The Vikings offensive line has its bright spots.
Left tackle Riley Reiff and center Garrett Bradbury have allowed one pressure each in three games while right tackle Brian O’Neill has posted the sixth-best positional grade in the league in Week 2. However, the guard play has been horrid.
Second-year lineman Dru Samia has been ravaged by opposing defenders, allowing 11 pressures in two starts. Samia is filling in for Pat Elflein, who underwent surgery for a torn thumb ligament and was placed on the injured reserve list. He is the worst graded guard in the NFL entering Week 4.
Ben Muth, a former all-conference Pac 10 left tackle and analyst for Football Outsiders, reviewed the Vikings-Titans game this week and had some brutal words for the 2019 fourth-round pick, claiming he’s to blame for the offense’s mediocrity.
“Their right guard was about as bad as you’ll see from an interior player,” Muth said.
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Muth studied the first play of the second half against the Titans where Kirk Cousins was pressured and threw an interception.
Samia (No. 73) was pushed back and fell into Cousins. Muth explained that Samia took the wrong assignment and should have slid down to the left and blocked the linebacker, allowing Cook to take the defensive tackle to the right. Samia being manhandled and falling into Cousins added insult to injury as Cousins didn’t have a chance to escape the pocket.
Here’s what Muth added about Samia’s struggles:
If you can’t stop a 3-technique from coming right through your inside shoulder as a guard, you can’t play in the NFL. Not getting beat with a straight bull rush inside is the most fundamental aspect of pass protection as a guard and Samia gave up pressure that way throughout the game…
This is literally Day 1 install stuff for this protection scheme and about the easiest adjustment to make in the entire NFL. You can’t miss it as a guard because this is what happens when you do.
In his first start, he was posterized by the Colts PR team who replayed defensive end Deforest Buckner who bull-rushed Samia aside on a play in Week 2, adding to what Muth has observed through Samia’s first two career starts.
Samia Has Made Average Players Into Aaron Donald
While Samia has done little to make his teammates around him better, he has helped opposing defenders produce at an elite level.
In two games, Samia’s 11 pressures allowed on 65 passing attempts produced a 16.9 percent rate that makes opposing defensive tackles look like future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Donald, who produces pressure on 14.9 percent of his pass rush plays.
It’s yet to be seen if his performance will improve or if he will be replaced. General manager Rick Spielman said on KFAN rookie second-rounder Ezra Cleveland is “going to get his opportunity here shortly,” Vikings Territory writer Sean Borman reported.
Despite the struggles in pass protection as the 25th rank line in the NFL, the Vikings are ranked second in run-blocking, per Football Outsiders.
Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.