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Early Bird Report: Comparing Michael Vick and Lamar Jackson on 'Madden'

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For as many breathtaking moments as he had on the actual football field, Michael Vick's video game doppelganger remains the feather in the cap of his legend.

Vick was the cover athlete for the 2004 iteration of the "Madden" video game series, and he remains to this day the player many consider to be the best ever in the game. The newest game in the series, "Madden 21" was released recently and Lamar Jackson, the player many compare to Vick, graces the cover. Possessing a similar skill set, Jackson seems to be the player most likely to come close to reaching Vick's level in the game, which, as The Ringer's Micah Peters writes, would be something.

"At age 23, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback had a Madden stat readout like this – 95 OVR 95 SPD 94 ACC 70 JMP 97 THP - which made Madden 04 Vick, as one YouTube reviewer put it, 'basically god.' He could pick up 20 yards easily on a read option, and if you tried to stop the run, he could throw farther and harder and more accurately than anyone else in the game," Peters writes. "He was god because there were no answers for him."

Jackson has a stat set that is similar to what Vick's was in that edition of the game, but it remains to be seen if he will actually be the cheat code that the former Falcons quarterback was. Still, the league's reigning MVP looked a lot like Vick on the field during the 2019 season, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him accomplish that as well.

Top 3 wide receivers by route

With the help of Next Gen Stats, writer Nick Shook identified the top three wide receivers at each route run during the 2019 season. Saints receiver Michael Thomas owns the top spot at a majority of routes run, but there is one bit that Falcons fans should find interesting. When it comes to out routes, Calvin Ridley holds the No. 2 spot and gave Thomas a run for the top.

"An interesting note is how close a call it was between Thomas and Ridley for the top spot in the rankings, which should excite Falcons fans about the potential of the former Alabama star," Shook writes. "He was close to unseating Thomas and very well could take the next major step in his third NFL season."

Hayden Hurst could thrive with Falcons

Throughout training camp, Hayden Hurst looked like a force in the red zone, displaying great hands and a solid connection with Matt Ryan. But Atlanta's new tight end has the type of athleticism to become a threat all over the field, and he has put in the work this offseason to make the most of his opportunity as a starter with the Falcons. It may take some time for Hurst to fully become the player he will be in Atlanta, but ESPN's Vaughn McClure detailed in a recent piece why people are so high on the former first-round pick.

"We're still learning Hayden," Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter told McClure. "We've got to remember that Hayden is coming from a running team, where the tight end wasn't really featured in their offense, to now coming to a place where we do use the tight end a lot. I would say that I'm still learning him. I think Matt is even still learning him. And Hayden is definitely still learning what we want from him.

"It's a little too early for me to say anything about [comparisons]. I'm really fired up about the way Hayden works at it, how hard he pushes himself, and how you can really see his drive to be great. He's a perfectionist."

Ranking every NFL division before 2020 season

The addition of Tom Brady in Tampa Bay has made the NFC South one of the most intriguing and potentially competitive divisions for the 2020 season. As recently as 2017 the division had three teams make the playoffs, and there's a chance for that to happen this year as well if the Falcons can put everything together. When looking at the NFL landscape, Pro Football Focus writer Ben Linsey ranked the NFC South as the leagues second-toughest division.

"The Atlanta Falcons are a bit of a wild card," Linsey writes. "They underperformed expectations this past season as the defense and the offensive line struggled to stop much of anyone. Matt Ryan found himself near the top of the list of quarterbacks most affected by pressure, and the offense wasn't quite the top-five group we have come to expect. They do still have an impressive trio of Ryan, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley heading into next season, though. Their 2020 season will hinge on whether the offensive line can find some stability and whether the young secondary can hold up better than they did a year ago."

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