EA Sports tweaks player abilities throughout the Madden lifecycle, adding new abilities and changing rating thresholds. For Madden 21, they’ve overhauled abilities in some areas, refreshed others, and added a few new abilities.

Madden 20 X-factor splash page

X-Factors & Superstar Abilities latest details

The introduction of X-Factor and Superstar abilities in Madden 20 was one of the more significant changes to the franchise in many years.  These player abilities impacted gameplay, game planning, and team building.  They also impacted the way the game was marketed, with X-Factor and Superstar players as the focus of pre-release hype and in-game splash screens.

Route Running & Coverage

The most significant overhaul in Madden 21 abilities are found in the route running and coverage abilities. In Madden 20, many receiver abilities were tied to certain route types (in-and-out, double-move, post-elite).  These limited opportunities to use the player’s ability, forcing frequent use of known routes.

In Madden 21, specific route abilities are swapped out for abilities which trigger when the ball is thrown to specific areas of the field:

 

New Superstar Route Abilities

If route running abilities in Madden 20 were too specific, coverage abilities had the opposite issue–they were too universal.  Old abilities like Man Up, Zoned Out, and Universal coverage are replaced in Madden 21 with abilities tied to specific areas of the field, as well as coverage type (man, zone).

The following defensive coverage abilities are revealed so far:

  • Deep Out Zone KO:  20+ yards from LoS, in zone coverage, outside the hash marks
  • Flat Zone KO:  <10 yards from LoS, in flat zone, outside the hash marks
  • Short Route KO:  <10 yards from LoS, in man coverage

We expect to see a more complete ability matrix (similar to route running) at game launch.

Pass Rush & Blocking

With the complete overhaul of the pass-rush system, the largest number of new abilities are for pass rushers. The umbrella Power Specialist and Finesse Specialist abilities are swapped out for move-specific abilities, such as “El Toro:  dominant bull rush”.

Similarly, pass blocker abilities are now specific to certain pass rush moves, such as “Matador: stronger protection against dominant bull rush moves”.

New Superstar pass rush and pass blocking abilities

Pass blocker abilities also include the new “Screen Protector: dominantly win impact blocks on screen plays.”

Stamina and Fatigue

Madden 21 has an increased emphasis on managing player fatigue.  So, it’s not surprising to see new player abilities that influence fatigue:

  • Energizer:  Ballcarriers replenish a portion of stamina after a successful skill move
  • Bench Press:  Defenders apply bonus fatigue after successful press win

Pass Leading

Madden 20 had multiple QB abilities focused on increasing the lead distance on their throws.  However, these abilities were difficult to utilize and often resulted in overthrown passes. Madden 21 retains the precision passing mechanic and the Pass Lead Elite ability. But instead of impacting pass lead distance, the Pass Lead Elite ability now increases the throw power for precision passes.

QB Pressure

Previously, the Throw Under Pressure (TUP) rating impacted a QB’s ability to release the ball while being hit. Now, all QBs can now release the ball while being hit, so TUP now impacts the range at which a QB’s accuracy will be affected by pressure from an unblocked defender.

Defensive abilities that modify QB pressure (Under Pressure, Fearmonger) will override the TUP rating and treat the QB as if they have a TUP rating of zero. They also have their range slightly reduced from last year’s game. Offensive abilities that influence QB pressure now counter all defensive pressure abilities, meaning the QB is immune to pressure penalties in certain circumstances:

  • Fearless:  Immune to pressure penalties while in the pocket
  • Gutsy Scrambler:  Immune to pressure penalties while throwing on the run

Nerfs, Bumps, and Removals

Madden 21 nerfed abilities include:

  • Fastbreak:  reduced angles where fastbreak bonus is applied, specifically cutting upfield
  • Escape Artist:  Only works when player is near full stamina
  • Dashing Deadeye:  Limited to throws under 40 yards
  • No-Look Deadeye:  Limited to throws under 20 yards

Abilities that are improved:

  • Pro Reads:  Now includes immunity to all pressure penalties
  • Gambler:  Increased throw speed and power when in the zone
  • Blitz Radar:  Blitzing defenders highlighted before and after the snap

Removed:

  • Running Back Guru abilities:  Running backs with these abilities could boost their OL blocking when running certain types of plays.

Following EA’s Gridiron Notes, here’s what to expect from Madden 21 new abilities:

New X-Factors and Abilities:

  • Ankle Breaker: Truly devastating receiving threats are the ones that catch and can’t be caught. When they enter the zone; they have increased fakeout rates on spin/juke/hurdle after the catch.
  • Avalanche: There are tacklers and then there are these guys. When they enter the zone any successful hit-stick made while running towards the line of scrimmage will result in a fumble.
  • Blitz: Effective D-Line captains aren’t just examples to follow; they are motivators. When they enter the zone; all opposing blockers have their resistance bars wiped out.
  • Bottleneck: Bottleneck defenders realize that the best way to stop a route is to act early. When they enter the zone; they are highly likely to dominantly win any man press encounter.
  • Grab and Smash: Not all receivers need fancy footwork. When they enter the zone; they have increased success chance on stiff arm and truck attempts following the catch.
  • Relentless: The most tenacious defenders beat their blocks by sheer force of will. When they enter the zone; their rush move attempts are free.
  • Universal Coverage: The most physical coverage defenders prevent catches from happening even when their target has hands on the ball. When they enter the zone; they are nearly guaranteed knockouts.
  • Vanguard: Vanguard players are the reason running backs thank their blockers in the postgame interview. When they enter the zone; they are nearly guaranteed dominant impact block wins.
  • YAC ‘Em Up: The best physical receivers don’t just come down with the ball; they carry it home. When they enter the zone; they are nearly guaranteed to break their first post-catch tackle.
  • Adrenaline Rush: Pass rushers with this ability will have all of their pass rush move points restored after sacking the QB.
  • B.O.G.O.: Defenders with this ability are granted a free pass rush move once per play after spending a pass rush point.
  • Balance Beam: Avoid stumbling when carrying the ball.
  • Bench Press: Defenders with this ability apply bonus fatigue to their man coverage target after a successful press win.
  • Chuck Out: Defenders with this ability apply bonus fatigue to their target after a successful zone chuck.
  • Closer: Locker room pep talks go a long way. Players with this ability can easily enter the Zone in the 2nd half.
  • Comeback: When playing from behind; players with this ability can easily enter the Zone.
  • Deep In Elite: Receivers with this ability catch more consistently while catching passes 20+ yards from the LoS; inside the numbers.
  • Deep In Zone KO: Defenders with this ability force more catch knockouts and react quicker in deep zone coverage; 20+ yards from the LoS and inside the numbers.
  • Deep Out Elite: Receivers with this ability catch more consistently while catching passes 20+ yards from the LoS; outside the numbers.
  • Deep Out Zone KO: Defenders with this ability force more catch knockouts and react quicker in deep zone coverage; 20+ yards from the LoS and outside the hash marks.
  • Deep Route KO: Defenders with this ability force more catch knockouts and react quicker in deep zone coverage; 20+ yards from the LoS and outside the hash marks.
  • Defensive Rally: Defenders with this ability will grant a bonus pass rush point to all defensive linemen on any 3rd or 4th down.
  • Double Or Nothing: Pass rushers with this ability must spend double the pass rush points to perform a move but are granted dominant wins.
  • El Toro
    Defenders with this ability will receive dominant bull rush wins when their pass rush points are full.
  • Energizer
    Ballcarriers with this ability will replenish a portion of their stamina upon successfully performing any skill move.
  • Extra Credit
    Pass rushers with this ability are granted an additional maximum pass rush move point.
  • Flat Zone KO
    Defenders with this ability force more catch knockouts and react quicker in any flat zone coverage; less than 10 yards from the LoS and outside the hash marks.
  • Fool Me Once
    Blockers with this ability gain blocker resistance points as a faster rate.
  • Instant Rebate
    Defenders with this ability are refunded a pass rush point when they successfully shed blocks.
  • Lifeguard
    Blockers with this ability defend against swim/club pass rush moves as if they had an additional resistance point.
  • Matador
    Blockers with this ability have stronger protection against dominant bull rush moves attempted by defenders.
  • Medium Route KO
    Defenders with this ability force more catch tackle knockouts in man-to-man versus medium routes; 10-20 yards from the LoS.
  • Mid In Elite: Receivers with this ability catch more consistently while catching passes 10-20 yards from the LoS; inside the numbers.
  • Mid Out Elite: Receivers with this ability catch more consistently while catching passes 10-20 yards from the LoS; outside the numbers.
  • Mid Zone KO: Defenders with this ability force more catch knockouts and react quicker in any mid-field zone coverage; less than 20 yards from the LoS inside the numbers and 10-20 outside.
  • Mr. Big Stop: Defenders with this ability will start and 3rd or 4th down with at least half of their maximum pass rush points.
  • Natural Talent: Blockers with this ability start every new blocking encounter with built-in resistance.
  • One Step Ahead: Defenders with this ability generally react much faster to receiver cut moves when in man coverage.
  • Outmatched: Defenders with this ability are highly likely to win contested catches against running backs.
  • Quick Draw: Passers with this ability have faster passing animations when they are throwing under pressure.
  • Reach For It: Ballcarriers with this ability will frequently attempt to gain extra yards while being tackled.
  • Ripper: Defenders with this ability will ignore 1 bar of blocker resistance when attempting rip pass rush moves.
  • Screen Protector: Blockers with this ability will dominantly win impact blocks on screen plays.
  • Second Wind: Players with this ability have a chance to replenish their stamina, once per play, when it is half depleted.
  • Short In Elite: Receivers with this ability catch more consistently while catching passes less than 10 yards from the LoS; inside the numbers.
  • Short Out Elite: Receivers with this ability catch more consistently while catching passes less than 10 yards from the LoS; outside the numbers.
  • Short Route KO: Defenders with this ability force more catch tackle knockouts in man-to-man versus short routes less than 10 yards from LoS.
  • Speedster: Defenders with this ability will ignore 1 bar of blocker resistance when attempting speed pass rush moves.
  • Spinner: Defenders with this ability will ignore 1 bar of blocker resistance when attempting spin pass rush moves.
  • Stonewall: Defenders with this ability will frequently prevent additional yardage gains while tackling.
  • Swim Club: Defenders with this ability will ignore 1 bar of blocker resistance when attempting swim/club pass rush moves.
  • Tear Proof: Blockers with this ability defend against rip pass rush moves as if they had an additional resistance point.
  • Tight Out:Passers with this ability improve the catching prowess of all tight ends who are open on pass plays.
  • Tough Nut: Blockers with this ability have an increased number of blocker resistance points.
  • Unspun: Blockers with this ability defend against spin pass rush moves as if they had an additional resistance point.
  • Unpredictable: Defenders with this ability are less likely to increase their blocker’s resistance bars when performing shed wins.

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For more info on player abilities, check out our other X-Factor reveals:

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