Buckle your chinstraps and hold the four fingers high; it’s time for the final quarter of my look at the Madden NFL 08 passing attack. Hopefully, upon reading my finale, you will complete the metamorphosis from a floundering fledgling to a seasoned signal caller. (If you missed it, make sure to check out parts One, Two and Three of this series of articles).
While Madden defenses cannot read your eyes when looking over a play (excluding the QB vision cone, of course), moving your eyes over a defense is no less important. An underlying theme in all four parts of this piece has been ways to give yourself options. In the face of the blitz, man coverage, and zone coverage, the key is flexibility. Maddens of the past have coached us into looking for a primary receiver and calling passing plays with a pre-determined route in mind. But the game's ever-continuing quest for realism has made this style ineffective, and the passing game appropriately, has us on our toes.
The trend is now to play each game the way a real NFL quarterback would. And to do that, you will need to develop a passing progression on nearly every passing play.
Progression Rule of Thumb: Deep, Medium, Check-down (D-M-CD, in My Lingo)
Let me prelude my explanation of this rule by saying that the D-M-CD is a very, VERY basic rule, and does not hold true on all plays. However, it will serve as a good starting point.
On most passing plays, your natural first look will be the deep threat -- as it should be. Every offensive play is designed for a touchdown in some way, and the most direct route to this goal is the deep ball. Thus, upon the snap, your first look should be to the safeties, so that you can possibly identify potential openings in the vicinity of any downfield routes. If you see an opening, and/or a receiver with a step, throw the deep ball.
Your second read should be a short/medium option, such as 8-10 yard in-and-out routes, slants, or shallow drag routes. It will not be the sexiest option, but if the deep zones are blanketed, short to medium length routes will at least shorten the road to the endzone and first down marker.
Finally, your third read should be a check-down route to the flat or shallow middle of the field to a back or TE. Many Madden passing plays have built-in check down options, with a back/TE initially staying in to block, and then releasing to an open area of the flat. However, if the play called does not have this obvious, built-in check down route, there should still be a viable shallow option to use in case of emergency. Hot routes can also create a check-down option if you would like.
The D-M-CD progression is very basic and is one of the core principles of basic quarterback play. If you've never played Madden with a passing progression philosophy, it is a great place to start.
Creating Your Own Progressions
While the D-M-CD progression is a great place to begin, it is certainly no place to finish. Defenses are dynamic and complex, and require adjustments. Thus, we may call or alter a play in order to exploit a mismatch, or take advantage of a particular type of blitz, man, or zone defense. Thus, a new first read may be created. Your primary receiver may shift to the deep route or to the medium or check-down -- whichever is most advantageous within the given situation.
My first three De-Rexing offerings outlined ways to beat the blitz, man coverage, and cover 2 & cover 3. These methods of dynamic exploitation require a quarterback’s progression to change, often after the snap and on the fly. As much as it hurts my ego to admit it, I am not Tom Moore, and thus I cannot give you all of the X’s and O’s to exploit every defensive look. And if I could, it would probably require an article much longer than this one, and if you’re anything like me, your attention span is barely tolerating this current rambling.
Instead, I will give you a more broad methodology to follow. Always have at least two different looks on every pass play that attack different areas of the field. Ideally, I would recommend three, but two is a better starting point since we can’t all be Peyton Manning from the get-go.
After initially calling a play, make sure there is a second option when/if the primary receiver can't get open, because the primary option will most likely be covered more than half the time, and forcing the ball should never be an option. Once you begin to recognize different defenses and coverages, creating a progression in your head will become second nature, and you will feast on defenses routinely.
Side Notes: The Vision Cone
The Vision Cone is like Notre Dame football. Either you love it, or you hate it. I for one, loathe its existence. I hate the vision cone too. Sorry Domers, I am not your peer.
The vision cone does serve a purpose of sharpening the accuracy of throws, and looking off defenders. However, in my humble opinion, it creates a hiccup in the fluidity of the passing game. Using the vision cone causes you to perform two different actions to simulate a single simple one; both moving your own vision, and then physically controlling your quarterback’s line of sight. Ideally, these two actions should be one in the same -- until EA creates a technology to follow our eye movements, I guess the cone is the closet we can come.
The Vision Cone is unnatural, and minimally rewarding. My advice to you? Master the game without it before trying to win with it. You’ll break fewer controllers that way.
Side Notes: Screen Passes
Screen passes do not provide a lot of helpful options for progressions. Typically, this shouldn’t be a problem, since strategically, screen plays should work to perfection. However, Madden 08 defenses have a nasty habit of jumping the screen and taking it the other way, especially screens to wideouts.
If no second viable option exists, I’d advise you to high-tail it out of the pocket and throw the rock to the nearest beer man. It’s a form of surrender, but it beats a pick, every time.
That’s a Wrap
Well friends, now is the swan song of my passing-game “masterpiece.” And although it has been more anecdotal than analytical, my main goal is to shift your mode of thought when it comes to Madden 08’s passing game. A successful aerial attack does not require you to study film and memorize the idiosyncrasies of every defensive play and formation. It does, however, require you to change your approach and play the game with more mental activity than ever before. While this may initially feel awkward, and possibly un-fun, it will eventually heighten your enjoyment of the game. Winning is fun, right?
On a final note, many people who know me, also know that I have been the most stubborn and staunch Rex Grossman supporter throughout his tumultuous tenure as the Beloved’s signal caller. Thus, poking fun at his shortcomings within my articles’ theme has been a gut-wrenching and humbling experience. However, the parallels of Sexy’s failures to our own within Madden 08 are uncanny, and undeniable. But by following these little tips, perhaps you can turn things around. And if any of you happen to have connections, and can forward my advice on to Rex, maybe he can turn it around too.