Pettine confident Browns will improve

BEREA, Ohio -- Highlights from this afternoon's conference call with Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine:

  • The inability to win on third down was a major concern in Saturday night's 33-14 loss to St. Louis. The Rams converted on 12 of 19 opportunities, while the Browns were successful on just 4 of 11 chances. Pettine said the offense has to do a better job on first and second downs to stay out of long-yardage situations on third down, and that the defense has to clean up breakdowns in technique and coverage. The Browns conclude the preseason Thursday against the visiting Bears. Said Pettine: "The one positive thing about having a shorter week is that we know we didn't play well, but we can go out there Thursday and get the bad taste out of our mouth. "

  • The Browns have made no player moves in advance of the upcoming first round of mandatory roster cuts. Teams have until Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET to reduce their rosters to 75 players.

  • The Browns are 0-3 in the preseason and have been less competitive in each of the games. Pettine admitted improvements must occur, but added: “I don't think it's concerning enough to panic. Anytime you come in and you're installing systems that are, by NFL standards, radically different from what your guys are used to, and you have new players in it as well, and you're mixing veterans and rookies and free agents, and it's guys that are all very new to each other and new to the staff, there's only so many opportunities that you have to get on the field with them and coach them and get in the meetings, and we're taking full advantage of that. But there's no substitute for being together and going through it. We're confident as we get going that we'll improve by leaps and bounds, but there's a process and we have to go through it.”

  • Dion Lewis has taken the lead in the race to be the No. 3 running back behind Ben Tate and Terrance West, but Pettine said the competition is ongoing.

  • Wideout Nate Burleson has not played in the preseason, but Pettine said the veteran free-agent signee might be cleared for individual work Monday.

  • Cornerback Buster Skrine had thumb surgery on Aug. 18, but Pettine said he's on schedule to be back by the Sept. 7 season opener at Pittsburgh.

  • Pettine acknowledged that the offensive line is searching for consistency: “We're definitely a work in progress, but we have a very true sense of urgency. If we feel we're not ready, nobody is going to change Sept. 7 and push that back for us. We have to be ready for the opener, and that's why we're going to take the field this week and the time after that with a very strong sense of urgency.”

  • Wideout Josh Gordon didn't play Saturday despite suiting up. Pettine said that early in the game he wanted to get snaps for players who would have to fill in for Gordon if Gordon's appeal of a year-long suspension isn't overturned by the league. Later, Gordon was having trouble getting loose and, after consulting with receivers coach Mike McDaniels, Pettine decided not to play him. “It wasn't anything from a punishment standpoint,” Pettine said. “It was just common sense.”

  • Pettine said cornerback Joe Haden (foot) won’t play in the preseason finale Thursday as a precautionary measure. Haden is expected to be fine for the season opener.