Packers fortify offensive line with Amichia

Michael Cohen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY - While signing unrestricted free agent Jahri Evans was an important step toward identifying a starting right guard, the idea that the Green Bay Packers could count on a veteran who will turn 34 in August and pondered retirement during the offseason is like trusting an alarm clock with faulty batteries: It might work, or it might not.

“We're still looking,” director of football operations Eliot Wolf said Saturday. “But we feel really good about our group. Adding Evans was awesome. He played at a high level last year, really durable, tons of experience. And then we feel really good about the guys that were here. I still think the offensive line is a strength for our team.”

The offensive line is considered a strength because of quality starters at every position other than right guard. But when it comes to depth and potential replacements, the outlook is far murkier.

Which is why the Packers opted to reinforce the interior of their offensive line late in the NFL draft. General manager Ted Thompson used a sixth-round pick, No. 212 overall, to select Kofi Amichia from South Florida, a player who projects as a guard/center hybrid at the professional level.

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“I expected them to call me but I didn’t think it was going to be this soon,” Amichia said. “When it happened, me and my family were just going wild.”

At 6-3½ and 308 pounds, Amichia (pronounced Uh-mee-chee) is nearly 20 pounds heavier than his playing weight at South Florida, where he was a first-team all-American Athletic Conference selection in 2016. Amichia began his collegiate career as a center before kicking out to left tackle and starting 26 consecutive games during the last two seasons. In practice, he often took reps at guard as well.

“The first two games I started at South Florida I played right tackle,” Amichia said. “Then I played guard a few times in practice but never in games. But mostly the majority of my career was at left tackle.”

Still, Amichia knew his NFL future hinged on the ability to succeed on the interior. At his pro day, Amichia said teams worked him out almost exclusively at guard. In private workouts teams talked to him about playing center to prepare for the move inside, Amichia overhauled his diet during his pre-draft training. He started a meal plan heavy in chicken and vegetables, especially broccoli, and the result was a jump from somewhere around 290 to his current weight of 308 pounds.

“So it was all good weight,” he said. “It was not fat.”

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The Packers used one of their 30 official pre-draft visits on Amichia, whose parents hail from Ghana. Front office personnel and members of the coaching staff view him as a guard/center hybrid similar to the role Don Barclay filled this past season.

In training camp, Amichia should compete with Barclay and second-year players Kyle Murphy and Lucas Patrick for spots on the 53-man roster.

“They told me I could be taken anywhere from the sixth round (onward),” Amichia said, “and if nobody takes me they would probably free agent me. … I was just trying to be patient because I knew I would end up somewhere. I wasn’t really stressing too much.”

At the moment, Evans is a likely heir at right guard to replace veteran T.J. Lang, who signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency. But the addition of Amichia means there are at least four players fighting to take his spot.

"My quickness off the ball, my acceleration off the ball is basically my strongest attributes," Amichia said. " … Just the physicality I bring to the game, just having the feeling that nobody can come out there and stop me, just going out there and playing with ice water in my veins."

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