The Raiders' second-year left tackle will be the blind-side protection for quarterback Jason Campbell against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High and face one of the NFL's best pass rushers in right defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
Veldheer is one of the NFL's tallest tackles at 6-foot-8. Dumervil is the shortest defensive end at 5-11. The 9-inch disparity presents some leverage issues for the 320-pound Veldheer.
"You've got to take your 6-8 and make yourself 6-foot," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said of Veldheer's challenge. "Our guy has length and girth, and obviously (Dumervil) is not as tall but a very, very good, accomplished player."
Dumervil led the NFL in 2009 with 17 sacks, playing as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense where he said he rushed about 60 percent of the time.
He missed last season with a torn pectoral muscle. Back as an end in the 4-3, Dumervil will have minimal coverage responsibilities and be rushing on all passing downs.
With long arms, a quick first step and a low center of gravity, the 255-pound Dumervil makes for a tough target. With rookie linebacker Von Miller coming from the opposite side, Veldheer won't always have help from double teams or chip blocks.
Getting down to Dumervil's level will require Veldheer bending his knees, because bending at the waist leaves a lineman off-balance and with a tendency to lunge.
"I obviously have to work at playing lower than 6-8 this week," Veldheer said. "It's just one of the things you need to work on in the week of practice and preparation."
As challenging as Dumervil is, Veldheer is miles ahead of where he was a year ago in comfort level, when the Raiders made the third-round draft pick from NCAA Division II Hillsdale their starting center in the days leading up to the season opener in Tennessee.
It lasted exactly one game before Samson Satele took over. Veldheer went to the bench but was summoned to start Week 7 at Mile High, a 59-14 Raiders win. He kept the job the rest of the year and has been a mainstay at tackle through training camp.
"Having a year of experience is huge, especially just being at tackle," Veldheer said. "Being able to go through camp and not worry about going inside and back outside has done a lot. I've been able to work on specific things that I feel I needed to improve on from last year."