Bills receiver Malachi Dupre skips the what-ifs as he eyes a larger role

Malachi Dupre tries not to get caught in thinking about the what-ifs.

What if he had not bypassed his senior season at LSU? Might he have been selected higher than the seventh round by the Green Bay Packers last year?

What if he had avoided a concussion-inducing hit in his first preseason game? Dupre was hit hard and lay motionless on the ground as the play continued around him. Dupre was able to give a thumbs up as he was carted off the field, but he left the stadium in an ambulance and spent the night in the hospital.

What if he had been able to see more than limited time in the third and fourth preseason games and make an impression? It took him 11 days to clear concussion protocol. He was waived when the Packers cut down to the 53-man roster.

"Obviously, there are things you like to think about here and there and regret," Dupre said. "But I’m not one of those people to dwell on the past. I just try to make light of my situation."

Dupre is now getting an opportunity at Bills training camp at St. John Fisher, including some snaps with the first-team offense. It's a change from last year, when he was on the practice squad for most of the season after being signed in September.

The 6-foot-2, 196-pound Dupre brings intriguing size to the field. He has leaping ability too, having posted the third best vertical jump (39.5 inches) among receivers in the 2017 draft. His speed is pretty good for his size (4.52 in the 40), but many scouts thought he should have stayed in school another year to refine his game.

"I'm just making sure I do my job each and every day," he said. "I know nothing is set in stone yet; coaches are still trying to figure things out. Obviously, we have a long preseason ahead of us and we have a lot of things to figure out as a team as a whole. ...

"No matter what group I’m in, whether it’s the ones or threes, I’m just trying to get better each and every play and show coaches that I know what I’m doing."

The Bills are thin on production at wide receiver, which is where Dupre could come in to fill a void. They ranked 31st in the NFL last season in passing yards. There are spots up for grabs. Kelvin Benjamin is the No. 1 wideout. Zay Jones, who has been on the sideline recovering from knee surgery, could get another once he returns. Jeremy Kerley has the advantage in the slot.

That doesn't mean that there isn't competition for roster spots, and Dupre said he knows he needs to go out there every day and do his best.

"We all know that in that room, but I think, at the same time, that just brings great competition and it's going to bring the best out of everyone every day," Dupre said. "I know there are no weak links in that room, but at the same time it’s open competition."

Dupre was signed to the Bills practice squad Sept. 12, then promoted to the active roster Dec. 26. Dupre saw time in two games but did not record any catches. In practices, he was occasionally taking reps against the first-team defense by the end of the season.

"I feel like that helped me get better," Dupre said. "I felt like at the end of the year I was playing at a very high level, I had gotten better each and every day for 16 weeks. I know I grew tremendously, and in the offseason, I worked on things and when I came back I’m reaping the benefits."

He used the offseason to improve, and he said having the ability to train with the team throughout the spring puts him in a better position for training camp. Dupre spent some time with the first team during OTAs with Jones sidelined, but Dupre also missed some time with hamstring issues.

"This year, us having a new offensive coordinator (Brian Daboll) and a new position coach (Terry Robiskie), it’s allowing us to build from the ground up starting in the springtime, getting a new offense," he said. "It’s given me a longer time to learn the offense and build with the team. It is much better to be here from the beginning."

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