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Changes in Store?

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The severity of the Redskins loss raises the question of whether changes will be made on the offensive line and in the linebacking corps? The likelihood of some changes seemed greater when Bill Parcells mentioned that the o-line's mental mistakes, "were all made by the same people."

But there are two factors working against changes against the Panthers. Dallas is still very much alive for a playoff spot, so we can forget any radical changes, like a start for Tony Romo or several sets for Terence Newman at wide receiver. The second and more important factor is that depth, or lack of depth, gives the coaching staff few options at both need positions.

On offensive line there are only three options. One would replace Marco Rivera with Andre Gurode. This change may come to pass anyway, if Rivera's neck has not receovered sufficiently from the neck burner he suffered late against Washington. However, Rivera was signed this past offseason because Gurode had failed to impress in two seasons at RG.

A more likely possibility would have third year guard Stephen Peterman man Rivera's spot. Parcells was complementary of Peterman on Monday, saying he was smart and tough. Peterman has not been activated recently, according to his coach, because the Cowboys have only carried seven offensive linemen and the reserves needed to play multiple positions. Peterman can only play guard, where Gurode can sub at guard and center.

Parcells was also asked if tackle Marc Columbo might see some time. Parcells mentioned that he had considered it but then said, "I've see him in practice..." meaning Colombo has not shown he's ready to return to the field, even with Torrin Tucker and Rob Petitti's problems. If the Cowboys were to be eliminated by Carolina this week, I would not be surprised to see Columbo get significant playing time against the Rams.

On the defensive side of the ball, the options are even more limited. With Michael Barrow landing on injured reserve with a torn thigh muscle Dallas is down to two reserves. Ryan Fowler backs up the inside backers and Kevin Burnett backs up on the outside. Burnett may draw a start one of these weeks. He's an active guy. He's apparently on Bradie James' learning curve, however; the coaches have been disappointed by his slowness in picking up the schemes.

All this means a lot more of the same people. Dallas will likely play this game close to the vest, which is not a bad strategy if the defense can regain its form. The people blowing assignments now were the people stepping forward in the middle of the season. Carolina's offense has struggled to score points in the last six weeks. Dallas has the secondary talent to contain Steve Smith.

This week will turn on heart and focus. After last week's beating, I'm sure the coaches will have the players' undivided attention.