Editor’s note: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Cowboys matchups to watch Thursday, 1:30 p.m., at AT&T Stadium.
Raiders LT Jared Veldheer vs. Cowboys DE DeMarcus Ware
Tale of the tape:
Veldheer (68): 6-foot-8, 321 pounds, fourth season, Hillsdale College
Ware (94): 6-foot-4, 258 pounds, ninth season, Troy
Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer is finally ready to play a football game. It’s been nearly a year since his last, with his first major athletic injury keeping him on the shelf.
The fourth-year veteran suffered a partially torn triceps in training camp that required surgery to repair. He spent months on injured reserve with a designation to return and, at long last, Veldheer’s ready to come back.
“I’m feeling really good and really fresh,” Veldheer said. “It’s an odd thing to feel this way in Week 13, and that’s something that builds confidence. Like I’ve said a million times recently, I’m ready to get back out there and play.”
Veldheer’s return couldn’t come at a better time. The Raiders best lineman –arguably the team’s best player – will square off against Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Ware on Thanksgiving in a pivotal matchup for both teams.
“I match up with a great rusher right off the bat,” Veldheer said. “It’s 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.”
Both players have recent injury history. Veldheer’s troubles were documented above and Ware played the last two games after missing three with a quadriceps strain. Ware still has five sacks, six quarterback hits and 25 hurries, although there’s some question whether he’s fully healthy.
“He still looked good,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “Whether he picked up right where he left off, I don’t know, but you have to account for him on every snap because he can go out and ruin a game for you. We have to make sure where he’s at, and we have to do a great job of blocking him.”
There are few better than Veldheer when he’s at his best. He allowed five sacks all of last year, never more than one in a game. He’s big, strong and smart. He’s quick for his size and believes he’s ready to play at a high level.
Veldheer refused to cut corners during the first long rehab of his career. While Dennis Allen is leery of letting him play an entire game, Veldheer believes he’s in football shape. He hasn’t had the full speed reps typical of Week 13, and might not be ready for someone who has. Khalif Barnes will be ready to slide out from left guard if necessary.
Allen said he doesn’t have a snap count in mind for Veldheer, and he’ll adjust his playing time based on feel.
“I’ve been working on conditioning for a while now. I’ve been able to run and move my feet to build up stamina,” Veldheer said. “I don’t know what the plan is as far as snaps or how much I’m going to play. I feel like, if I step out there for a game, I’ll be ready to play.”