Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference
Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks
Press Conference – August 4, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
“I thought it was another good day of practicing pads. [Head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] orchestrated practice today where we had a lot of situational stuff, which I thought was great to try to create some true simulations of game-like football. So, I thought the guys did a good job going through those scenarios and getting better today. And with that, I’ll take your questions.”
Guys seem to be blitzing a lot out there. Are you pretty happy with the way your guys are timing that up? Is it meeting your specifications?
“Oh, I don’t think we’re blitzing that much. You think we’re blitzing a lot?”
More than we’ve seen in the past.
“Well, I think the timing has been great at times. You know, sometimes we’re giving it up a little too early. But again, it’s practice, we’re working through the kinks, but most importantly I like just the effort, the way these guys are flying around getting to the football and our focus is always on the fundamentals and technique. So those are the things that I’m seeing that I’m really impressed about right now.”
You’ve mentioned a few times the work that DL Javon Kinlaw has put in even since you’ve been here. When you watch the tape last year and then you watch him now, is he showing you more things just in terms of like having a deeper toolbox of moves and things that maybe he hasn’t shown in the past?
“I think he’s fresh. I think he’s healthy. You’re seeing a lot of explosion off the line, violent hands and really he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. I love when I see him, when the play is down the field, and he turns and runs about 30 to 45 yards down the field, it’s phenomenal just to see a man of that size move the way he does. So, I’m happy right now where he is and hopefully, he can continue to progress.”
You work a lot of one-on-ones with the defensive backs, but with CB Ambry Thomas specifically, was he someone that you identified when you first got here as maybe hadn’t reached his potential and needed a little bit of extra?
“I feel like he definitely has the potential. And it’s not just so much one individual, but he needs to progress and grow from last year. I think he has the skillset and we just really trying to hone that and just pull the best out of him along with all the others. So, my time, particularly during special teams, when I can grab one or two guys just to work on the fundamentals and technique is awesome. And then we have things that we orchestrate, [defensive backs coach] Daniel Bullocks and I, during the individual period that we try to separate safeties and corners. So, we’re really trying to hone in on the specifics.”
What are you seeing in the area of takeaways? A few of the defenders have said, you know, if you want to be a really good defense, you’ve got to get the ball. And I think S Tashaun Gipson Sr. has had a couple of interceptions during camp, and there might be two more, but there hasn’t been a ton, but guys are getting their hands on the ball. What are you seeing in that area?
“Well, I think number one, you can’t really stress it to the point to where if it’s not happening now, we’re close. It’s going to eventually show up. So, Gipson got one today, which I thought was phenomenal. But we are close to the ball. It’s something that we emphasize and talk about in the meetings. We have takeaway circuits, those kinds of things. But, I eventually feel like the takeaways are going to come for sure.”
What have your impressions been of CB D’Shawn Jamison, the undrafted rookie?
“Very impressed, very impressed. And I think some of the receivers were talking about him the other day. He has definitely made strides from the spring and just came back and built on to his repertoire and just his toolbox. I think the one thing that he’s doing with his technique, he’s staying more square in his backpedal, which is allowing him to be able to see and visualize more of the field-route concept, see the quarterback, and he’s doing a great job of breaking on the ball, his man-to-man technique, he’s great at the line of scrimmage and he’s doing a good job at the top end of the route, the point of emphasis that I talk about all the time, that’s where we’ve got to win. So, you see him doing a lot of good things.”
CB Charvarius Ward said he’s watching him because he’s so patient in his backpedal and he is like learning from him, which was striking because Ward is quite good and Jamison is an undrafted rookie. But I mean, is that an area?
“I don’t mean to cut you off. I don’t think it’s so much about, number one, I’ll say this, we can learn from anyone, that’s number one. And then number two, I think it’s more the technique that they probably have played here in the past, that they weren’t used to staying square. So now he’s seeing a guy that came out of college that was probably taught that, and those are the things that I’m bringing and when he does it, he does it well. So those are the things that we’re trying to get him to do. And I think right now, the times that he’s in there, you’re seeing progression and getting better. I’m talking about [CB Charvarius Ward] Mooney.”
How does a player like Jamison who played in a big conference get passed over in the draft and were you instrumental in bringing him here?
“First question, it happens every year. You know, a lot of guys bloom late. A lot of guys come in, there are different things based off their system, how they taught the technique and whatnot. And I would say this, [general manager] John [Lynch] and his staff does a tremendous job in identifying certain guys down the line like Jamison. And once we were able to watch him on tape, what the scouts brought to us, we were very impressed and wanted to get him in.”
Just wondering, now that you’ve had a couple of padded practices behind you guys, what do you think the chemistry is with you and your defensive players and getting to know them and them getting to know you and getting comfortable with your coaching style?
“I think it’s a work in progress. I think we’re moving in the right direction and I think Kyle does a great job of that. Once again, going back to how he orchestrates practice, we’ve done a lot of move-the-ball scenarios the last couple of days. So, these guys are getting a nice feel for how I call the game. Certain things that I like in certain situations, down and distance, personnel, we do a great job of two-minute situations in the evening. So, it’s all been a great learning experience for me, but also for them so we can get to know one another.”
For the other linebacker competition for the baseline backer spot other than LB Dre Greenlaw and LB Fred Warner, who’s standing out there and what are you looking for from that position?
“Consistency across the board is the key for us at all positions. It’s a tight race. [LB Oren Burks] O.B., Burks is doing a tremendous job. [LB] Marcelino [McCrary-Ball] made a great play at the end of the practice. And then you also see [LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles] Flan. So, I like the mere fact that when, when Fred and Greenlaw take a day off, I feel like we’re not missing a beat. So, that’s definitely encouraging. I’m excited about the backups and how they’re performing.”
How are the rookies? How are the draft picks? How are they fitting into that equation?
“I think they’re making progress as well. When I was talking about [LB] Jalen [Graham] the other day, he’s so athletic and that’s what we loved about him coming out of Purdue. Could run, could cover in the slot, but he had a couple of plays the other day that were phenomenal for us as far as just being physical, coming downhill on an offensive lineman using his hand. So, that’s always encouraging because that’s what we pride ourselves on being a physical defense.”
I know he’s only been here for a couple of practices, but have you been able to formulate any thoughts on how DL Taco Charlton has come in?
“Well, I’ll tell you this, Taco came off the plane and he just like made play after play after play the other day. And I was very impressed with that because, number one, we needed the reps, but he got in and made it seem like he had been here for a week. So, he’s still learning the defense, it still is going to take him some time, but when he’s in there he goes full speed, which I love. And most important, he’s just continued trying to work on just the fundamentals that we talk about at that position.”
You mentioned Gipson having an interception today. That was more in the curl flat area. S Talanoa Hufanga had another play where he got his hands on the ball but that was from the single high. So, how important is it for your safeties to be interchangeable in your defense and how do you feel about the versatility so far?
“I think it’s very important based off what you just described because it could be any situation where Huf is down, Gipson is back and vice versa. Those guys do a great job of really when they are deep in the post, particularly Huf, making plays on the ball. Now he’s got to finish that one today. And I told him that on the sideline. I don’t think he had to jump, but he’s shown that range throughout training camp and we just got to come up with those big plays.”
How’s the competition going on the other side with DL Drake Jackson, DL Clelin Ferrell, who will play opposite of DL Nick Bosa?
“I think that’s exactly what it is, it’s competition, it’s tight. And I would say this really for the whole group, and I mentioned this with the staff last night, we’re not going to see a separation or a change until we go against someone else. So, I’m excited about here in a week, I believe it is that we go up to Vegas and play the Raiders. So, we’ll see exactly where we’re at that point and hopefully guys can separate themselves.”