Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference
Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks
Press Conference – January 17, 2024
San Francisco 49ers
“Good day of practice today. Guys are locked in, they’re focused and they should be. It’s postseason play. We’re excited about where we are. We understand it’s do or die, you’ve got to win or you go home. So, we’ve got a difficult task this week. The Packers are a real good football team, and they showed that last week against the Cowboys. I think their run game is probably top-notch right now in how they’re performing, moving the ball down the field. The offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage in so many different ways, buying time for [Green Bay Packers QB Jordan] Love to get the ball down the field off play action. But [Green Bay Packers RB Aaron] Jones and [Green Bay Packers RB AJ] Dillon, they’re running the ball at a high level. The receivers are playing great, with [Green Bay Packers WR Jayden] Reed leading the charge there. A lot of respect for those guys. They’re well coached. Again, it’s going to be difficult, but we’re looking for the challenge this week.”
Jordan Love started off the season real slow, but he’s been real hot in the second half of the season. How good is he really and what’s the key to defending him?
“I think he’s real good. I think a lot of part of the season, maybe he was maybe twice or maybe three times NFC Player of the Week. So, he’s doing some great things and I think number one he’s protecting the ball. He’s putting the ball where it needs to go. You think about a young guy like that and you forget that he’s really played behind [New York Jets QB] Aaron [Rodgers] for three years. So, he’s learned a lot. He’s mature. You can see that on the field. Even when you think about, okay, here’s a guy, I’m going to go pressure, where his percentage rate against pressure is pretty high. So, he does a great job in getting rid of the ball.”
How do you disrupt the incredible rhythm he’s in? You guys did this against Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence coming out of the Bye, took him out of rhythm early in the game. How do you try to take a quarterback out of rhythm when he’s really in one?
“Well, I think the number one thing is we have to try to stop this run to try to make them one-dimensional. They’re very effective running a ball. I think it just opens up the play action. That’s where you see him being extremely effective in taking the shots down the field and finding an open receiver. So, that’s number one. Then again, we’ve just got to try to mix things up on him a little bit to give him something to think about and figure out where he needs to go with the ball.”
In the past, Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur would sort of build the offense along with Aaron Rodgers and his input. Now it seems like this is really his offense. What’s the hallmark of it? What do you see from it? How similar is it to what you do here?
“Well, I think you can see he’s doing an excellent job. Number one, he’s committed to the run game. That’s the consistency there. I think at times when you have a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a guy like that who can throw the ball 55 or 60 times and go win you a game is different. But now, not saying that Love can’t do that, but LaFleur is dedicated and committed to running the ball and it shows which allows and opens up different things for the offense to be very productive. So, I see that being the difference.”
Love is dropping back at the top of his drop and he’s starting to fade away to buy himself a little bit more time, and it’s been effective for him. Is there a counter to something like that? What have you thought when you watched it?
“Well, it is no counter there. That’s somewhat what I was alluding to, where him being able to come up behind Aaron for those last three years. That’s one of the things that Aaron was very effective with, drifting a little bit, buying time. He has the arm strength, Love I’m talking about, to still get the ball down the field. You saw that with zero pressure against the Cowboys, and he hit that, what I call that Dino post for the touchdown in the red zone. We’ve got to do a great job on the back-end plastering, what we call right now, really latching on to our receivers. He’s going to do a great job buying time. He can do that with his feet. He’s not looking to run. His eyes are still down the field trying to be effective and get the ball thrown. So that’s number one. Then two, we’ve got to win up front. Our front four has got to do a great job in getting out to this quarterback.”
Aaron Jones, I believe, has had four 100-yard games in a row. What does he do well? How good is he?
“He’s real good. He runs behind his pads. He can run in between the tackles. He can really jump set and get the ball to the perimeter of the defense. That’s point of emphasis each and every week, but particularly this week as well, we’ve got to do a great job setting edges. I think, again, running behind his pads, he does a hell of job in really making the first guy miss after contact. So, we’ve got to do a great job with 11 guys swarming and getting to the ball.”
How about S Logan Ryan and S Ji’Ayir Brown since he’s coming off the knee sprain? How has he looked at practice and is that a decision you’ve got to make to decide one or the other there?
“Well again, they’re both are looking well in practice. Ji’Ayir’s bounced back as you just talked about. He’s looking good. Logan has been consistent. They’re both dealing with a little bit of injuries and whatnot. But thus far this week, I haven’t seen any setbacks. So that’s encouraging. Logan is a guy that’s been there. He’s had the experience. He’s played in two Super Bowls. Postseason is something that’s just not unusual to him. But also when you look at Ji’Ayir, it’s not too big for him. Being able to come in and fill the shoes of Huff [S Talanoa Hufanga], All-Pro player that went down, unfortunately. Ji’Ayir didn’t blink. He’s doing a great job. So, it is good to be in that situation to have these guys available.”
Do the Packers have a go-to receiver in their passing game that you must account for or do they sort of spread it around?
“They spread it around, but I’ve got a lot of love for all those guys. Reed is one that shows up quite a bit, particularly jet sweeps and those kind of things, reverse. They all are very talented and can really, as I call right here, get their share of plays at any time.”
You guys have so many young DBs, CB Samuel Womack III, CB Darrell Luter Jr. and all your backup DBs. How do you feel the group’s coming along and how do you feel like you match up on the back end in this matchup?
“I think we match up well. I’m very pleased with how the guys have been playing. We’ve got to be consistent throughout this performance, in this game and throughout postseason. But it starts here with this game first, allowing us to be able to proceed and move on. Our front seven has always been the focal point of this defense for years. You see the way the guys are stepping on the back end has been great. But the key thing for us this week is we’ve got to go and make plays. We can’t give up any big plays. We’ve got to keep the ball in front of us. We’ve got to find a way to take it away.”
You mentioned Jordan Love can extend plays with his legs and he’s not looking to run, but he is looking to throw. How big of an emphasis is it this week for you to keep him in the pocket or can he beat you there too?
“Well, it is always a big emphasis if we can try to contain the quarterback and not allow him to be able to have that extra time. So, that’s something we’ve got to do a great job of upfront, again, with our different stunts and line moves. [Defensive line coach Kris] Kocurek does a great job of really orchestrating all that. Our guys, again, [DL] Arik [Armstead] is back. Excited to see him back at practice and how he’s moving around. So that physical presence inside and then [DL Nick] Bosa from the outside. We’ve got to do a great job containing this guy and really trying to get pressure and sack him.”
Green Bay has two starting tight ends in Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft. How’s LB Dre Greenlaw looking with his Achilles pain and do you see him matching up with these guys? How’s he looked after the couple weeks off?
“He’s looking good. He’s up here, what I call ready to go. Greenlaw to me is just one of those warriors. He’s going to be ready to play at any time. We’ve got to make sure we protect him against himself. So yesterday he had some time off and today he was back at it. He’s going to be ready to play. I have no reservations about the matchup with him nor [LB] Fred [Warner] on their tight ends. As you’ve seen us in the past, we run with receivers down in the middle of the field as well. So, these guys are very talented. Again, it’s going to be a tough task for us.”