Tackling Serious Headaches

draft choice Rob Petitti at right tackle. And they have done well to protect him, although the guy who lined up mostly on him this Sunday, Michael Strahan, finished with six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble - although the Giants started moving him around to get their sack leader away from those double teams.

But it's not just that. The Cowboys sort of rolled the dice at tackle, keeping only one other guy on the 53-man roster besides Adams that is capable of playing tackle. That would be Torrin Tucker. But then what must the Cowboys think of last year's 13-game starter that they chose to start Petitti instead of him this year? Plus, he has played right tackle, not the all-important left until Sunday.

And when asked about how Tucker filled in during the second half when Adams went down, getting rolled up on by teammate Anthony Thomas on the first play of that third-quarter, 16-play field-goal drive, Parcells simply said, "Some good, some bad."

So what to do?

Trade? Teams rarely trade a tackle worth anything, and the trade deadline is 3 p.m. Tuesday. Yep, that soon. Parcells thought the chances remote.

Free agents? There still are a bunch out there, the same suspects we've been over before - Ross Verba (still), Chris Terry, Derrick Deese, Chad Slaughter, Mark Columbo - and there must be a good reason they still are. Not good. And because of the injury settlement, the Cowboys aren't eligible to re-sign Kurt Vollers for another month.

Practice squad? The Cowboys don't have any tackles on their practice squad, but might think about raiding someone else's. Yet, all that guy would be is depth, you'd think. You're not finding a starting quality tackle on someone's practice squad. They'd have to be crazy to leave the guy there for the taking.

Position change? Well, when it comes to depth, you might consider Ben Noll, who at least worked a week in training camp at right tackle, but by no means would be considered one-play-away capable of coming in at say left tackle if you just decide to start Tucker.

So what about Larry Allen? Remember the temptation leading up to training camp about moving him out to right tackle? A thought. But right tackle is one thing. Left tackle is a young man's position, and one that might need more mobility than Allen has displayed. And hey, you saw the trouble Drew Bledsoe started getting into when Adams struggled somewhat over there in two of the past three games.

When asked if he would rather just plug someone into left tackle instead of moving someone, the assumption being Allen, but which would necessitate Stephen Peterman being ready to start at left guard - and that was the drawback to Allen moving out to right tackle in the first place - Parcells said, "That would be the easiest thing to do if you had that option."

You would think Tucker is the first option, that some guy off the street or a practice squad couldn't just step in and be ready to start at left tackle in three practices, veteran or not. You would think Allen moving three steps to his left would be the second option, but not a particularly pleasing one because of all the moving parts it would entail.

But whoever moves over there must be trusted. You can't protect both offensive tackles. And if you tried, you'd only be sending out two receivers in standard offense, basically wasting Jason Witten's receiving talents. Then on nickel downs, you would have to go no back to keep both tight ends in for assistance on three-receiver sets. Or, you couldn't run out three receivers.

Not good. And especially so after watching some of the throws Bledsoe was trying to make when harassed by the Giants on Sunday.

This is a pickle the Cowboys didn't need. Not now. Not at a time they seemingly were making a first-half move. And when asked if his starting left tackle for Sunday against Seattle was already here, Parcells said, "You'll have to wait until Wednesday (to find out)."

Now at least they have Peerless Price for insurance at wide receiver, and Terence Newman as insurance at punt returner. They also can lean again on running-back insurance Anthony Thomas if need be, although Marion Barber showed a little something against the Giants in his first

MICK SHOTS

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