Raiders key matchup No. 2: Veldheer vs. Wake


Raiders key matchup No. 2: Veldheer vs. Wake

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second part in a series that spotlights three Raiders-Dolphins matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m. (CBS) at Sun Life Stadium.

Key matchup No. 3: Rolando McClain vs. Reggie Bush
Key matchup No. 1: (coming Saturday afternoon)
Tale of the tape
Jared Veldheer: 6-foot-8, 315 pounds, third season, Hillsdale
Cameron Wake: 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, fourth season, Penn StateHOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- That the Dolphins have switched from a 3-4 defense, in which Wake played outside linebacker, to a 4-3, where he is now a defensive end, matters little to the battle shaping up to protect Carson Palmer's blind side. Not when Veldheer, the Raiders' left tackle, and Wake are more than familiar with each other already.The two have done battle in each of the past two seasons, with Wake getting a sack and a quarterback hit in 2010 and three quarterback hurries in 2011."The opportunity to go up against a great rusher is always something I enjoy," Veldheer said this week."As far as in your pass setting, youre maintaining a certain relationship the whole time. So the wider and tighter the whole rush is, youre adjusting to that in your set and it kind of varies every play. The guys never going to be in the same place twice, not the exact same spot."Wake is two sacks away from becoming the seventh Dolphins player with 30 sacks in franchise history.Simply getting past Veldheer and into Carson Palmer's head might be a just as important for Wake, from the Dolphins' perspective."Make the quarterback move his feet more," said Miami coach Joe Philbin, "so even if you don't sack or don't hit him, you can disrupt the timing of the play."Still, Wake is not a simple pass-rush specialist. His run defense helped limit the Raiders to just 46 yards on the ground in Miami's 34-14 defeat of the Raiders last Dec. 4 and Darren McFadden to two yards on eight carries in the Dolphins' 33-17 victory in 2010."Hes a great all-around player, not just a great pass rusher," Veldheer said."Hes a relentless guy and an athletic guy who moves well, uses what he has to his advantage. Hes crafty and definitely makes sure the tackle is on top of his stuffall day, as hard as he can, hes coming at you and never stop and never quit."

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.

They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.

Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.

“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”

While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.

The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.

“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.

"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.

Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.

Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.

“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”

Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.

“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”