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In today's NFL, the most important position on the field is the quarterback. The second most important is the left tackle—the quarterback's main blindside protection.
Since Matthew Stafford's reign as the Lions' franchise quarterback, Jeff Backus has been anything less than reliable in protecting Stafford.
Backus is a decent blocker when running the football. However, the Lions being a pass-first offense with a running back core recovering from injuries, it's critical for the Lions to have a legitimate left tackle.
The NFC North is loaded with elite pass-rushers. Chicago Bear Julius Peppers, Green Bay Packer Clay Matthews, and Minnesota Viking Jared Allen have all been nightmares for Backus.
Allen racked up six sacks on Stafford last season, and everybody recalls the 2010 Week 1 shoulder shot Peppers put on Stafford. With Backus not getting any younger at 34, he's not getting any better, while their division rivals are currently in their prime.
The San Fransisco 49ers also had a chance to challenge Backus in Week 5 of last season. The offensive line surrendered five sacks, but the main offenders were Aldon Smith with two sacks and Jason Smith with 1.5.
The duo rotated along the line and found the most success when lining up in front of Backus. Stafford never found a comfortable rhythm, and he spent way too much time running from pressure or getting hit.
In 2010, the Lions traded for left guard Rob Sims to take pressure off Backus on the left side. Sims has easily been the most consistent linemen and has made a positive impact on the overall line play. Despite his help, Backus continues to struggle, especially against elite talent.
In fairness, many other teams struggled to contain these premier rushers like Backus. But the logical thought is to upgrade at the position, especially considering how bad he struggled. Bringing back an aging regressing tackle for another two years will only slow down the Lions' progression.