Special teams coach Danny Smith has been saying for months that his players had a lot of work to do to improve kick coverages and he will continue to preach that message after problems during Washington's 16-10 win on Sunday. Tampa Bay returner Frank Murphy broke off several long returns and twice had to be tackled by kicker John Hall, which is never a good sign.
"It's our kickoff coverage that's a real concern for us," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "We're going to sit down and kind of spend the next 24 hours here going over the people, every single aspect of that. We've got to make some decisions there, because it wasn't once, it was a number of times in the game."
Gibbs said the primary problem was with getting blocked at the point of attack; major changes to the units could occur before Sunday's game at the New York Giants. There were a few standouts on coverage, safety Matt Bowen among them, but Murphy averaged 31.3 yards per kick return -- including one for 54 yards -- while the Buccaneers were stymied on punt returns.
That had much to do with the booming kicks of punter Tom Tupa, who was excellent in his first game with the Redskins. Tupa averaged 49.6 yards on his seven punts -- nailing one 58 yards -- and placed Tampa Bay in poor field position several times by angling the ball to the corner.
"The punting game was great," Gibbs said.
Hixon Remains With Injured Son
Wide receivers coach Stan Hixon missed Sunday's game to be with his son, who suffered a serious head injury playing college football on Saturday, and remains in Florida. Drew Hixon, who plays wide receiver for Tennessee Tech, was hurt in a helmet-to-helmet collision during a game in Tampa, laying motionless on the field for several minutes before being rushed to the hospital. He was last reported to be in a medically induced coma and listed in critical condition.
Gibbs said doctors were performing measures to relieve the pressure in Hixon's head and there is no timetable for Stan Hixon's return to Washington.
"We're just in real prayer for him," Gibbs said.
So Far, a Pretty Good Tradeoff
The early returns on the Clinton Portis-Champ Bailey trade were favorable for both teams. The Redskins would not have defeated Tampa Bay on Sunday without the heroics of Portis, who opened the game with a 64-yard touchdown burst and finished with 29 carries for 148 yards. Bailey, a cornerback, helped anchor Denver's retooled defense, intercepting a pass and catching a pass in its win over Kansas City on Sunday night, while Portis's replacement, rookie Quentin Griffin, had a marvelous debut, running 23 times for 156 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
Both teams addressed glaring needs in the swap -- a rare blockbuster in the NFL -- and the progress of those involved is sure to be monitored closely around the league. The Redskins and Broncos have playoff aspirations and Portis and Bailey will be integral to their chances of attaining those goals. . . .
Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce likely will start again this week with Mike Barrow (knee) still limited in his ability to practice. . . .
Rookie safety Sean Taylor, who was projected to start in Week 1 but did not, may not start this week either, Gibbs said. The coaches will determine that over the next few days when they decide which personnel packages they will use to start the game. . . .
Portis and Bowen shared the player of the week honors, Gibbs said. . . .
Gibbs praised the effort of his offensive line -- particularly in pass protection -- but said he aims for better execution in run blocking and on the center-quarterback exchange. Washington let three snaps get away, once when the ball was slick, once when quarterback Mark Brunell stepped on the foot of backup center Cory Raymer and once when starting center Lennie Friedman mishandled an exchange. "We'll try and see if we can't get to the bottom of it," Gibbs said. . . .
Gibbs hopes that after winning his first game in his return to coaching that the focus will switch back to his players. Gibbs looked relieved after Sunday's win and not as tense as he had been during the past few days, enjoying the victory by sharing dinner with friends and family.
"You get one night and then you're back at it again," Gibbs said. "Then reality hits."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.