‘Beating up on centers:’ Rookie Bohanna aspires to unglamorous trench domination for Cowboys

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For the hundreds of young men trying to break into the NFL as rookies each year, the learning curve can be overwhelming. But for Quinton Bohanna, the massive defensive lineman taken by the Cowboys in the sixth round of this year’s draft, it couldn’t be clearer what his main job is.

“Beating up on centers,” Bohanna stated plainly. “You know, letting people behind me run free and make plays.”

Those “people” behind him running free are the Dallas linebackers. When Bohanna does his job well and clogs up the offensive linemen in front of him, the linebackers can more easily crash down onto ball carriers. It’s a task that will never show up in the stats or be listed in official box scores, but it’s a role that the 6-foot-4-inch Kentucky product enjoys.

“That ain’t hard to take. That ain’t a hard thing for me to do,” Bohanna told reporters during rookie minicamp. “I don’t look at it as a bad thing. It’s a good thing. The team and the coaches know my value and what I can do. And in the same way, I can go make plays myself; I’ve got some athleticism where I can go penetrate and make plays in the backfield when needed. I take pride in the job. That’s what I do; it’s my body type, it’s my position.”

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Bohanna is somewhat nonchalant about his gargantuan physical presence, but at 360 pounds, he is, as Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram points out, the biggest defensive lineman in Cowboys history. And that combination of size and skill makes him a natural at one specific position on that line in particular.

“He’s a nose tackle,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said shortly after the Cowboys drafted Bohanna.

“He’s going to be right over the center. Sometimes here, other times right there,” Quinn said, measuring the difference with his hands by just inches.

But that doesn’t mean Bohanna thinks he’s a plug-and-play lock quite yet. He knows he has plenty to learn in the pro game, and the big man is even looking to bulk up in anticipation of facing NFL offensive lines.

“I like where I’m at weight-wise and how I move,” the rookie told media members. “[But] I want to add some more strength. You’ve got to get some NFL strength. It’s not college anymore; everybody’s big and strong and physical.”

That should be a very scary thought for opposing centers, guards, and tackles. And a very exciting one for Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Micah Parsons, and the other Cowboys linebackers who’ll be playing behind Bohanna and looking to tee off on running backs.

“Linebackers love me. All the ones I’ve played with so far.”

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