Veldheer faces huge challenge against Vikes' Allen

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 18, 2011
Oakland left tackle Jared Veldheer has a monumental task this week trying to slow down NFL sacks leader Jared Allen of Minnesota. While it might sound a little crazy, Veldheer hopes the Raiders let him go at it alone. The second-year offensive lineman certainly respects Allen and calls him one of the best in the league. Veldheer just thinks the Raiders' offense could suffer if they have to send help his way. ''You want to have (teammates) be able to do their thing,'' Veldheer said Thursday. ''You want them to be able to get in the pass route to make a first down or do something to help us convert. As long as you do your job and someone doesn't have to help you, then we're better off.'' Then again it really hasn't mattered what strategy teams have used against Allen. His 13 1/2 sacks are two off his career high, and the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end needs only 4 1/2 more to reach 100 for his career. Since notching half a sack in Minnesota's opener against San Diego, Allen has had at least one full sack in eight straight games. In four of them, he's had multiple sacks. ''He's as good as there is in football,'' Raiders coach Hue Jackson said. ''The guy has 13 1/2 sacks, and it's not by accident. He doesn't make any magical things happen, he just goes and plays extremely hard. What we have to do is get him blocked.'' That job will primarily belong to Veldheer. Oakland's third-round draft pick in 2010, Veldheer has been one of the Raiders' most consistent players on an offensive line that is second in the NFL for fewest sacks allowed (11). A year after getting burned for 7 1/2 sacks as a rookie, the 6-foot-8, 315-pound Veldheer has been beat for sacks only twice this season. He's also reduced his penalties, from 15 in 2010 to just five through nine games this season. Jackson acknowledges Veldheer has never faced a challenge quite like the one Allen poses, which is why the Raiders will probably scheme for some additional help on the left side of the line. ''He's one of those guys (where it) doesn't matter if you're running the ball away from them, they can make the play,'' Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer said. ''He's a high-effort, explosive, fast, tenacious defender. He can do it all so he's a guy that we definitely need to keep an eye on and know where he is at all times.'' Veldheer was drafted out of Hillsdale College to play left tackle for the Raiders but he wound up making his NFL debut at center when Oakland couldn't find anyone else to do the job. He moved back to tackle the following week and hasn't left the job since. ''I feel like I'm always still working at it,'' Veldheer said. ''I don't feel like I'm at a spot where I'm there where I need to be. I don't feel that at all. There are a bunch of things I can get better at.'' Oakland's entire offensive line has been playing well despite starting two players - Veldheer and rookie left guard Stefen Wisniewski - who have been in the league fewer than two full seasons. The Raiders have allowed just one sack more than the league-leading Buffalo Bills. Oakland also owns the league's fourth-ranked rushing attack, a nod to the five men up front. Still, as good as Veldheer and the line have been, Oakland will almost assuredly deploy some extra help to slow down Allen. ''(Veldheer) doesn't want a lot of help, truth be told,'' Jackson said. ''He wants to be out there on his own. But I have the right to determine that. So, what we'll do is help when we think our guys need help and we'll try to get our guys out when we think we can get them out.''
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