Much of the focus for gameplay in Madden 15 has been on improving the user experience on defense. Improvements to coverage, tackling and even defensive play-calling have already been announced. That direction might make strong defensive teams all the more fun to play with this year.
The top defensive linemen and linebackers have already been revealed. Based on those ratings, a few teams will have monstrous front sevens in Madden 15.
Check out all the top-five rated players here.
San Francisco 49ers
Patrick Willis is the #1 rated linebacker in Madden NFL 15 with a 96 overall rating. pic.twitter.com/6u3syCAsZ2— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) July 28, 2014
The Niners don't have a defensive lineman rated in the top five at his position, but they still top this short list because of their nasty linebacker group.
Patrick Willis (96) and NaVorro Bowman (96) are tied for the highest rating among inside linebackers. Imagine how hard it will be to do anything in the middle of the field against an experienced gamer who is controlling the Niners.
San Francisco won't be missing anything off the edge with Aldon Smith's presence. He's tied with the Denver Broncos' Von Miller for the highest overall rating for outside linebackers.
Aldon Smith is the #2 rated OLB in Madden NFL 15 with a 96 overall rating. pic.twitter.com/pCI25ZX0rS— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) July 29, 2014
Because the Niners run a 3-4 defense, Smith is actually more like a defensive end, but he's dominant no matter how you look at it. The Niners trio amassed a combined 283 tackles and 16.5 sacks in 2013.
Niners fans and online cheesers will have to wait a little while before they get to enjoy the full goodness of the second level of the Niners defense.
Bowman is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in last season's NFC Championship Game. Per Mat Maiocco of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Bowman probably won't return before the middle of the season:
The 49ers are not expecting NaVorro Bowman to return until the midpoint of the season.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) July 25, 2014
On top of Bowman's absence, Smith is facing a suspension for off-the-field actions. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, commissioner Roger Goodell will meet with Smith on Aug. 8 to determine his punishment.
Once that news is released, it'll be interesting to see if Madden recognizes Smith's suspension and removes him from the online roster until he's cleared to return to action.
Kansas City Chiefs
Derrick Johnson is the #4 rated linebacker in Madden NFL 15 with a 91 overall rating. pic.twitter.com/xOifxrwBKE— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) July 28, 2014
San Francisco isn't the only team with stud linebackers.
The Chiefs' Justin Houston is rated a 93 and Derrick Johnson checks in at a 91 overall. EA Sports Madden ratings czar Donny Moore talked briefly about what makes Johnson so good in real life and how that transfers to the game.
Moore said, "Johnson has great physical tools (85 SPD/85 AGI/90 ACC) to go along with his top-level intangibles (93 AWR/94 TAK/98 PUR)."
Houston was dominant for the Chiefs last season. Because he's heading into free agency after the upcoming season, the pressure is on Houston to step up big again in 2014. He told Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star he's not focusing on the business aspect, he's more worried about happens on the field.
Justin Houston is the #3 rated OLB in Madden NFL 15 with a 93 overall rating. pic.twitter.com/YsJBBVftEr— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) July 29, 2014
Houston said, “If you’re worrying about that contract, it will slow you down from the things you’ve got to do on the field and I don’t want that to happen. My main focus is football.”
Here's one of the many beauties of video game sports: virtual players' performances aren't affected by contract situations—at least not yet.
Come to think of it, that would be a cool feature for next year's game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Believe it or not, the only team with a player rated in the top five at their position on both the defensive line and in the linebacking corps is the Bucs.
Lavonte David is the #4 rated OLB in Madden NFL 15 with a 93 overall rating. pic.twitter.com/l7cGI5ncTG— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) July 29, 2014
In a league where the 3-4 scheme is taking over, Lavonte David is perhaps the best true 4-3 outside linebacker. He's tied with Houston as the third-highest rated outside linebacker in the game. Playing in head coach Lovie Smith's Tampa 2 scheme, David should be especially effective.
Last season David had 145 tackles. Expect him to shine this season as well.
Gerald McCoy has an overall rating of a 95, and he's the perfect defensive tackle for Smith's scheme. McCoy's pass-rushing skills make him a dual threat. He had 9.5 sacks last season for the Bucs.
Gerald McCoy is the #3 rated defensive tackle in Madden NFL 15 with a 95 overall rating. pic.twitter.com/vNS7QSZnWs— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) July 27, 2014
Moore expounds, "McCoy can both rush the passer (97 Power Moves, ranked second) and play the run (91 Tackle/95 Pursuit) for the promising Buccaneers defense."
Because David is just 24 and McCoy is 26, the Bucs may be an attractive team for a gamer looking for a strong young defense to guide through a Connected Careers experience.
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