ASHBURN -- Area 51? Who really assassinated JFK? Is Tupac alive? Important mysteries for sure, but not the lead whodunit out at Redskins Park. That belongs to the case of Trent Murphy's weight fluctuation.
"There are still some conspiracy theories around," Murphy stated.
The defender tipped the scales at 287 pounds during training camp after an offseason of intentional gorging. Then he randomly gets strep throat just as the Redskins coaches called an audible on his position switch from outside linebacker to defensive end back to OLB? That seems rather coincidental.
'The first week of Richmond I got strep throat pretty bad. Everyone thinks the coaches planted it in my room. We're not sure yet where it came from. That helped a lot. I couldn't eat for like three days," said Murphy, who is now in the 262-265 range.
If we're being honest, there is arguably a bigger, non-sickness mystery involving Murphy after three weeks of the NFL season: Where did this production come from?
Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams couldn't shed light on the mysterious strep throat timing -- "I'm not going to say the flu or whatever helped him." -- , but he offered Breaking Burgundy suggestions as to why his fellow Trent is making plays.
"He's added so many tools to his toolbox," Williams said of Murphy, who doubles as his practice and tactical discussion partner . "He's a hard working guy. He's an extremely smart guy."
Murphy is certainly adaptable. He was told to put on the pounds because the Redskins determined he would help the defensive more on the line. That was when the idea of Kerrigan, Smith and Junior Galette forming a pass rushing supergroup excited all. All plans were scrapped just before training camp when Galette suffered a torn Achilles for a second straight year.
Except that Murphy had already gained 20 pounds and spent months working on a new position.
"It's been a roller coaster," Murphy said during a one-on-one with Breaking Burgundy.
Beyond the illness, Murphy said a clean diet and extra running helped with the weight drop. "It wasn't too easy."
Beyond the former second-round selection's own talent and determination, credit for the improvement despite all the changes seems to fall into three areas. Two involve the Redskins offensive line.
"One of the biggest things is really just going against our guys every day in practice, "Murphy said."The way [offensive line coach Bill Callahan] coaches them in footwork and technique, it's like trying to unlock a puzzle in pass rush against those guys. Honestly, it's the hardest it is in practice, so it makes the game a little easier."
Williams is the line's anchor and of the NFL's best left tackles. He's also someone Murphy hits up for advice on how best to attack offensive linemen.
"We sit down and talk about moves I think work against guys, what he's looking at and so on," Williams said.
The key is Murphy isn't all talk.
"He puts it on the field," Williams continued. "It's one thing to just talk about it and discuss a few things and then go execute it. He's always looking for ways to be a better pass rusher, to be a more complete outside linebacker, more complete player."
Despite the weight loss, Murphy, "still is strong. He still has that pop," Williams said.
Then there's the coaching.
"I think the addition of Greg Manusky has really helped him as far as playing outside linebacker and rushing," head coach Jay Gruden said. Murphy concurs about the help from his position coach.
"It was harder to make the switch to defensive end because I've never done that before. I've been an outside back my whole life. The instincts are pretty natural there. I've been coached by someone who has a similar philosophy to Coach [Greg] Manusky. It was pretty easy to bounce into his scheme," Murphy said.
Murphy remains third on the OLB depth chart, but the gap has closed considerably. He nearly received as many snaps as Smith in Week 3's win over the Giants.
"I feel pretty good about everything really," Murphy said. "It's been a little all over the place, but I've been in the mindset of however I can help the team, wherever they can use me, I love the role my role has developed into."
Based on what's happened over the opening three weeks, there's no mystery behind that thinking.
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