Yeah, you did read that title right. Jeff Backus, a name that has evoked passionate responses in both the ‘that guy sucks’ camp and ‘he was a great left tackle’, will be returning to the Detroit Lions for the 2013 season. Let the reactions begin.
Riley Reiff was considered by many to be an NFL ready left tackle, but the Lions primarily used him at tight end last season. Sure, he got playing time, but should have had much more.
The rookie left tackle would start at that position one time last season, a week twelve loss to the Houston Texans. The Lions had battled to a 4-4 record for the first half of the season and fell flat on their face, losing the last eight games. For some reason, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz continued to start Backus at left tackle instead of giving Reiff invaluable experience that we now know would have paid huge dividends this season. Reiff should have been starting at least the final two games at left tackle, just my opinion. It isn’t a new opinion, I said as much last season.
“Maybe the Lions should look at getting some younger players like Riley Reiff some starting time heading into next season, but I don’t see that happening.”
“First, let me say that if the left tackle position isn’t set for the future, the Lions blew a draft pick. Riley Reiff, picked #23 overall in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, needs to start if the Lions are looking forward into next season. At this point, with a 4-10 record and the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears coming to town, I would be looking forward for sure.”
I’m not one to say I told you so, but…
I told you so.
So, back to Backus. Here we have a solid at best twelve-year NFL veteran known for his durability much more than his stellar play. A look at his career statistics can tell us a little about him.
The Lions drafted Backus 18th overall in the first round of the 2001 draft. He would start all 16 games his rookie season, allowing 12 sacks and drawing 9 penalties, four of those holds and four of those false starts.
2002 and 2003 were much better years, and should have been a sign of things to come. The former first rounder allowed 3.5 sacks in 2002 and 2.5 sacks in 2003, once again starting all 16 games each season. It looked like the Lions had found the left tackle of the future In fact they had, just not the premier tackle they thought they had.
In 2004 Backus allowed 8.5 sacks but did better in 2005 with just three sacks allowed. It goes downhill from there.
In 2006 Backus gave up 9.5 sacks, once again starting all 16 games. The Michigan man would start all 16 games in 2007 as well, though that might not have been the best course of action. Backus played through pain due to a rib injury for most of the season, allowing 15.5 sacks.
His durability was beyond question, and that is an excellent quality to have as a player in the NFL at any position.
Backus would allow 9.25 sacks in each of the next two seasons and rebound to allow four sacks in 2010.
The Lions would go to the playoffs for the first time in twelve years in 2011 lead by the passing attack of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. The now aging left tackle would allow 8.5 sacks.
Backus would become a free agent at the end of that season, but signed a two year contract with the Lions for $5 million. For a veteran left tackle that had started in every game in his NFL career, that was a bargain price. The Lions would then turn heads by drafting Riley Reiff in the first round of the 2012 draft.
Backus would end his iron-man streak for games started in week twelve, that lone start for the left tackle of the future. The veteran would finish the season starting at left tackle, allowing an amazing 1.5 sacks in his fifteen starts. Considering the Lions set an NFL record for pass attempts in a season last year, that’s an astoundingly low number.
Backus had one year left on his contract but opted for retirement. Some Lions fans breathed a sigh of relief, others showed concern that the Lions didn’t draft a tackle at the fifth overall spot in this draft.
Now, it seems Backus will be returning to the Lions for the 2013 season.
Before we get too carried away, Backus is coming back to the Lions as a part-time coaching intern to help bring along Riley Reiff at left tackle. Hey, if anyone in football knows the offensive line schemes as good as head coach Jim Schwartz, it’s Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola. Nobody in football knows that Lions left tackle position as well as Backus, and he will use that knowledge to bring along Reiff.
Backus will work with offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn to bring along Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard as well, at least on a part-time basis.
Does the ex-Lion tackle want into coaching in the NFL? Stay tuned.
- Lions offensive line faces struggles early (thesilverdomeblues.com)
- Detroit Lions’ Riley Reiff among 2012 draft picks poised for breakout, SI.com analyst says (mlive.com)
- Retired Jeff Backus will work with Detroit Lions’ young offensive tackles this offsesaon (mlive.com)
- Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford confident offensive line play won’t decline despite turnover (mlive.com)
- Jeff Backus Sticking With Detroit Lions, Even in Retirement (sidelionreport.com)