The Redskins can't seem to get going early in the preseason and are in need of a serious spark as they head into game No. 3 at New England.
With his team in need of a lift, Marcus Washington can show in the very early going that he's the Redskins' leader for 2006.
New England, this Saturday evening's opponent at 8 p.m., has brought Junior Seau out of retirement. For over a decade, Seau was the emotional leader of the Chargers and Dolphins.
There have been many off-season suggestions that Washington can step into a similar role for the Redskins and become the team's unquestioned leader.
Head coach Joe Gibbs questioned his team's effort in the 27-14 loss to the New York Jets at FedExField. Look for Washington, now in his third season with the Redskins at strong-side linebacker, to have his teammates ready to bounce back from a lukewarm effort versus the Jets.
"We want to try to stay consistent and get better," Washington said. "Coach [Gregg] Williams always says if you're not getting better, you're getting worse. So we just want to try and keep improving."
Of course, the absolute last person to talk about Marcus Washington's role as the Redskins' unquestioned defensive leader is the linebacker himself.
"I like to talk, but I prefer to lead by example," says Washington. "It's easy to talk, but football is about giving effort, going from the snap until the whistle blows, bringing your hard hat and lunch pail every day."
Since joining the Redskins in 2004 as a free agent from Indianapolis, Washington has been extremely dependable, starting all 34 games. He's been productive, too, ringing up 255 tackles and 12 sacks.
Williams paid Washington the highest compliment last year after the former Auburn Tiger keyed a late-season turnaround that put the Redskins into the playoffs for the first time sine 1999.
"Without Marcus Washington, we would be a very average to mediocre defense," Williams said.
The compliments kept coming this year.
"Marcus Washington is a country tough, hard-working, bring your lunch bucket to work every single day guy," Williams said. "He cares about every single snap, he loves to play the game. Marcus Washington is a leader of the whole Redskins team because of the way he practices."
Early indications are that Washington is raring to go in 2006. He returned an interception for a touchdown in the scrimmage versus Baltimore. In the preseason home opener against the Jets, he was in the backfield on the first play and helped force a sack of Patrick Ramsey.
Coaches would like to use Washington as more of a pass-rushing threat this season.
Said head coach Joe Gibbs earlier this year: "We'd like to see Marcus be able to rush more. We've played him more in coverage, so if we can get him into position [to rush the passer], or however we wind up doing it, we think that's a real threat for us, too."
Last year, much of the defensive attention was on LaVar Arrington's comeback attempt and on the explosive play of safety Sean Taylor. But that would all change in December.
Washington was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month with his impressive 35 tackles, four sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries during the 5-0 march to the playoffs.
His outstanding play continued into the postseason as the linebacker recorded 12 solo tackles, one interception of quarterback Chris Simms, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. His interception late in the fourth quarter helped seal the win at Tampa Bay. His forced fumble was turned into a touchdown return by Taylor.
Does Washington consider himself the leader of the defense?
He responds: "I don't know. I just try to go out and play hard every day, every Sunday. If a guy is down, I try to pick him up. Hopefully, guys would do the same for me. We have a lot of guys who can lead. Sometimes it's Shawn Springs, sometimes it's Sean Taylor, sometimes its Lemar Marshall."
Mostly, though, in 2006 it figures to be Marcus Washington.