The Dallas Cowboys defense will look a lot different under Dan Quinn this season, as all signs point toward them operating out of a 3-4 defense. This is a bit of a surprise as he operated out of a base 4-3 look in Seattle and Atlanta, but in his words, “I didn't want to do just another rinse and repeat.”
This is a good thing as I would argue that trying to emulate the once-in-a-generation Seahawks Legion of Boom defense is a foolish strategy. There is a real argument that the success of that system was just as dependent on the elite talent on the field as the scheme itself.
Quinn deserves credit for putting that talent in the best position to succeed, but you can't downplay the impact that guys like Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, and Earl Thomas would have had in any system during their prime years.
A shift to a 3-4 look requires a bigger-bodied run-stopper in the middle of the defensive line, and 6th round pick Quinton Bohanna fits this mold perfectly. At 6'4” and over 330 lbs Bohanna is a true throwback Nose Tackle, and he knows it. “I'm a plug in the middle,” Bohanna said in an interview with 105.4 The Fan.
This is exactly how Dan Quinn plans to use him. When asked what role Bohanna would play Quinn didn't try to hide his cards at all. “He's going to be right over the center,” Quinn said. “Sometimes here, other times right here,” using his hands to show a distance of just a few inches.
It's refreshing to know that Bohanna knows this is his role on the team and that he fully embraces it, too. “I take pride in stopping the run and letting those guys behind me run free and make plays,” Bohanna said. “My physicality just fits well with the system that Coach Quinn wants to run on defense.”
It's hard to measure the full impact of a 3-4 interior defensive lineman when you are just looking at the box score. In his senior season at Kentucky Bohanna finished with only 10 total tackles (2.5 for a loss), and zero sacks. However, when you watch the tape you can see that he regularly drew the attention of multiple blockers, opening up gaps for the Wildcat linebackers to come up and make stops in the run game.
Here is a perfect example of that in a game against Vanderbilt last season, as he plugs up the middle of the play while drawing the attention of the center and left guard before ultimately coming away with a tackle and forced fumble.
Brent Urban is likely to open up the season as the primary 1-technique nose tackle, as he was one of the best at the position last year according to PFF, which will give Bohanna the necessary time to develop and come along slowly.
You have to have realistic expectations when evaluating Bohanna, or any 6th round picks for that matter. He doesn't project out to be a future pro-bowler or top-5 defensive lineman in the NFL. However, he does have a unique blend of size and skill that could allow him to develop into a quality role player in time for the Cowboys.
Anytime you can get that level of upside from a 6th round pick it is a win. If it doesn't work out, you're only out a 6th round pick. If it does work out, then you struck gold on a guy that will contribute for multiple seasons on a cheap rookie deal. I'll take that risk 100 times out of 100.