Nate Washington needs leadership help

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
3:13
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Last week I wrote a bit about quiet guys and whether they are more compelled to speak up when things are going badly.

The Titans have one super-vocal leader in strong safety Bernard Pollard. But the team really doesn’t have an equivalent on offense, where the team is really struggling.

[+] EnlargeNate Washington and Antonio Cromartie (31)
Don McPeak/USA TODAY SportsNate Washington is one of the few veteran leaders on Tennessee's offense.
A quarterback has to lead, and Jake Locker was developing in that department. Ryan Fitzpatrick has not been at the helm long enough for us to get a true sense of him as a leader for the Titans.

I asked two guys who are definitely leaders on the offense, quiet left tackle Michael Roos, and more fiery tight end Delanie Walker, if their side of the ball has someone who ranks as the equivalent of Pollard.

They both pointed to receiver Nate Washington.

“Right now it’s Nate Washington,” Walker said. “He brings years of playing. He’s a hard-worker, he makes plays, he knows how to get you motivated. He always shows up week to week.”

Washington takes his captaincy seriously, and early in the year he was a go-to receiver for Locker.

But over the last five games, he’s caught only nine passes for 159 yards.

He doesn’t seem to have the same rapport with Fitzpatrick (an average of two catches for 32.6 yards in the backup's starts) that he had built with Locker (3.6 and 60).

To Washington’s credit, even when the ball isn’t coming his way much he influences the game. When the Titans ran out to an early lead against the Colts, he was a blocking demon for Chris Johnson.

“I think it’s important that we have every type of leader,” Washington said. “The defense has BP but they also have JMac (Jason McCourty) and he will speak up from time to time, but he’s not a vocal leader, he’s like Roos is. You need a balance of guys. There are some things sometimes that need to be said, that needs to come from a captain, a guy with that type of authority. I just try to hold myself accountable when those times have come.

“I want to be the guy to speak up and put the spotlight on my hard work. Everybody can now look at me and say, ‘Well he’s speaking up, well what is he doing on the practice field? He’s working hard.’ If you can see me working hard and also speaking up behind it, you can know maybe it is time to go. I take great pride in it. It a [task] that’s placed on me and BP now to go out and be the enthusiastic leaders with our voice and our play.”

Walker said catches and yardage aren’t necessary for Washington to be a good leader.

“I don’t think leadership is about making plays,” Walker said. “It’s about being a consistent guy, never letting down. If he doesn’t get a pass in a game, he still goes out and blocks for you and he’s running his routes hard, that’s a leader."

I think Washington has done a good job. I also think an offense needs the quarterback and a tone-setting lineman to be among its leaders. Locker and rookie center Brian Schwenke may have the personalities for it, but one is finished for the season and the other has started just two games and is dealing with a sprained ankle.

At those key spots, the Titans seem deficient in that department.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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