Cards Will Test Browns Secondary

After Brandon McDonald's big game against the Texans, another test awaits as Kurt Warner looks to pick apart the Browns secondary. Warner and the Cardinals threw for 484 yards against the 49ers yesterday...

If the Browns are to make the playoffs this season, they eventually will have to stop opposing quarterbacks from picking apart the secondary as though it is a plate of Thanksgiving leftovers.

The next challenge is being posed by Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and his pair of receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. They have combined for 12 touchdowns.

The Browns have given up 25 touchdowns through the air. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub added to the total with two in a game the Browns won 27-17.

At the center of attention for the Browns is starting right cornerback Leigh Bodden. Bodden plays in the slot when the Browns are in their nickel package. Bodden slipped while covering Texans receiver Kevin Walter. The play went for a touchdown.

A knee injury to rookie cornerback Eric Wright has put more pressure on Bodden to play mistake-free. Wright missed the game against the Texans and might not be back for Arizona.

Bodden leads the Browns with four interceptions, but he has also been conspicuous because he has been beaten more this season than at any time since establishing himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the AFC.

"There's a lot of field to cover in the slot," Bodden said. "That's a tough position. That's where teams go to on third down. I've given up some plays, but I think I've played well."

Bodden had difficulty with the Ravens' Derrick Mason at times last week and he gave up three passes early against the Rams. There have been others, but those plays stand out. He made up for earlier mistakes in St. Louis by intercepting a pass in the final minute to preserve a 27-20 victory.

Even coach Romeo Crennel, always reluctant to criticize a player, when asked about Bodden said: "Leigh has been working through some issues. He's not where he wants to be from a physical nature. He's kind of been up and down a little bit."

Bodden missed seven games last season with ankle injuries and had ankle surgery in the offseason. A stiff back limited him in practice in recent weeks. He was not on the injury report leading up to the Houston game and he did not use the injuries as an excuse for the times he has been beaten.

"My coach (secondary coach Mel Tucker) told me plays are going to be made in the slot so they want me there," Bodden said. "When you're in the slot you have to play leverage and play to your help. Sometimes they beat it. They call the play that beats our coverage.

"I hate it, but that's the nature of the game. I set high expectations for myself."

Rookie Brandon McDonald has become the nickel back with Wright out. The Browns expect Warner to try to pick on him.

If this game follows the pattern of others it will be another shootout. The Browns have allowed 30 or more points in five of their games. They have scored at least 30 four times.


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