Mano A Mano: Freeney vs. Backus

Will it be another week of feasting on quarterbacks for Dwight Freeney? During the Colts' current six game-winning streak, the Pro Bowl defensive end has contributed 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. This week again presents a very favorable match-up for Freeney. Longtime Lions left tackle Jeff Backus has mightily struggled with outside speed rushers.

Colt Power analyst Brad Keller notes that Backus should be a "dream" matchup for Freeney. Keller breaks it down in his scouting report on the Lions' offense: "The bad news is that left tackle Jeff Backus' claim to fame is that he's started every game for the Lions since being drafted in the first round in 2001. He has little else to hang his hat on, is not particularly overwhelming at the point of attack, and lacks the feet and hip flexibility to adequately block speed rushers. In short, Backus is a dream come true for Dwight Freeney and a nightmare matchup problem for the Detroit coaching staff. Jon Abraham victimized him for three sacks earlier this season and Jared Allen has been very effective against him so far. Backus will need some assistance, either from a running back, a tight end, or both."


Freeney could have a field day against the Lions offense
AP/Darron Cumming

Prior to last season, Backus had been one of the most consistent, productive tackles in the league. But his career and skill set really seemed to take a sudden drop to the downside in 2007.

Upon leaving Detroit after last season, offensive coordinator Mike Martz delivered a parting shot saying that the Detroit Lions were "two tackles short of an offensive line". Ouch!

Detroit answered the criticism in part by drafting an offensive tackle, Gosder Cherilus, in this year's draft. Cherlius is currently the starting right tackle. But most envision him taking over for Jeff Backus in the very near future.

Pro Football Weekly noted, "One place where the Lions are likely to look different next season, regardless of who is the head coach, is on the offensive line. C Dominic Raiola is likely to remain a starter, and Gosder Cherilus figures to start at one tackle spot. Likely left tackle."

So even with his days as the Lions starting left tackle likely numbered, the fact for this week is that Backus will be the left tackle and will be the man standing between Dwight Freeney and the Lions quarterback.

Outside speed rushers give Backus headaches, but Freeney is much more than just a speed guy. He shows an assortment of moves. He can bull-rush, counter with his spin or swim moves and use his arms to beat you to either shoulder. The goal is to make Backus guess, set him up and beat him by never letting him know how you plan to rush. This will cause the veteran tackle to overcompensate and get out of position as the game goes along.

Freeney can again expect an afternoon of double-teams and chips. In fact, given the recent play of these two players, Freeney might not see anything but double-teams with Backus and either LG Edwin Mulitalo or TE Michael Gaines working in tandem to slow the Colts right defensive end.


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