Nate Washington knows as well as anyone how important the start to a game can be, preseason or not.
That’s why the veteran wide receiver figures it is notable that quarterback Jake Locker will start for the first time Friday when the Tennessee Titans play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tampa (6:30 p.m., WKRN-TV Ch.2).
“I think that’s the one position that has the most pressure and scrutiny behind it,” Washington said. “There’s no hiding that guy. … He’s in control of everything the offense does. Whether [things] flow or they don’t flow, it’s pretty much going to be on his shoulders.
“So it’s his job to get us going and make sure we’re headed down the right path. I’m pretty sure the first start for him is going to be pretty big.”
Washington, of course, was the intended receiver on the first offensive play of Saturday’s preseason opener at Seattle. Matt Hasselbeck’s low delivery bounced twice off Washington’s hands and then off the back of a defender before it was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The Titans never led that game and ultimately lost 27-17.
Coach Mike Munchak announced the team’s quarterback plans for the next contest following Monday’s workout.
It will be the first time the team’s top draft pick in 2010 (eighth overall) opens a contest, either in the regular season or preseason. He played the bulk of the time in last year’s final preseason contest, a 32-9 victory at New Orleans. In the regular season, he took over for an injured Hasselbeck in the third quarter of a loss at Atlanta and in the second quarter of a loss at home to the Saints.
“He has not had an opportunity to start a game from the beginning,” Munchak said. “So that is what we will do. We will start the game with him and then Matt Hasselbeck will come in after he is done.”
Locker was not available to the media Monday. He and Hasselbeck both are scheduled to address reporters Tuesday.
“Some guys perform better starting or coming off the bench,” Munchak said. “It’s a position he has not had a chance to be in yet. We want to put him through that drill. We started [Hasselbeck] last week, so we want to do the opposite this weekend.”
Including the unlikely interception at the start, Hasselbeck went 5-for-9 for 45 yards with two interceptions in the 27-17 loss to the Seahawks. Locker was 7-for-13 for 80 yards.
Each had a long completion of 18 yards – Hasselbeck’s to tight end Jared Cook and Locker to wide receiver Kendall Wright.
“When you’re a young man there are a lot of firsts and this is just another one for [Locker],” Munchak said. “He will get a chance to stay in there a little bit longer. Last game he got [to play with] the [starters] for maybe a series; then he got the other guys. You kind of want to see him with the starters for a longer period of time: the tight ends, the receivers and the offensive line.”