While the Denver Broncos may be banged up right now, one positive is they will likely have right tackle Jared Veldheer back in the lineup this weekend.
Veldheer, a free-agent signing this year, has missed the last four games with an injured knee, but will play against the Houston Texans this Sunday per head coach Vance Joseph.
“He looked fine today, so yeah, he should play,” Joseph said on Thursday when asked about his right tackle. And, if he will replace Billy Turner, who’s been filling in for him, Joseph replied, “Yes, he will.”
Veldheer hasn’t been spectacular this year, but he’s been solid. Veldheer’s grade of 68.5 by Pro Football Focus ranks him as the No. 37 tackle in the NFL, slightly ahead of Turner at No. 50 with a grade of 64.8. In his four games of play, Veldheer allowed one sack, one hit, four hurries and six pressures. Conversely, Turner’s allowed four sacks in six games of play.
So, getting Veldheer back this week will be a boost to that offensive line which is without starting left guard Ronald Leary for the rest of the season after he sustained the Achilles tendon tear in Week 4 against Kansas City. That’s left Max Garcia, the Broncos’ third-best guard, playing on the left side of Matt Paradis, while Connor McGovern plays on the right side. McGovern has been good this year, but has struggled the last four games, with one sack and 14 hurries allowed over that span.
Having a “MASH” unit on the offensive line has hurt Denver’s offensive production at times, but with improved play-calling last week, the Broncos hung in there with the Kansas City Chiefs for most of the game before coming up short.
If offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is smart, he’ll continue to try to find balance by running the ball more, like he did in last week’s game. Their 30 runs compared to 34 passes was the best balance we’ve seen all year. Denver is No. 3 in the NFL in terms of rushing yards, with 1,065 and No. 1 when it comes to yards per attempt, at 5.3.
Getting Veldheer back should help in the run game, as well as the pass blocking, this week. However, the Texans’ run defense is stout: They’ve allowed only 761 rushing yards and are No. 3 in the league with a 3.6 YPC average allowed.
Denver (3-5) faces Houston (5-3) at Mile High Stadium, with kickoff set for 2:05 p.m. MST.