Gwinnett becoming hotbed for linemen

Led by Jason Elam, Gwinnett County used to be known for producing kickers. Now it may be offensive linemen.

With Stephon Heyer's promotion in Washington, Gwinnett has three starting tackles in the NFL.

Left tackle Jeff Backus, who has started every game in his NFL career, will begin his eighth season with Detroit back home on Sunday against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

Jon Stinchcomb, who played at Parkview and Georgia, will start at right tackle when New Orleans opens its season on Sunday against Tampa Bay at the Superdome.

Backus, from Norcross, has started 112 consecutive games and is the only player from the 2001 NFL Draft to start every game since his rookie year. He was selected by the Lions in the first round with the 18th overall pick after an All-American career at Michigan.

Sunday will be the second chance for Backus, who turns 31 on Sept. 21, to play the Falcons in Atlanta. The Lions lost 36-15 in 2002 at the Georgia Dome.

The Lions and Falcons have played twice at Detroit during Backus' career, splitting the games. Atlanta won 27-7 on Thanksgiving Day in 2005 and Detroit won 30-14 in 2006.

This time, Elam will be on the other side of the field. The Brookwood graduate, in his 16th NFL season, left Denver to sign with the Falcons as a free agent in the offseason.

Stinchcomb, who has started 34 consecutive games, is in his third season as a full-time starter with the Saints after being drafted early in the second round in 2003.

The 29-year-old's older brother Matt also was an NFL regular. The older Stinchcomb, now retired, played for Oakland and Tampa Bay after a standout career at Georgia.

Backus, Stinchcomb and Heyer may eventually be joined as a starting NFL lineman by another Gwinnett graduate. Brookwood's Mansfield Wrotto is a backup guard in his second season with Seattle after playing at Georgia Tech.