The NFL preseason wouldn't be complete without a fair share of Madden simulation.
I will take part, but it will be the first time in a while.
When the NFL sold Electronic Arts and Madden a five-year contract for exclusive rights to its franchise, I swore off the series.
It's not that I was a big fan of the NFL 2K series or anything, though I know some were. In fact, I actually still own a copy of Madden 2005. It was just the principle of the thing. The two series (Madden and 2K) fought each other for supremacy, and therefore, both were pressed to make the greater gameplay innovation in each annual installation.
And then EA won by TKO, and the Madden series fell into the gutter in terms of quality, and shot through the roof in terms of sales. And then the exclusivity deal got extended through 2012.
With the contract extension, I can't wait any longer for a new NFL-licensed football game. I'm going to break down and buy Madden 2011. Which is okay, because it looks like EA is back on the ball now that their sweet deal is almost up.
But I digress.
The game is on the way, and the annual Madden release has become such a spectacle, even the disclosure of team and player ratings has become newsworthy. And as you might have guessed, the Lions' ratings have been revealed.
So while we wait for the game to come out, why not observe, nitpick, and criticize the player ratings they've designated for Lions players?
Check out the ratings and compare yourself at:
It's no surprise to Lions fans, we all know Stafford has a (insert powerful projectile weapon here) for an arm.
But now it's official, because the good folks at EA Tiburon have recognized it.
It's not just that Stafford has a big arm. It's that, according to Madden 2011, he has the most powerful arm in the NFL with a "Throw Power" rating of 97.
Okay, technically, he's tied with Jay Cutler. But still. It's nice when people outside of Detroit recognize that a Detroit Lion is good at something.
Just when you thought they were ready to give respect to Lions players.
Seriously, I know 91 sounds like a high rating, and it is, since Madden doesn't make a habit of posting a bunch of 99s anymore.
But here's a reference list of other NFL wide receivers.
Roddy White: 93
Brandon Marshall: 96
Steve Smith: 92
DeSean Jackson: 91
Now try, try really hard, to read this sentence without laughing.
DeSean Jackson is as good a receiver as Calvin Johnson.
Are you kidding me? Eagles fans would have a hard time getting through that with a straight face.
You can make the case for some of those players being as good or better than Megatron, but not all of them. Getting triple-teamed every down shouldn't be reflected by a lower rating.
... is Julian Peterson?
Julian Peterson, at an 86 overall rating, is the best player on the Detroit Lions' defense. That's better than Louis Delmas, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh, DeAndre Levy, etc.
This, from a guy considered to be coming off a down year. Once again, this is likely a big snub of the Lions' defense as a whole (and honestly, how can you blame them?). I mean, Peterson's rating is 86. That's a slightly above-average starter's rating.
The biggest factor is that EA Tiburon doesn't dish out high ratings without consistent success, and the Lions' defense is young. They're not going to shell out a 90 to a guy because he had a good rookie year. Even Defesive Cheater...er, Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing is only rated 87.
Peterson has been good for a while, and no other Lions have. But if Delmas or Levy have the kinds of years they're capable of, they should see big jumps in Madden 2012.
I like Brandon Pettigrew as much as the next guy, and I'm happy to see him get some respect. I have no problem with him being the Lions' top-rated tight end.
I'm a little uneasy with him being the second-best receiving player the Lions have on the whole team.
And there's a big gap. Pettigrew is rated an 82 overall. That's four points higher than Nate Burleson and EIGHT points higher than Tony Scheffler.
Pettigrew joins Calvin Johnson as the only receiving players scoring higher than 80 on the Lions roster, so you have to wonder whether this is respect for Pettigrew or a big, fat snub on the rest of the WR/TE bunch.
Really, EA? Really? Jordon Dizon (77 Hit Power) hits harder than Zack Follett (75 Hit Power)?
Why don't we tell that to Danny Amendola? In the St. Louis Rams game last year, Follett hit Amendola's name into our collective minds.
Or poor Erik Ainge here, who was hit so hard, his spine appears to have vaporized.
Look, Zack Follett might not be good at a lot of things. Nobody knows if he's going to be any good as a linebacker at the professional level, much less a starter.
But the man was basically drafted because of his hitting power alone, and he has done nothing but show it off with the Lions. They can do what they want to his speed, agility, and awareness, but give him hitting power. At least give him hitting power over the 6'0", 235-pound Dizon.
This is a little bit distressing.
It's not that Jahvid Best and Aaron Brown are the same overall rating. Best's 75 rating far outclasses Brown's 67.
And yet... Brown is equal to Best in speed, acceleration, and trucking (plowing over defenders) ratings... and BETTER than Best in strength, catching, and spin/juke moves.
Sure, the difference is made up by Best's eight-point advantage in agility and a 30-point disparity in ball carrier vision, but I'm a little uncomfortable thinking that Best is not an upgrade in speed or acceleration over somebody who was already on the roster.
Raiola's the one on the right. The one who looks like he's a half-foot shorter and 50 pounds lighter than the other guys on the line.
He looks that way because he is.
And that man, the perpetually undersized Raiola, is the Detroit Lions' best offensive lineman, with an overall rating of 83. And it's not because they've overlooked his size.
Quite the opposite, in fact. You see, the Lions' best offensive lineman has the third-lowest strength rating (85) of any lineman. Only backup center Dylan Gandy (84) and fourth-round draft pick Jason Fox (76) are considered weaker.
But he has great pass and run block ratings, right?
Actually, no. Raiola boasts some of the worst blocking ratings on the team. His pass block rating (80) is second-worst on the team next to Manny Ramirez (70). His run-block rating (83) is only fourth-worst, next to Ramirez (82), Gandy (82), and Fox (74).
But not to worry, Raiola leads his linemates in speed, awareness, and acceleration, and is second in agility. Which I guess will come in handy if he ever recovers a fumble.
And you have to figure there's a good chance of that since EA Tiburon has decided he can't block worth a crap.
Those of you who have read my work concerning the Detroit Lions' secondary know that I have a tendency to forget about C.C. Brown's presence on the roster.
It now seems that I'm in good company in that regard.
Among the members of the Lions suspect secondary, C.C. Brown is not among them.
I know what you're thinking. No, he's not with the Giants, either. Brown signed with the Lions on May 10, and it's possible that EA finalized their rosters after the draft in late April, but it's still a glaring omission.
Depending on who you ask (not me), Brown has the inside track for the open non-Delmas safety position, but he's not listed among active roster members at the moment.
Dre' Bly is also missing from the list, but that's less surprising, since he was signed only a couple weeks ago, not months.
Expect both of these players to appear on the Lions' roster via a launch day patch.
This isn't really a shocker. It might even be true. But it's stunning to think about when it's put into numbers.
Of the Lions top five receivers, no less than three are tight ends. In order:
WR Calvin Johnson (91 OVR)
TE Brandon Pettigrew (82 OVR)
WR Nate Burleson (78 OVR)
TE Tony Scheffler (74 OVR)
TE Will Heller (70 OVR)
Technically, Bryant Johnson ties Heller with another 70 rating, but Heller is listed first.
Note: When playing as the Lions, runs LOTS of double TE sets.
We all have a pretty good idea of how the Lions' defensive line is going to shake out.
RE: Kyle Vanden Bosch
DT: Corey Williams
DT: Ndamukong Suh
LE: Cliff Avril/Jason Hunter/Jared DeVries
Oh right, that last spot is a bit up in the air, isn't it?
Not according to EA. Avril posts a 76 overall rating in Madden 2011, far ahead of DeVries (71), Hunter (70), and Turk McBride (68).
Avril is a question mark in the minds of most, and certainly, a 76 rating is not overly generous. But this is expected to be a fierce training camp battle in reality, while in Madden, it seems Avril will be getting the nod in most of your starting lineups.
Okay, not EVERYONE. But get this.
Calvin Johnson's strength rating of 78 makes him physically stronger than everyone on the team who does not play somewhere on a line.
That is, stronger than all Lions tight ends, secondary, running backs, and linebackers.
Among linemen, he's considered stronger than Jason Fox (OT), Cliff Avril (DE) Jason Hunter (DE) and Landon Cohen (DT).
Cohen is the guy who did 50 bench press reps, though, so I'm not sure where they get off giving him a low strength rating.
Still, it's nice to hear Megatron is getting some respect in terms of size and strength, at least.
Well, not really. You might sooner read this as "REALLY weak at cornerback."
See, defensive backs are listed as a group. And Madden says the Lions' top three defensive backs are safeties (remember, that's without C.C. Brown or Dre' Bly).
Louis Delmas, rated 85 overall, is the one you could have figured.
But apparently, Ko Simpson (73) and Marquand Manuel (72) come in second and third place.
Then comes Chris Houston at 71 overall. EA apparently doesn't share the Lions' sunny outlook on his future. Eric King (!) and Amari Spievey each come in 68 overall.
This just confirms what we all already knew, which is that the Lions are in trouble in the secondary. But it seems, according to Madden, that the safety position is in better shape than we thought it was.
If only a little.
Jeff Backus, the scourge of Lions quarterbacks for the last decade, is rated 80 overall. He has the best pass blocking rating (88) of any starting offensive lineman other than Rob Sims (89).
That's not great, but not too shabby.
For reference, his pass blocking rating is higher than that of Andre Smith and Michael Oher, two of the players Lions fans wanted to replace Backus with in the 2009 draft.
He is on par with Charlie Johnson, who protects Peyton Manning's blind side.
In other words, EA thinks the same thing about Backus as I do: Not great, but not as bad as everyone thinks.
Ndamukong Suh has some great expectations heaped on him in Detroit.
I don't know if he'll live up to his billing as the Lions' great defensive savior, but he has at least succeeded in giving us Madden-playing Lions fans a bump by becoming the highest-rated rookie in this year's Madden.
Suh's 85 rating is even higher than Sam Bradford (80), who was the only player drafted higher than Suh.
And not only does Suh become the highest-rated rookie in Madden, he instantly plugs in as the Lions' second-best defensive player. His 85 ties Louis Delmas and trails Julian Peterson by a point.
Honestly, if Suh really is as good on the line as Delmas is in the secondary with a year's experience, we're in good shape in Detroit this year.
EA Sports is telling you, with a eat-it-and-like-it grin, that the man who missed half a season with a broken pinky finger is tougher than the man who charged through a team of medics to win a football game with a dislocated shoulder.
No. No, that's not right.
I don't care if he's only a second-year player, EA sports should have added a third digit to their rating system just to give Stafford 999 toughness.
This slide was going to be about how much higher Stafford's toughness rating was than other quarterbacks, but it turns out, it isn't really.
In fact, ALL THREE of the Dallas Cowboys' quarterbacks are rated tougher than Stafford.
Now, I won't knock Jon Kitna's toughness. That man took 50+ sacks a year in Detroit, and then complained when the Lions changed the scheme to protect him.
But Stephen McGee? Does the man who carries Jon Kitna's clipboard need a toughness rating of 97? What has he proven to EA that Stafford hasn't?