Madden 21 tips: 7 essential things to know before you play

Madden NFL 21
(Image credit: EA)

It's a Chiefs vs Buccaneers Super Bowl, but Madden 21 tips offer hope for the 30 teams who didn't make it to this year's greatest show on turf. As the real-life season reaches its close things are still going strong in Madden 21, with new pass rush moves and defensive schemes among the best elements of this year's game. Positional changes in Face Of The Franchise are a biggie, too. Anyway, enough smack talk. Let's get on with GR's seven essential Madden 21 tips to know before you play. 

1. Learn the new pass rush moves

(Image credit: EA)

The biggest on-field change in Madden 21 is the full arsenal of pass rush moves that have been remapped on the controller. Edge rushers and defensive linemen disrupt the offensive flow more effectively than ever, but only if you know how to use all the new controls. We've listed them below.

  • Contain: LT/L2
  • Speed Rush: RT/R2
  • Swat: Y/Triangle
  • Switch Player: B/Circle
  • Rip: Right Stick Up
  • Club/Swim: Right Stick Left/Right
  • Bull Rush: Right Stick Down

Depending on who you're rushing the passer with, you should focus on different moves. Electric pass rushers like Joey Bosa should focus on the swim and speed rush, while giant-topplers such as Fletcher Cox need to use the club or bull rush to overpower opposing linemen instead. Then there is Aaron Donald who is arguably the greatest player in the league and can do it all from his three-point stance, but we can't all have Aaron Donald, so get used to mastering the skills you have available to you.

2. Experiment with different Prototypes in The Yard

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The Yard is the best part of Madden NFL 21, but to really take advantage of its new gameplay techniques, you want to spend time with the various Prototypes. These are the in-game character builds exclusive to The Yard. Each one has unique base skills and then can be made better through levelling them up. What's important to know is that you're not bound to just one of them.

Before every round of The Yard, you can pick a Prototype – so even if you really love one in particular, once you've maxed out its skills, it may be time to move onto a new one. That way you're always ready to support your teammates no matter how you suit up for a game. Prototypes are like heroes in Overwatch. Just as you don't need three tanks or medics, so in The Yard you don't need three Truzz or Zeus Prototypes.

3. You can change your position in Face of the Franchise

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This year's Face of the Franchise is the best Madden story in series history. Though not without issues, one of the reasons it's so much fun is it allows players to pick from three high-profile positions rather than get funneled into the QB spot. 

If you're wanting to play as a HB or WR, have a bit of patience. You still begin your story as the signal caller. At the end of your junior year in college, the story takes a turn and enables you to move to a new position or stay at QB. Even after that, you can change back to QB once more if you've had another change of heart. If you're starting the story mode wondering where your positional options are, don't worry. You didn't miss a prompt. They're just a few hours into the story.

4. In The Yard, get tricky and go for bonus points

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It's not just Prototypes that rewrite the rules of Madden within The Yard. It's actually almost everything. One of the most important changes comes on the scoreboard. Though touchdowns are still six points, little else is familiar. There is no kicking in The Yard, so point-after attempts come in 1-, 2-, or 3-point conversions from the 5-, 10-, and 20-yard line respectively.

You can also earn a bonus point on a touchdown if it had at least one successful lateral (LB/L1) occur during the play or if the touchdown went for 40+ yards. Even interceptions give your team a point - not fumbles though. Add all of this up and you get the best scoring play possible in The Yard: a 40+ yard interception returned for a touchdown including at least one lateral followed by a 3-point conversion, for a grand total of 13 points.

5. In Face of the Franchise, build the superstar you want

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The road to the pro league is long and winding, but once you're there, your options really open up for how you'll fare throughout your NFL career. One way to ensure you're in the best position to succeed is to define your own traits. Great players gain access to X-Factor abilities, and as a potentially great player, you're given the chance to assign your own X-Factor in addition to two passive Superstar abilities.

For example, as a pass-catching RB, I made sure to give myself an ability which adds more hot routes to my pre-play route tree, so I can more easily take advantage of defensive mismatches. Whether you're a deep ball QB, a possession receiver, or a between-the-tackles RB, make sure to load out with the abilities that best compliment your skills.

6. Know when to give up on a play

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We all want to score on every play, but that's just not realistic. Therefore, it's important to know when to throw in the towel, if only for a play here or there. Great passers know when to throw the ball away (click right stick) to avoid a bad throw or the pass rush. It's vital you acquire this skill. Instead of tossing it unbalanced and blindly down field into a defender's hands, train your mind to throw it away when the situation calls for it.

For that matter, if you have a scrambling QB, it's just as important, arguably even more so, to slide with the ball. Madden has long loved to make running QBs fumble, even if they're known for their rushing ability like Russell Wilson. The likelihood of a fumble on a play where you don't QB slide (tap, don't hold X/square) is very high, so get your yards, but if you can't safely get out of bounds, don't take the big hit. Consider each moment where you do take such a hit and don't fumble to be a gift from the RNG gods, and don't tempt their fates anymore.

7. Learn defensive schemes

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I've been playing Madden for 25 years and the game has changed immensely, but there remains one constant: many players simply don't understand defense. Offense is simple enough. Your wideouts run these routes and you throw it to one of them when they're open. There's more to it than that, but most players grasp at least that. But the gist of playing defense, i.e. play art full of differently colored circles, arrows, and other labels, can be a puzzle for many. To better get a grasp on the sport when you don't have the ball, use the Skills Trainer (under Exhibition) and practice the defensive concepts such as Cover 2, Cover 3, Cover 4, Cover 6, and zone versus man coverages.

Getting a grasp on these schemes doesn't just teach you how to play them, it teaches you how to read them and, more importantly, beat them. That way, when you head into a PvP game, and the other player is spamming Cover 2 Man for the entire game, it's them at the disadvantage, not you.

Freelance Journalist

Mark Delaney is a prolific copywriter and journalist. Having contributed to publications like GamesRadar+ and Official Xbox Magazine, writing news, features, reviews, and guides, he has since turned his eye to other adventures in the industry. In 2019, Mark became OpenCritic's first in-house staff writer, and in 2021 he became the guides editor over at GameSpot.