Backus, McDougle anchor improving offensive line

In an exclusive interview with our Lions' insider Mike Fowler, young offensive tackles Stockar McDougle and Jeff Backus share their thoughts on the offensive line, themselves as players, and more. Check out the commentary from these two anchors of the Lions' improving offensive line.

(ALLEN PARK, MI) -- A quick glance at the Detroit Lions offensive line play and you see a unit that has improved by leaps and bounds. Last year, Detroit's offensive line was the worst in the NFL, giving up more sacks on average per game than any other team.

This year, Detroit has only allowed a respectable eleven sacks of their quarterback and much of that is due to the play of second-year tackle Jeff Backus and third-year veteran Stockar McDougle.

"I just haven't been playing that well. I had two good games and two bad games," said Backus. "And it was the first and fourth game were my better games."

In game one, Detroit held the tough Miami Dolphin defense to just two sacks and Backus was not beaten. It was game two where Mike Rucker of the Carolina Panthers had two sacks against Backus and Julius Peppers, working on the other side, had three against a combination of linemen including McDougle.

That's when questions about Backus' knee arose. Backus suffered an injury to his right knee in training camp and appeared to briefly lose some mobility, a key weapon in an offensive lineman's arsenal.

"My knee's fine, it's not a concern. I don't think my knee's playing a part. Everybody's ready to go out and win some more."

After a solid game in the 37-31 loss to Green Bay, Backus really settled down and played well against the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints. That was the game where the offensive line appeared to 'arrive,' holding the tough Saints defense without a sack.

McDougle says the offensive line is starting to gel.

"Yeah, definitely, we're starting to bring it all together. We've got Ray Brown (a free agent signing from the San Francisco 49'ers) and a couple of other older vets. We've got some young guys. We've got a good chemistry and we're just going to put it all together.

At one point McDougle was a question mark. Some had him going the way of Aaron Gibson, the Lions massive 6' 8", 330 lb, first-round draft pick who was eventually cut by the Lions and then cut again by the Dallas Cowboys. Gibson is currently out of football.

"I feel like I'm getting a little older and just starting to become a professional football player. I had a few injuries early on in my career," said McDougle. "It's nothing I planned on. You can't plan on getting injured. I'm just happy to be healthy and just trying to capitalize on my opportunity."

When asked if all the moving around from guard to tackle and back had slowed his progress, McDougle was non-committal.

"That's neither here nor there. They put me in and I'm supposed to perform. But I am happy to be back at tackle. I'm just looking forward to finishing off the season strong."

McDougle says the presence of Brown, the 16-year veteran signed as a free agent from San Francisco, has really helped solidify the unit.

"It's helped our offensive line a lot because Ray's an older veteran. He's got some Super Bowl rings. He's been in a lot of different scenarios. He just, overall, has been a big help."

Both Backus and McDougle believe that the Lions are headed upward as a team and will crack the .500 mark this season.

"Yes, we're definitely going to be a .500 team," said McDougle. "But we definitely have a lot of growing to do. We haven't reached our climax yet. We're still growing. Just look for positive things from us."

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