Success in the NFL begins and ends in the trenches. The first seven picks of the 2013 NFL Draft– and 18 of the 32 selected in the first round– offensive and defensive linemen. The emphasis on the trenches is no different in Madden NFL, the NFL’s 33rd franchise.
The Madden NFL 25 development team completely re-designed the pass-blocking system and the “War in the Trenches” for Gen 4 from the ground up.
When the OL/DL team began developing these features, there were a couple of goals in mind. The first goal was building an authentic passing pocket so that the user QB would feel both the confidence of pocket protection as well as the pressure of the defensive line rushing the QB. From there, the team built targeting systems so that each lineman knew who they were supposed to block during each play while taking into account the dynamic shifts and movements of the defense so they could work together as a unit.
With the vast array of features built into the War in the Trenches, linemen are not only big and physical, but they will also play as intelligently as their real-world counterparts. Due to the power of the EA SPORTS IGNITE engine, as well as the horsepower of the new consoles, linemen now know who to block and how to block them. This knowledge, combined with full animation coverage, results in line play that looks and feels like an NFL game.
Here’s a breakdown of each new component of the War in the Trenches:
IDENTIFY THE MIKE (PRE-SNAP TARGETING SYSTEM)
When I was an offensive lineman in the NFL, identifying the defense was the most important aspect of any good protection. As a unit, we would spend hours practicing and studying film on each opponent so that everybody knew how to properly identify each defensive front. You’ll see this on Sundays when Tom Brady or Eli Manning calls out the “Mike” by his jersey number before each play. He’s identifying the “Middle Linebacker” for the offensive line, but he’s doing it by the defensive alignment and using a number count system – not the actual depth chart position of each defensive player. Anybody on the field can be identified as the ‘Mike’, which is the fifth man the offensive line is responsible for blocking.
With the power of EA SPORTS IGNITE, we’ve replicated this system in Madden NFL 25 and it’s all done dynamically under the hood by the AI. Some of the information taken into account when choosing the Mike include includes the number of blockers available on the play (including running backs and tight ends), how many defenders are in the tackle box, and who poses the most dangerous threat to the QB, based on the defense’s alignment. The offensive line is able to continuously update this targeting until the ball is snapped to account for defensive shifts and movements.
POST-SNAP TARGETING SYSTEM
Dynamic targeting doesn’t stop once the ball is snapped. Because of EA SPORTS IGNITE, blockers can make up to 60 individual calculations per second so that they continue to know who to block and how to block them for the entire duration of a play. A “calculation,” however, doesn’t always translate to a decision. While blockers are thinking, they are processing all the information they need to make the one correct decision to keep the QB upright. They will now intelligently sort defenders in order to build a pocket around the QB. Here’s a list of all the pieces of information they are accounting for while targeting:
Position – Where the player belongs on the line and the spot he is responsible to protect.
Adjacent teammates – Blockers work together as a unit when sorting the movement of the defense and passing off stunts.
Additional Blockers – Each blocker knows when a running back is in pass protection so that they do not steal the RB’s target.
Defender Movement Direction – Which direction is each defender moving in relation to the QB.
Defender Speed – How quickly is the defender moving, and when will he get to the QB’s launch point.
Defender Actions – Identifying when a defender is a rusher or playing pass coverage.
Launch Point – Where is the QB supposed to be in the pocket relative to his intended drop back.
Extra Assignments – Each blocker is aware of extra assignments, like when to cut-block a target or look to double team.
CHECK AND RELEASE PURPLE ROUTE
Since RB’s are such an integral part of pass protection, the team updated the legacy “Block & Release” blue-route to encompass this in an authentic manner. When a RB in the backfield has a purple route, he will stay in the protection to block his target if that target is rushing the QB. The RB will not release into his route unless his target has dropped into coverage, and the offensive line will not block his target under any circumstances. If you want to know which defender is being targeted by your purple-route RB, simply toggle the Coach Cam art. The target will be denoted by a purple ‘C’ icon above his head.
As you can see, the team left no stone unturned in re-designing the line play in Madden NFL 25, and we’re really excited to show off what we’ve done in the trenches thanks to EA SPORTS IGNITE. The new blocking features will fundamentally change the game and give you the most intelligent and authentic experience to date.
Click here to learn about the improvements made to pass blocking and pass rushing.