Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Lions new left tackle faces tough first test

Posted by: Chip Scoggins under Lions, Vikings players Updated: September 4, 2013 - 10:01 AM

The Detroit Lions will start three new offensive linemen in the season opener against the Vikings on Sunday. One matchup, in particular, stands out.

Left tackle Riley Reiff faces Vikings All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen in his first start as Jeff Backus' successor.

Backus retired after 12 seasons. He played 191 games in his career and set a franchise record with187 consecutive starts. Reiff stepped into that role this season.

"I think Riley, you get a security blanket having a guy like Jeff Backus out (there)," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "He’s always there week-in and week-out. But Riley has a lot of the same characteristics. He’s very tough. He’s quiet. He had to play once last year, the only start that Backus missed his entire NFL career Thanksgiving last year. Tough matchup against the Houston Texans, a 3-4 teams with some really good outside rushers. And Riley went in and did a really good job in that game on a very short week of practice. So that was a glimpse of what he can do. I think he’s had a very good training camp, a good preseason and we expect him to hold that position. It would be nice if he could do it as long as Jeff Backus did, with as much as consistency.”

Reiff will have his hands full Sunday with Allen, who has posted 13.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, one interception, four forced fumbles and three pass breakups in 11 career games against the Lions. 

"He’s very difficult to handle because he can do so many things," Schwartz said. "He rushes inside, rushes outside, he’s hard to figure out. Whoever is blocking him is going to really go to battle every single play and never have one play where you’re not at your best, because Jared can make you pay. A lot of forced fumbles, tipped balls, sacks, that’s what he’s known for. Those are the game-changing plays that he makes for Minnesota’s defense."

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