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Sub Packages, one of my favorite DEFENSIVE tools
By Nic St. Marie
Special to gzl-football.com

This is a pause from the data analysis so I can write what I've really wanted to write for a long time. Bring back the substitutions, who's with me?!?

No? I'm alone on this?*

*Psst, I already knew this...keep reading

Making a "Hybrid 4-3/4-3 defense" in Madden. No really!
One of the things that frustrated Anthony the most in the RZL is understanding why my defensive scheme didn't crumble. I'm reading between the lines, as he's never specifically said those words. But he's a lot like me. He highly values his ability to look at what people construct, find the strengths and weaknesses, and understand how that will affect him. For him to type the words "I don't get it" or "I don't understand" in regards to how I was successful at it, leads me to that guess.

I increasingly ignored the linebacker position, and loaded up on aging, pass rushing DEs as time went on, and yet could stop the run with the best of them. What he didn't quite know is how I'd mastered the "Hybrid" defense through sub packages. Or maybe he did and just didn't let on.

Here's how it works...

(Several Days Later)
Not everyone has the ideal 4-3 or 3-4 personnel. There are different reasons for wanting to hybridize (hybreed Razz ) your defense.

One of the drawbacks of the Ravens balanced defense here in Madden is that half of the time, you has a key person out of position. Unless you have studs everywhere. If your best speed rusher plays LE, then he'll play the same position in a 3-4, making him have to beat a double-team as part of a 3 man rush when you are in 3-4 plays. Or if your best pass rusher is an OLB and you generally play 3-4, moving to the Ravens means that half of the snaps he's in 4-3 with pass coverage responsibility, far more than in the 3-4.

So let's go through those reasons that substitutions gives a GM extra ability to make his team better at defense.

1: You have a Julius Peppers, or Terrell Suggs
Sometimes, you have the best speed rusher in the league. We'll start with Julius Peppers, and guys like him. If you had him in real life you know you have one of the best edge rushers around. One of his chief complaints, and reasons he finally left the Panthers, is he thought he would benefit from the additional angles and confusion a 3-4 causes.

So here in Madden (and I did this in the RZL) one thing you could do with substitutions is to play him at DE, then add him as an OLB in the 3-4, putting a stronger DE type at the DE position in 3-4 formations. And vice versa, you could play him at 3-4 OLB, then add him as the 4-3 DE. This makes a guy who would do that in real life, do it in Madden.

2: You have a run-stopping OLB
Maybe you don't have that amazing pass rusher, but you have a pretty balanced team. This can still be a very beneficial option. Perhaps you have two OLBs, and one of them would be a great second MLB, but he just doesn't have the juice to be a beneficial pass rusher much of the time. Let's call this guy, Brooks Reed.

Veteran, awesome tackler, athletic enough to still play. But you don't want him in the 3-4 unless you're willing to accept the slower pass rush. You dial up the Ravens (or 3-4 in general), sub Aldon Smith in as the ROLB in the 3-4, sub Reed in as the second MLB, and boom, you have the right personnel regardless of scheme.

3: Clay Matthews
The Packers D has been mediocre for years, outside of a key player or two. Clay Matthews is one of those players. Now he did it in reverse, but here's what I'm proposing:

Your front 7 sucks, but you got this MLB stud. Let's call him, Ricky Austin. So...if you could clone him 5 times, your front 7 would be the best in the league, but you can't, so you're more like tissue paper. But Austin holds it together against most teams. He does the work of two men.

Well, in the 4-3, Austin has just knocked down a pass and tackled a guy for a 1 yard gain that looks more like a .3 yard gain to your eyes. It's 3rd and 9.7. You're now in the 3-4, who's that flashing around the edge? It's Austin!

In the 3-4, you have two men playing MLB so Austin can vacate the middle and go into pass rusher mode.

On this drive, your best player was able to stop the drive single-handedly, because he was in the best position for him in two different formations.

How did this work for me in the RZL?
I played with an oversized RE, almost from the start. At LE, I had different people, but for a long time, had a converted (position change as a rookie) OLB playing at LE. So over time, I subbed him into all of the 4-3 DE positions, and started him at OLB when I played the Ravens defense.

This of course had the added benefit of making him the nickel/dime DE (a common subs move anyway for some GMs) in 4 DL scenarios, if I played a pure 3-4.

Now I was able to get away with mostly scrub OLBs because I: Had one star MLB. Had the primary pass rusher playing OLB in the 3-4, another DE playing pass rushing OLB. Then one other mediocre LB playing OLB in the 4-3 and MLB in the 3-4 and you have a defense.

One that on paper seems like it would never stop the run, but did so quite well. And of course, was at it's best pass rushing regardless of the formation.
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