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How Madden 25 Could Enhance D-Line Controls

Smart guys, those two are.
Smart guys, those two are.

We are only a few months away from Madden 25, and maybe that means it’s too late to suggest any significant changes, but whether it’s Madden 25 or Madden 97, there is one thing we would love to see implemented into a new wave of EA Sports football games.

And no, I’m not talking about the play clock this time.

If there is one thing I have beaten the drum on over recent years, it’s the importance of enhancing the user-controls for the defensive line, however nothing has really come of it, so I decided on using a bigger drum. Right now in Madden 13, there’s very little incentive to control anything outside of the linebackers or safeties, and that creates a problem for fans on many different fronts.

The problem with only really being able to control linebackers and safeties, is that it excludes a large portion of the superstars in the NFL. Players like J.J. Watt, Jason Pierre-Paul and Geno Atkins should be just as enjoyable and impacting to play with as some of the more mobile positions on the field, but unfortunately things just don’t work that way in Madden. This doesn’t just put a hamper on the fun notions of playing with your favorite players, it also inhibits the depth of the game.

Yes, there are user-controls currently available to the defensive line, but no, they’re not good enough. Keep in mind that when I say user-controls are “not good enough,” I’m not saying you can’t get pressure while manually controlling a DE or DT. In fact, I know you can. But it’s simply not enjoyable, not as impacting as it could and should be, and you rarely ever feel like you’re doing the things that you’re intending to do. When players can often find themselves doing the opposite of their intent, it’s a good sign that something needs to change.

I have no problems with Madden NFL playing out the ratings as the DL and OL collide, but it shouldn’t make user players feel like they’re trapped in a simulation without any control over the moves their player attempts to do. In order for Madden 25, or any future Madden for that matter to really include all the superstars that we know and love on defense, the controls need to be completely revamped to enhance the usability of the defensive line.

And I know a great place to start.

Madden 25 Needs Pass Rush Modifiers

A modifier button in gaming is a simple concept that alters the controls at your disposal, depending on which modifier button is being pressed at the time. In the case of the defensive line, nothing would be more natural than separating Power Moves, Finesse Moves, and general line play with the simple hold of a button.

Madden 25 defensive line total control scheme

Power Moves (Hold RB)
In order to execute a Power Move in my D-Line control scheme, players must hold down the right bumper on their Xbox 360. What this does is causes the d-lineman to “grab” the offensive lineman around the inside of the shoulder pads, in an attempt to make use of their strength and gain leverage. Once the button is held down, they can use the right joystick to determine the various moves they want to make during the play while engaging in this grip.

(Toss Left/Right) Hold RB + R-Joystick Left/Right
While holding down RB and engaging with the lineman, defenders would be able to attempt to struggle and throw the player to the left or right, depending on the direction you choose. Only successful tosses actually collapse the lineman depending on the player ratings involved, while an unsuccessful toss could range anywhere from simply moving the blocker left or right slightly (still valuable), or getting pushed out of your gap responsibility.

This would be a fantastic addition as a pass rush skill because you have complete control over the direction that you wish to try and move the lineman, which could be important not just for your own pass-rushing needs, but possibly even stunts or clearing the way for blitzes. This animation actually already exists in the game, but players just have no control over how and when it really functions. Spacing is so important at times on the d-line, and this just gives Power Move pass rushers more control of what they’re trying to do.

(Bulldoze) Hold RB + R-Joystick Up
The bulldoze move is essentially what the bull rush already is now, where the d-lineman tries to knock a blocker on his butt at the start of the play. There are advantages and disadvantages inherent to trying to bulldoze an opponent that makes it fairly balanced in Madden 13, and it should come back in Madden 25 in a similar fashion. If a player fails the bulldoze, he’ll often collapse or find himself out of position, and that’s just fine.

(Bull Rush) Hold RB + R-Joystick Down
When I describe this move as a bull rush, I am not talking about pancaking an offensive lineman. I’m talking about a player trying to drive a lineman back and collapse the pocket, making it difficult for the QB to step up or move around freely. If a Bull Rush is effective enough, it should parlay into a bull-and-rip maneuver that is commonly used to finish off a strong rush, by using a blocker’s resistance against him. This is an important pass rush skill to have control over, because it’s the type of skill that frustrates quarterbacks without actually having to make a sack, and it’s a very common technique used in real-life NFL games. The pocket should be everything to a QB, and bull rushes do a great job at creating uncertainty for passers.

Madden 25 defensive line total control scheme

Finesse Moves (Hold LB)
Finesse moves are the polar opposite of power moves, and by holding LB your defensive lineman will do everything he can to keep the offensive lineman from grabbing on to him. While power moves work by gripping the OL, finesse moves will work by keeping distance from the blocker with chest punches and hip movement that create lanes to pass by.

(Swim Left/Right) Hold LB + R-Joystick Left/Right
While the PMV equivalent of this will try to toss blockers left or right, the FMV equivalent will try to swim under blockers in the direction used. Notice how power move skills have more control over where blockers end up, while finesse move skills have more flexibility for where you end up. FMV skills try to get you around, while PMV attempts to go through in one way or another.

(Spin Move) Hold LB + R-Joystick Up
The spin move is one of the rarer moves in Madden, but it would be a great fit as the equivalent control to the Bulldoze power move. Just like Bulldoze, however, Spin move can sometimes be a high-risk, high-reward technique depending on the matchup. The upside to a Spin move is that it would create an incredibly fast release that allows you to finish at great speed, while the downside would be the inevitable pancake block, or push out of position. Spin moves of course could be particularly costly on running downs, so it has a very good natural counter to keep it in line with the Bulldoze, but still see a unique use apart from Swimming left or right.

(Speed Rip) Hold LB + R-Joystick Down
Speed rushing isn’t necessarily a FMV, but for the purpose of having an equivalent to the Bullrush it would fit quite nicely here on the finesse move modifier button. With a speed rush, the d-lineman will try to get under the outside armpit of his blocker with his inside arm, and bend around the tackle in a somewhat elongated motion. This is fundamentally different from a Bull Rush, because it utilizes the concept of bending around the pocket, as opposed to collapsing the pocket directly, but it’s a logical mobile equivalent to the Bull Rush. The big downside to a Speed rush, of course, is that you could find yourself running right out of the play, or being pushed far too wide by the tackle to have a significant impact on the pocket.

New Modifiers Would Leave Room For Run-Stopping

Madden 25 defensive line total control scheme

General D-Line (No Modifier)
Because pass rushing moves now have their own separate button modifiers, that leaves the right joystick without the use of a modifier wide open for any number of things. Personally, I think it would be great if the non-modified right joystick played a big part in run defense.

(Armbar Left/Right) R-Joystick Left/Right
Giving a defensive lineman the ability to reach left or right while engaged with a tackle may seem like a small increase in control, but in reality it’s an incredibly powerful tool that belongs in Madden 25, and puts the impact of user-controlled linemen closer to that of a linebacker, or safety. The “Armbar” move would simply involve the d-lineman extending his arm out left or right in an attempt to arm tackle or slow down a passing running back. This, of course, would not be as effective as shedding a block entirely, but it would give users a way to contribute to run defense with a lineman that goes beyond just trying to slightly move left or right while locked in a struggle.

Arm tackles would also be more of a timing maneuver, and come with its own set of disadvantages. Ideally, when a lineman reaches his arm out, he immediately becomes vulnerable to being moved around (or even pancaked) by a blocker. This means players won’t be able to simply hold down the right joystick in a direction and completely cut off a running lane, instead they’ll have to be controlling a d-lineman near that lane, and also time it correctly so they don’t end up creating an even bigger hole for the running back.

I really love the idea of reaching left or right with the right joystick, particularly because it would be a massive buff to both the effectiveness and enjoyment of user-defensive tackles. While pass rushing skills will probably be most often enjoyed by defensive ends, run-stopping skills like arm reaching would be more useful for DTs, since they stand their ground much better, and often have the positioning to reach left or right and interrupt interior runs. The use of this move could also be tied into a player’s awareness rating, which would give high AWR and high tackling players a nice boost in usefulness, while also retaining value in user-control, being that you will have the ability to invoke the move at your will.

(Hands Up) R-Joystick Up
Putting your hands up as a defensive lineman to bat down a ball (particularly as a defensive tackle) should be a natural occurrence, but in Madden 13 it’s a bit of a wonky technique, as lineman are forced to jump along with it, and not just reach to the sky as sometimes is a better option. With the “Hands Up” technique, players will momentarily raise one or both arms up, on the tips of their toes, in an attempt to get a piece of a potential pass. Just like the “Armbar” technique, this would have its obvious downsides in that it could leave you vulnerable to being taken out of the play by a lineman, but when timed correctly it could create dangerous tipped passes.

I also like the idea of tying in “Hands Up” with awareness much like “Armbar,” but with the added caveat that when user-controlling, awareness is what dictates whether or not the player actually jumps, or if he simply reaches up. If you user-control a high awareness player and time the “Hands Up” technique just as a pass animation begins, the player’s awareness should be rolled for a chance to actually jump up along with the reach. Keep in mind that the jump would only occur if a pass animation is taking place (or the ball is already in the air) as you put your hands up, so there’s no way that you would be negatively impacted by having good awareness at the position.

Currently in Madden 13, you can jump on your own as a defensive lineman by hitting the “Y” button, and I’m actually not saying we should take that away. Players should still be able to jump swat passes manually with the Y button if they choose, but with the downside that a premature jump could take them out of the play, just as it does now. It’s important to allow players to still jump for swat balls manually, because it would allow users to create the impact of having good awareness on a poor awareness player, in the same way that positions like LB, or safety receive that benefit when you user control them.

The fact that “Hands Up” is mapped to an unmodified “up” flick of the right joystick, is also really important to note because it’s a very reactive maneuver that needs a quick-twitch joystick to really be utilized properly. Leaving swat balls mapped only to hard button presses (as in Madden 13 and prior) is not the best way to include this technique in the game. This helps change that.

(Stand Tall) R-Joystick Down
The “Stand Tall” technique with the right joystick is based on a simple premise: Sometimes, you don’t want to move anywhere, and you just want to hold your gap. By holding down the right joystick, defensive linemen should be able to get under a blocker’s shoulder pads and hold him upright, preventing him from utilizing any leverage to push you around on the play. This would be a really useful technique during key running downs, where you may want to control a defensive tackle or defensive end, and simply make it more difficult for running lanes to open up while allowing your linebackers to make a play on the ball carrier.

While I don’t really think a negative counter to using “Stand Tall” is needed (the fact that you aren’t pass rushing is in itself an inherent counter), you could, if you wanted, cause the d-lineman to fall forward and get blocked to the ground if an offensive lineman steps backward into a pass blocking stance, rather than engaging for the run. I hesitate to say this is a necessity partly because there may be some wonky exploits involved in being able to intentionally lock up a tackle in a ground-blocking animation. Maybe not, though. Just a cautioned thought.

I do very much like the idea of encouraging players who are controlling the d-line to guess run or pass, and prepare their moves accordingly, as that’s really how it is in real life. This sort of pre-play chess match doesn’t just make things more interesting, it makes them more realistic, and I think it’s about time we see it in Madden NFL, whether it be in this console generation or the one just on the horizon.

What else must be done on the d-line?

By no means is this d-line control scheme complete, but I think it’s a very good base to begin with. The control scheme does create a notable problem in figuring out how to let d-linemen attempt strips (“LB” in Madden 13) without going into a finesse move with a nearby lineman, but that may be a simple matter of moving the strip button (clicking the left or right joystick would be awkward, but may work as a replacement). There may also need to be some reconsideration as to how general shed-blocking occurs, which I think should be tied exclusively to the movement joystick, since you always want to shed in the direction that you are trying to move anyway.

While I don’t have a great idea for it just yet, there also must be an emphasis put on the ability to cause strip-sacks with blind-side hits on the quarterback. The “karate chop” is a key football maneuver that plays a big part in NFL games, and it should be fairly represented in Madden 25 and into the future. This could be as simple as requiring you to hold down the (new) strip ball button as you tackle the QB from the blindside, or it could be a technique that requires a bit more skill to pull off. At first thought, I like the idea of tying the chance to utilize the move to the awareness of the pursuing DE. However it works, it needs to happen.

What do YOU think about the “Total Control” D-Line idea for Madden 25?

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  • GoMadden

    I totally tl;dr while editing this, so just know I feel your pain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/crmosier Casey Mosier

    Great read man!

  • http://twitter.com/MonkeyFoo69 Monkey Foo

    I know this may sound stupid. But why does the camera not turn around so that the Defense is facing the offense. i think it would be a bit better to be forward facing.

    • GoMadden

      I believe they have (or had) it that way in NCAA road to glory mode. I don’t know if it would be particularly good for very competitive play, but for playing casually I would love that camera option. I think players should have the camera option if they want it. I’ve always thought that view was more fun.

  • http://twitter.com/rudyjuly2 Rudy

    Tremendous article. Completely agree.

  • Blake

    Holy shit. How is this not a thing? See, this is the type of stuff that makes me so frustrated with a lot of the game designers these days. They come off as lazy, money grubbing pricks. So, the new madden you can do string together two moves as the ball carrier. Yippie. I was hoping that the d-line would be better this year, but it doesn’t look like it. Seeing a HB literally run into a DT and he’s just stuck in the blocking animation is almost game-breaking bad in my opinion.