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‘Madden 19’ review: It’s still ‘in the game’ — and so is rookie QB Lamar Jackson

The NFL video-game world has been quiet for far too long. Maybe that’s why there is a certain buzz around Madden 19, which was released Friday.

Ravens backup quarterback Lamar Jackson is rated only a 79 overall, but examine him further and you’ll see why game owners are jumping into Franchise mode and mortgaging the farm to acquire him.

The folks at Madden gave Jackson a 94 for speed, a 95 for acceleration and a 95 for agility. Sure, his throwing accuracy and throwing power need a lot of work, but that’s the beauty of the new-look Franchise mode. Flaws in a player can be fixed through a new streamlined progression.

The days of running through practices and games to build up experience points to sprinkle around on each player are dead. Now it’s about putting a single point into a trait and letting that player improve randomly.

It’s actually more realistic and strategic, especially if you want the chemistry of the team to stay in sync.

But even a spaghetti-armed Jackson is a problem to defend. Just jump into online play and see how many gamers are using the Ravens as their weapon of choice.

It’s one play after another of five-receiver sets, with all the receivers running vertical routes and video-game Jackson surveying which side of the field he’s going to run to.

The counter? You’d better have a speedy middle linebacker spying, and it’s tough to get a good angle on Jackson even then.


• Of course, the Bears are the one team that hasn’t signed its top pick

• So long, Bourbonnais: Hits and misses from Bears training camp

The other positive about Franchise mode is that the trading AI continues to improve. The days of stealing players left and right are over.

You want evidence? Try trading for Jackson.

I was able to acquire Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who is rated a 74 overall, to ride the bench behind Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick. I offered Roethlisberger, linebacker Ryan Shazier (he’s healthy in the Madden 19 world) and a first-round pick for Jackson and got a no.

As a matter of fact, every offer for Jackson was a no. It’s like the Ravens know what they have and aren’t about to share it.

The other popular game mode is Ultimate Team, and the changes there also merit applause. Out are the days of contracts to keep players on your roster. In are training points to make the existing players on the roster improve.

Finally, there’s the game-play itself. The game is clean. Sure, there are moments in which an airborne player might look as though he had been shot rather than tackled, but the eye test on Madden is at an all-time high as far as player movement and collisions.

Look, no one is trying to tell you how to spend $60. The Madden franchise is an all-or-nothing purchase these days: You love the game, or you’re over it. Make that decision for yourself.

In the meantime, let’s give the latest edition a solid B+.