even if the receiver catches it you can quickly recover from the swat animation to make the tackle.

Try not to commit to the run or pass

In Madden, a feature called "commit" lets you go all out to stop either a run play or a passing play. A run commit tells everyone to rush the line of scrimmage as soon as the ball is hiked, while a pass commit ensures your linebackers and defensive backs start backpedaling instead of getting fooled by a play action.

I can't stress this enough — do not run or pass commit unless you're 100% certain you know what the play is. And because it's almost impossible to have that certainty, just don't do it.

Run committing against a pass play will leave your opponent's receivers wide open, and pass committing against the run opens up running lanes so wide that even the Red Sea would get jealous. Nine times out of ten, you can trust that your players will recognize the play shortly after the ball is snapped and use the proper techniques accordingly.

Don't be afraid to bring pressure

Blitzing the quarterback is risky, but it's also one of the best ways to force your opponents to make bad decisions. By bringing pressure, you're forcing them to pass the ball before they're ready. Best case scenario, you get a sack or force a turnover. At worst, you give up an easy underneath pass while denying a more damning fate.

Don't switch defenders immediately after the ball is thrown

When the ball is in the air and you need to make a play, don't switch to the closest defender right away. You're liable to mess up his pursuit and give the receiver wide-open range to make a play.

Let the pursuing defender run until the point just before the ball is coming down, and then go for the swat or pick. The game gives you a couple of seconds of grace before you can move the defender with the left stick, so let it help you out.

Kickers are people, too!

No, seriously, don't mess up kicking. In the case of field goals, those are prime points that could come back to bite you if you miss. And on kickoffs and punt returns, losing excess field position makes it that much easier for your opponent to score on the ensuing drive. The only way to get better at this is by practicing. Here are a few quick tips that you can use along the way:

  • Check the wind before every kick. You may need to adjust your angle and arc by using the left analog stick to make sure the ball lines up right.
  • You don't always need full power or perfect accuracy to make the kick. Try not to stress out over the exact placement of the kicking meter. As long as it's close to the center, the kick should be good.
  • Fake punts and field goals are kind of difficult to pull off, especially if you have more than a couple of yards to pick up. Save these plays for the most desperate of times.
  • Likewise, onside kicks also favor the receiving team. When in doubt, kick the ball deep.
  • If you're winning, or if you're only down one score with ample time on the clock, punt on 4th down. Don't argue. Just do it.

Go win some football games

These tips should get you well on your way to more victories. The joy of Madden is that there's always something new to learn, and the more you do, the more you'll start to notice just how much control you have. Above all else, get on Madden, play, and have fun, because if you're not at least doing that then there's definitely no chance to win.

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Updated January 2019: Added a bit more detail about passing and running mechanics.

Quentyn Kennemer