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Trent Murphy adds bulk, but must shed old instincts in switch to end

ASHBURN, Virginia – He doesn’t quite see the difference, even if others have told him he looks bigger. But Trent Murphy, 24 pounds heavier than his listed weight last season, takes that as a good sign. It means he can add more weight and still be comfortable.

That, in turn, will help him at his new position. Though the Redskins didn’t officially tell Murphy about their plans until April, it’s something they had been considering since last season ended. They could keep him at linebacker, where he’d be behind Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Junior Galette. Or they could move him to end and hope he could be their version of Justin Smith, a player Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan once signed in San Francisco.

Smith was one of the best defensive ends in a 3-4 front, so duplicating his success would be difficult. And that’s not what the Redskins expect. But Smith was a hard-working, 290-pound end, and that’s what the Redskins expect from Murphy.

He weighed 282 pounds and wants to add eight more pounds by training camp. Murphy told reporters after practice Wednesday that his secret to adding weight thus far has been protein shakes and constant meals.

“It’s just constant uncomfortable because you’re never really hungry,” he said. “You kind of have to watch the clock and every two to three hours make sure that you’re getting some calories in, weighing yourself constantly. I just never want to see the scale go down.”

One reason the Redskins felt Murphy could add weight was his frame. He’s 6-foot-5 and lean; also, they know his father has a similar frame and weighed more, but carried it well.

“To be honest, I haven’t felt it yet,” Murphy said of the extra pounds. “That’s why I think I can keep going. I have such a long frame. Visually, some guys see it but I don’t feel that much different. I’ll keep going until I feel filled out.”

The transition will take time, considering Murphy has always played linebacker. There are nuances of the position to learn – reading blocking schemes differently and quicker; training your eyes on new keys. This is a long-term project, not a one-year, quick-fix hope.

This past week, Murphy took snaps at both end positions (Chris Baker and Kendall Reyes were the first-team ends). He could also play inside in their nickel package, creating a different look for the line. Murphy’s linebacker background could allow the Redskins do to different things with him, too, such as dropping into coverage on the occasional zone blitz. In the past, he played some end in nickel packages.

“He’s a hard-working guy and still a developing player and young kid,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “His versatility is good. … This is the beginning stages for him and this is new to him, but he will be fine.”

But he also has to shake his old linebacker tendencies.

“The biggest change is getting rid of my old instincts,” Murphy said. “[Tuesday] I was supposed to be keying the tackle and it was a run away. But I saw the QB flash in front of me rolling out and I was like, I have to pull him up on the boot. But that’s not my responsibility anymore. Stuff like that. Get out of my old habits, but that will come.”

It would be good for the Redskins if it does, giving them the youth they wanted at this position.

“He’s definitely bigger, definitely a lot stronger,” Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “He’s moving around with some pretty significant weight. He hasn’t lost his movement ability, which is going to be vital for him. He’ll be a different matchup for offensive tackles. He’s a different body type and has a different kind of twitch, a different explosiveness. He’ll find a nice home there.”