The game developers at EA Sports put out a great NFL product most years, but sometimes it seems like those guys don't watch any games.
Player ratings were released for Madden 11 starting late last month, though the game won't hit store shelves until the middle of August. In exchange for priceless word-of-mouth publicity and buzz, the minds behind the numbers have submitted their results for an earful of scrutiny and ridicule from fans.
Considering the scores they've given a few players on the virtual Jacksonville Jaguars, they deserve it. No one who paid attention to the Jaguars last year could have signed off on some of these ratings—especially in the following five cases.
Granted, the first player on this list didn't suit up for Jacksonville in 2009. The Jaguars landed Smiley from the Miami Dolphins via trade this summer.
Still, it's nonsensical that his injury rating (83) is higher than that of second-year tackle Eugene Monroe. Smiley has battled myriad injuries, missing 12 starts the past three years, and was rated as little more than scrap by Dolphins boss Bill Parcells. Monroe has yet to miss a game.
Despite having a reputation as one of the NFL's best pulling guards when healthy, Smiley's run blocking rating (83) is Jacksonville's lowest. Go figure.
Monroe's Madden 11 ratings start to make sense once you do a little research on him...
If your "research" involves leafing through 2009 pre-draft magazines, that is.
His alleged collegiate injury history? A tweaked knee in his first year at Virginia. That's it.
His forte, according to those year-old scouting reports? Pass protection, where he's scored a 92 by Madden. His weakness? Run blocking, where he gets an 84.
Any Jaguars fan who can tell you what a "down block" is would laugh at the suggestion that Monroe was a better pass protector than run blocker in his rookie campaign. Opposing defensive ends ran circles around him to get to quarterback David Garrard at times, but he was a ground-game bulldozer.
Time to put down the draft mags and look at the TiVo, EA.
Between Smiley, Monroe, and now Meester, Madden 11 isn't giving you a very accurate simulation of Jacksonville's offensive line.
To EA's credit, the Jaguars' incumbent center is accurately scored as one of the team's least-agile and most-aware linemen, and his below-average pass blocking rating (76) is deserved.
Outside of that, though, they've got him all wrong. Despite a checkered injury history, including damage to both biceps, he's considered more resilient than Eugene Monroe and guard Kynan Forney.
Forney missed four games due to a toe injury in his rookie season—enough, apparently, to grade him an 84 to Meester's banged-up 88.
In Madden, Meester's also considered a better run blocker than both Smiley and Monroe, though EA didn't give him enough credit for the one advantage he might have over those two: strength. Rated an 86, Meester has always been among Jacksonville's beastliest linemen in the weight room.
It's as if they graded someone else and drew Meester's jersey on him.
Point blank: David Garrard is not on par with Tennessee's Vince Young by any stretch of the imagination.
His 6'1", 225-pound frame is stouter than Young's. The Titans quarterback stands a lanky 6'5", weighing only slightly more—no matter what the strength ratings (71 for Garrard, 69 for Young) might suggest.
He suffered more hits than any starting quarterback in the league in 2009, but kept on ticking, while the specter of Young's self-benching in 2008 still lingers—but that's not reflected in their toughness scores, where Young's 85 shames Garrard's 78.
Opposing defenses protected their leads against the Jaguars with much heavier coverages. Still, Garrard's touch on tough throws has always been far superior to Young's, even with Tennessee playing against front-heavy schemes geared to stop Chris Johnson (you know, the real threat),
Madden's verdict? They're comparably accurate.
Garrard has flaws in his game, of course. Were they as glaring as Young's, though, he'd have been sent packing two years ago.
Really, it's hard to fault EA Sports for this one. Word on the street is that Harvey's a "bust," and they've got thousands of players to rate.
Take a quick look at his statistics, grade him down, move on to the next guy. No one will be the wiser, right?
Problem is, Harvey has learned to do a few things really well in his two years in Jacksonville, and none of them are reflected in Madden 11.
Block shedding is the most glaring. Whatever his critics might argue about his pass-rushing success, Harvey emerged as the Jaguars' stoutest run stuffer last season—better, even, than rookie sensation Terrance Knighton at stonewalling a blocker and holding his ground.
In Madden 11, his 65 block shedding rating is near rookie pass rush specialist Larry Hart, among the team's worst at fighting off blocks.
As for the rest, Madden's impression of Harvey's style says it all: a 60 for power moves and an 84 for finesse moves. Again, it's clear that there are too many pre-draft magazine reports lingering in the minds of EA's brain trust.
Coming out of Florida in 2008 as a 6'5", 265-pound pass rushing phenom, those might have been accurate numbers for Harvey. But now, after he's gained 20 pounds and been used as a 3-4 down lineman? They're laughable.
These gripes, justified though they may be, aren't meant to suggest you should up and boycott what figures to be a great football simulation.
Madden 11 will be this year's best, at any rate, by default—it's the only NFL-licensed game.
For a rabid Jaguars fan, enjoying the game might just be a matter of going "under the hood" and fixing these five awful ratings. It's not as though they've got the whole Jacksonville team wrong.
To that end, come back tomorrow for a list of five Jaguars players who were given their due in this year's Madden—including some long-overdue justice for Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew!