EAGAN — Dru Samia knows what might happen if he gets a chance to play with the first team at Vikings training camp.
But the fourth-round rookie guard, known for his toughness, isn’t going to shy away.
“Probably going to get put on my a– like 1,000 times,” he said in an interview with Zone Coverage. “But that’s what I’m here to do. That’s what I want to do.”
The draft pick from Oklahoma thus far has been relegated to the third team while veterans Dakota Dozier, Brett Jones and Danny Isidora man the interior of the second unit. It’s been a mild surprise to not see Samia cycled in with the 2s after many considered him a steal on the third day of April’s draft.
Samia did see some work with the starters at Thursday’s walkthrough, a slower-paced setting where he can get used to quarterback Kirk Cousins’ cadence. The 21-year-old is biding his time as he waits for that type of opportunity at full speed.
“The greatest players I’m sure would agree that they’re always working on technique,” Samia said. “No one’s ever perfect. So it’s going to be an ongoing process, but I just need to get to the level where I can contribute to the team with the 1s.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that Samia is further along in his run blocking than pass blocking — as are many young offensive linemen at this stage. Per Pro Football Focus, Samia was a slightly stronger pass blocker than run blocker in college but ranked in the top 25 percent in each category amongst draft eligible linemen. He didn’t allow a sack in two of four college seasons and logged over 3,300 snaps for the Sooners — all before his 22nd birthday, which is less than three weeks away on Aug. 22.
“He’s doing a good job,” said Zimmer. “He’s a little bit bigger than most of the guys we’ve got. Like most of them he’s probably doing better in the run game right now than pass protection, but he’s working at it and getting better. He’s got a chance.”
Zimmer added that he’d like to see Samia against some more seasoned competition. He said the coaching staff may mix the rotations after watching the early preseason games.
So what is Samia focusing on?
“Trying to use the aggression that I use in the run game in the pass game,” he said. “Just gotta learn from these coaches and learn the technique that they’re teaching me.”
Samia has a reputation for playing with an edge, saying this spring he has “a million reasons to be mad.” Like fellow rookie offensive lineman Garrett Bradbury, Samia conducts himself more like a veteran than a rookie. Those intangibles intrigued the Vikings as they looked to change the mentality of their offensive line after a down year in 2018 that was impacted by Tony Sparano’s sudden passing.
“He was an unbelievable interview at the Combine,” general manager Rick Spielman said after the draft, “maybe one of the toughest competitors we’ve seen on tape on how he finishes. He fits the zone scheme very well. He has a few technical flaws to clean up, but we think that is correctable with coaching.”
Samia was surrounded by NFL talent at Oklahoma. Linemates Cody Ford, Bobby Evans and Ben Powers were all drafted in 2019, and the tight-knit group has been in contact throughout training camp comparing notes on their various experiences.
“Sounds like they’re doing a lot of conditioning,” Samia said.
While Ford and Powers have seen first-team work in Buffalo and Baltimore, respectively, and Evans has worked with the 2s with the Los Angeles Rams, Samia has some work to do to reach that status with the Vikings.
“They’re not going to put you out there if you’re not assignment sound,” he said, “so you need to know everything down pat.”