When Jared Veldheer gets added to the Oakland Raiders’ 53-man roster this week, it likely won’t register more than a ripple on the national scale. Inside the team’s headquarters, however, it’s cause for a minor celebration.
Veldheer has been on the injured reserve/designated to return list since suffering a torn triceps in training camp. Although he had made significant strides in his rehab over the past month, the Raiders held off activating the former third-round draft pick in order to increase his stamina.
Just how much he’ll play against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day remains to be seen. Last week, coach Dennis Allen left open the possibility that Veldheer and Khalif Barnes might split time at the position.
However, by getting Veldheer back, it frees up the Raiders to take care of some of their more pressing concerns.
The left tackle spot has been a liability most of the season.
Barnes was penciled in at right tackle when training camp began, then slid over to the left side after Veldheer was hurt. The veteran offensive lineman has played in every offensive snap, but his overall blocking grades have not been solid, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and he’s also Oakland’s most penalized player.
Veldheer, on the other hand, is widely recognized as the Raiders’ best offensive lineman. He’s improved every year he’s been in the NFL, and he was playing at a Pro Bowl level for much of 2012.
At 6’8”, 321 pounds, Veldheer is bigger, stronger and more nimble in pass protection than any of his counterparts along Oakland’s offensive line.
In 2011 and 2012, much of the success the Raiders had running the ball came around the left side behind Veldheer. Oakland has been more diverse in its approach this year, though, because of the issues the team has had at left tackle.
Veldheer should quiet some of those concerns if he’s back on the field, although he faces a mountainous task this week in trying to slow down Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Ware on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys like to move Ware around, as he’ll be going against both of Oakland’s offensive tackles.
“I match up with a great rusher right off the bat,” Veldheer said. “Its’ going to be a tough challenge and we’re going to have to be on top of our game plan and go out there and execute.”
The Raiders (4-7) face an uphill battle just to get back to .500. At least the offensive line is getting somewhat back to full strength.
When Veldheer comes back and is able to play a full game (which could happen this week), it’s conceivable, if not probable, that Barnes will replace left guard Lucas Nix.
“Obviously (Veldheer) is a little rusty,” Allen said. “But we’ll get an opportunity to get him back out there and getting him playing and we’ll see how things go. We’ll see how much he plays and when he plays. Hopefully, being fresh will help him.”
All information and quotes used in this and any report by Michael Wagaman were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.