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Breaking Down Madden 18’s Target Passing Controls

Perhaps the biggest new feature that has Madden fans most intrigued is target passing. After a recent interview, one of EA’s main developers quickly explained the new target passing controls. We’ve all been waiting anxiously to learn more about target passing and how it works. Madden School has you covered. We’re on top of all the latest Madden 18 news and notes. Today, we’re breaking down Madden 18’s target passing controls.

Target Passing Controls

Rex Dickson, EA Madden NFL Gameplay Director, has been making the rounds talking about Madden 18’s new features and gameplay improvements. Recently, while streaming live on Twitch, Dickson broke down Madden 18’s target passing controls for fans. We haven’t really had a chance to see actual gameplay footage to this point–other than the few minutes of gameplay video leaked from the EA Play event. Regardless, here’s a fairly simple breakdown of Madden 18’s target passing controls and other changes to the passing game. 


Bring up your coaches cam (R Trigger/R2). You will need to set the primary WR on the play by pressing the button that corresponds with that receiver (i.e. O or X or R1/RB). Once you’ve selected a primary WR, you’re ready to snap the ball.


After the QB takes the snap, hold down Left Trigger/L2 to bring up your target icon–this seems similar to the way you used to bring up the vision cone/windows in the much older versions of Madden.

The target icon will come up near the area of the primary WR you chose and ultimately set during your pre-snap read. You will not be able to change your primary WR after you snap the ball. Once you set the primary WR and snap the ball, you won’t be able to switch to another intended target. That makes your job as the QB especially tough when deciding to use the new target passing feature. 

Throwing the Pass

Now you’re ready to throw your targeted pass to the WR.

As the play progresses, you move the target icon around the field, freely, using the Right Stick to guide the target icon to the spot where you want to throw the pass. All while you’re still holding down the Left Trigger/L2. Then, you’re ready to throw your pass. 

When you release the pass, you will throw the ball to the spot where you have placed the target icon. This means that precision, experience, and a firm understanding of your WR’s route will all be keys to mastering the new target passing feature. 

It also means that your QB’s ratings will play a much bigger role in successfully using the target passing feature. A QB’s throw power will carry more weight with target passing. The better the throw power rating, the quicker the ball will reach your targeted area. Don’t be confused on the level of difficulty that target passing presents to players.

During a recent interview, Dickson talked about the challenges of the new target passing feature. “It is tough, and it’s meant to be used by very experienced players,” Dickson said.

Dickson later commented, “and you will get sacked and throw interceptions using the target passing if you don’t know how to use it.”

Do I have to use Target Passing?

To clarify, you do NOT have to use the new target passing feature in Madden 18. You can still use the old, normal passing controls, but with a few minor changes. Target passing, you may have noticed, uses the same buttons as the high-low pass placement feature from the previous two years. That means the controls for high-low pass placement changed this season. 

New High-Low Passing Controls

To throw placement passes to your intended receiver, you will hold down LB/L1 to enable the high-low passing. Then you’ll use the left stick to actually place the pass where you want it, high or low. When you go to throw the ball, you’ll hold the LB/L1 down the entire time, then move the left stick up when you want to throw a pass high, or move the left stick down when you want to throw low. Dickson and other developers at EA claim the new high-low passing controls should be less complicated given you only have to use one button to place both high and low passes.

Other Changes, Improvements to Passing Game Controls

The QB avoidance stick has been done away with for Madden 18. Instead, you’ll have to move the QB around using your sticks to avoid sacks. Meaning, you’ll have to utilize your pocket awareness Madden fans. Using the avoidance stick in the last two versions of Madden was definitely an acquired skill to begin with.

Also, there were really only a few QB’s that could consistently shake off a sack using the avoidance stick–Cam Newton. You had to be able to look downfield while keeping an eye on any defenders who might be closing in. Then you had to time the avoidance stick almost perfectly to have any chance for success.

That just about does it for our breakdown of the new target passing controls. Certainly, there are plenty of other new gameplay features, new controls, and gameplay debugs in Madden 18. But we’ll break those down for you in a later post.

Now it’s your turn. How do you feel about the new target passing feature? Are you excited to use it now that you know a little more about how it works? Do you  think Madden 18 gameplay developers should have been focusing on other areas of gameplay improvement? 

As always, feel free to leave your questions and comments below.

Remember, you still have time to sign up for your Madden School Unlimited Membership. Hurry up though, Madden 18’s release date is just two months away. Sign up today.   

Leave a comment

  1. Seems tough, hopefully it will weed out the bums

  2. So what happens if the primary wr is covered?? Why EA would limit the selection of targets 2 throw 2 if the primary wr is covered or not open? The user should be able 2 target anyone on the field (especially if the primary wr is not open) & not be limited

  3. There wasn’t anything wrong with passing to begin with, don’t break it! I predict it will go the way of the qb Vision Cone.

  4. I’ve been playing madden for a long time and this new qb feature really sucks!

  5. Thank you this was helpful, I’m a 60 year old man that’s been playing Madden since 90s. My problem with online Madden is,is the quarterback throws at times to the wrong receiver and at that time I notice that same icon then appear over that wrong receiver. Frustrating and feels like a cheat or a glitch in the game. This has been a issue for sometime. I feel this is wasting my money and takes the fun out of the game