Each week throughout the season, PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush hooks up with a personality who has connections with the Packers and asks him five Packer-related questions. This week Dan connects with ex-Packer Greg Koch, a fixture at right tackle in Green Bay from 1977-85.
1. How much do you think the loss of WR Greg Jennings for 2-3 weeks with a knee injury hurts the Packers' hopes of going undefeated?
Koch: The Packers have so much talent at the wide receiver position, not to mention they are hardly using (TE Jermichael) Finley. And when you add that with the running backs mostly having good hands, I don't see the temporary loss of Jennings as a major stumbling block. My only question is whether going undefeated is all that important. I would hate to see some of these guys get hurt in meaningless games. The goal in training camp is to win the Super Bowl, so I am mixed on this. I do realize that you only have so many players and most won't get rested, but does Aaron Rodgers really need to be in the Detroit game (in Week 17)? I wouldn't play him. Plus, it gives Matt Flynn real game experience that you just can't replicate in practice.
2. First-round pick Derek Sherrod played left tackle the entire second half vs. Oakland. Did you get a chance to check him out at all? What do you think of him?
Koch: He's a young kid who still has a lot to learn. However, playing tackle in the NFL requires time to learn. People just don't realize how hard the game is, and tackle is probably the hardest position to learn after quarterback and cornerback. You are on an island when the line is sliding away from you and there aren't all the big bodies inside, like there are for guards and centers. So there is just so much more space. I am not sure Sherrod will end up as a tackle, but he can definitely play in the league.
3. How would you assess the job that Evan Dietrich-Smith has been doing in replacing the injured Josh Sitton at right guard?
Koch: I really like Sitton's aggressiveness. There's way too much catching and not enough knocking people off the ball for me in today's NFL, and Sitton has a nasty streak I like in offensive linemen. While I feel there has been a drop-off, I thought Dietrich-Smith looked good from what I saw.
4. On the other side of the ball, rookie D.J. Smith and Robert Francois have been decent replacing injured starting ILBs Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, particularly Smith. Your thoughts?
Koch: Yes, they have been decent. But the defense as a whole is somewhat concerning, and losing two starters hurts in terms of continuity and leadership. The Packers are changing the age-old claims that you win with defense and a strong running game. I don't know of another team in the league that can outscore them, and that offense is operating at such a high level. It's just amazing to watch.
5. Finally, with you being based in Houston, I have to ask: is T.J. Yates the real deal? Can you envision a Texans-Packers Super Bowl scenario, and in that scenario, could Houston hold its own?
Koch: The Texans are one of the most balanced teams in the NFL. Wade Phillips has completely remade the defense, and they are an aggressive, swarming bunch that comes at you from all angles with some talented athletes. Offensively, they have two of the most talented backs in the league in Arian Foster and Ben Tate, and their offensive line is playing really well, although they lost right guard Mike Brisiel for four weeks this past weekend with a broken leg (he played the entire game, by the way). T.J. Yates has been a surprise, being that he's a fifth-round draft choice and the third-team quarterback thrust into playing after Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were lost for the year. He protects the football, he has more mobility than the two quarterbacks he backed up and has good arm strength. If he stays within himself and realizes that he has stepped into a great situation given the reasons stated above, Houston can win with him under center.
Can they go from 6-10 last year to the Super Bowl this year? It's doubtful. But after a decade of futility, winning the AFC South is something all Houstonians are proud of nevertheless. The NFL is, and will always be, a quarterback-driven league, and looking back, I can only recall three Super Bowl winners without an elite quarterback at the helm — Trent Dilfer with that great Ravens defense, Brad Johnson with that great Tampa defense and Eli Manning, whose win I still consider a fluke. So, no, I don't envision a Texans-Packers Super Bowl, but the Texans are a young team on the rise. Next year's schedule is brutal compared to the relatively easy schedule the Texans played this year, so that will be very telling. In the meantime, they are the best team in a woeful division and completely fun to watch.