With NFL Training Camp set to starting in the next couple of weeks, the smell of football is slowly starting to fill the air. Naturally, with the start of the season comes the annual release of EA Sport’s “Madden” series, schedule to hit stores on Aug. 27 this year. For the last half decade, it has been extremely difficult to play with the St. Louis Rams, especially if your friends just so happened to be Patriots or Packers “fans.” Representing the navy and gold on the big screen typically means less time to throw the football, non-existent run blocking, and no one to actually catch the football.
Last year, there were only a handful of players that even broke the 80+ overall barrier. For those who are less fluent in Madden-talk, each player is ranked on a scale of 1 to 100, an average of relevant scores in sub-categories, such as speed, acceleration, arm strength, elusiveness, etc. Here are the Top 10 players on the St. Louis Rams roster in Madden 13:
*Player not on the current 2013 roster
Naturally, when one of the ”Top 10″ players on your roster is grading in the 70s, that is not a good sign. However, much like the NFL media, the Madden developers are easily swayed by progression over a single season. Moreover, Madden is often fairly conservative in their ratings for rookies, and with four rookies slotted in “starter” territory, it is understandable why the overall team was rated near the bare bottom of the league… a 72 overall, to be exact.
So, coming off a much-improved 2012 regular season, how to the Rams figure to grade out in this upcoming game?
*Designates a rating at a different position
Any of the second-year “starters” will certainly get a boost, especially Daryl Richardson and Chris Givens, who got the typical sub-70 rating for rookies taken outside of the first- or second-round of the NFL Draft. Sam Bradford, coming off of an injury-fill 2011 season, where he threw as many interceptions as touchdowns, should also see a nice jump in his score; likely somewhere in the upper-80s, maybe even low-90s.
The real question mark in the offense will be Tavon Austin, and how they will rate the eighth overall pick from the 2013 draft. Last season, Trent Richardson was the first non-quarterback, “skill” player taken off the board, and was given an 83 overall. Justin Blackmon was the first receiver taken in the draft, selected fifth overall by the Jaguars, and notched an 80 overall in Madden 13. Bleacher Report’s Dan Hope released his predictions for the 2013 Madden class. According to him, the highest rated rookie this season will be Jonathan Cooper, the guard for the Arizona Cardinals, entering the league with a solid 82 overall rating.
For Tavon Austin, he suggests a 77 rating, but that doesn’t necessarily paint the whole picture. Austin’s sub-ratings could be “off the charts” in a number of key areas, including elite predicted-ratings for Speed (97), Acceleration (98), Agility (99), Catching (90), Elusiveness (95), and Return Ability (95). If that is the case, Rams’ fans will likely be throwing a lot of screens, quick slants, and curls next season.
Overall, the 78 offensive rating from Madden 13 for the St. Louis Rams should swing up into the mid- to upper-80s; with a top-tier offensive line, improved quarterback, and moderately rated skill players.
The St. Louis Rams defense was severely underrated last season, posting a mediocre 79 rating overall as a unit. Part of that was the result of wrongly “projected” starters, the handful of rookies in the lineup, and underestimations of newly upgraded starters.
Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Robert Quinn were both essentially “starting” for the first time, with Quinn having played merely as a rotational player in this rookie season and Dunbar coming off his first full season in New Orleans’ abysmal defense. Janoris Jenkins and Michael Brockers, being mid to late first-rounders, were both given average rookie ratings. However, with Jenkins leading the NFL in defensive touchdowns and Brockers putting up numbers comparable to any interior lineman in the league in the latter three-fourths of the season, both rookie should get a sizable bump heading into next season.
The Rams are excepted to start T.J. McDonald and Alec Ogletree this season, which will likely knock the defense down a couple of pegs. McDonald, as a third-rounder, will likely get slapped with a sub-75 rating. Ogletree, as predicted by Bleacher Report, is expected to grade out as a 72 overall player. Both rookies will likely have favorable sub-category statistics, such as “Tackling” and “Hit Power”, but will inevitably be encumbered by radically-low “Awareness” ratings, that typically increase as you, the gamer, progress through a season.
Overall, the defense should see a moderate bump as a group, especially among the front-seven. However, the St. Louis Rams defense will still likely fall into the low-80s range, primarily due to the typically-low rookie rating scale and below-average scores for players like Darian Stewart.
If there is any position that will see a drastic change, it will be the special teams players. As rookies, both Zuerlein and Hekker were given supremely low ratings to start the season. However, after a record-setting rookie performance by Zuerlein, and an above-average year from Hekker, both players should see somewhere between a 15 to 30 point jump in their score. The Madden franchise is not afraid of throwing big numbers on kickers, listing David Akers as a 91 overall player last season. Hopefully, the Rams’ special-teamers will get the upgrades that they deserve.