Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks

­­Press Conference – January 25, 2024

San Francisco 49ers

Listen to Audio I Media Center


Opening comments:

“We got off to a great start this week. I thought practice yesterday was great. Still a lot of work to do of course, as we progress and move towards Sunday’s game against Detroit. Good football team, extremely well-coached, offensive coordinator is very creative in the way he moves the ball around and tries to get it to the talent that they have on that team. Speaking of the talent, I think everything starts up front. Offensive line is doing a tremendous job. I know one of the guards is out this week, but that’s not going to really matter. They do a great job running the ball. I think the [Detroit Lions RBs David] Montgomery and [Jahmyr] Gibbs one-two combination is probably the best we’ve seen all year. Different style of runners, but they’re both effective in what they do. Everything goes through [Detroit Lions QB Jared] Goff. I think he does a tremendous job in really putting the ball where it needs to be. We’ve got to do a great job of really trying to take away this run game to limit the vertical passing game down the field. [Detroit Lions WR Amon-Ra] St. Brown’s playing at a high level. You’ve got [Detroit Lions WR Josh] Reynolds, you’ve got [Detroit Lions WR Jameson] Williams, they have so many weapons and they talk about [Detroit Lions TE Sam] LaPorta had a hyperextended knee. I don’t see it on tape. He’s getting in and out of his breaks. He’s catching the ball and getting vertical up the field. So it’s going to be a difficult task for us, but we are definitely going to be up for it. And with that, I’ll take your questions.”


As far as the run defense, how did DL Chase Young do in that DL Clelin Ferrell role on Saturday?

“I think Chase did some good things on Saturday. We all need to improve. So, there’s definitely some improvement that needs to be made across the board. But, I thought he stepped in and did well, did some good things in the run game. We didn’t have any sacks, but I thought he was very effective in trying to rush the passer and put some pressure on the quarterback, so I was pleased.”


DL Nick Bosa said yesterday he felt like the emphasis this week is doing better containing the edges. What did you see that maybe wasn’t going as well as you wanted?

“We have to do a much better job containing the edges, and it’s not really the defensive ends, it’s the second level. We’re getting too wide where we’ve got to get vertical, and that’s the key thing. We had a point of emphasis with that as we watched tape this week. And most importantly, the same thing in practice yesterday, and really work on perimeter run game and doing the things we’ve got to do to make sure we set edges on the defense.”


How explosive is Jahmyr Gibbs and what’s the key to containing him?

“I don’t know if you can contain him. We have to do a great job swarming the ball, and he’s phenomenal. He’s four-three on paper, he is four-three on tape. He plays to that speed. Again, they do a great job getting him out in space, trying to create one-on-ones with the backers, great job on third down, and he can run in between the tackles and he’s most explosively taking the ball outside. So, definitely someone we have to definitely rally to. And as I said before to the defense, we have to swarm tackle this Sunday in order to stop this run game.”


S Logan Ryan struggled against the run on a couple plays. The Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones run he barely got a hand on him. Are we going to see more S Ji’Ayir Brown this week at safety or are you going to stay with Ryan?

“I would say overall we all have to improve on the run, and I know we point out Logan. He has to improve on his tackling as we know. He’s going to get better with that. Ji’Ayir is still in the mix. We’ll see exactly how it goes this week and exactly how much he’s going to play. If he will play, if he will start or whatnot, we don’t know. That’s still an ongoing process right now.”


CB Ambry Thomas said that his play was probably part of not getting enough reps being out with his hand injury. How confident are you going forward with him?

“Very confident. He didn’t have his best game as we all saw. He’s pretty resilient in his demeanor and I know he is going to bounce back strong. Again, we have to be able to get over the mindset of his wrist and he has to go out there and play. But, I’m very confident that he’s going to go back out there and respond this week.”


With zero sacks, what was your assessment of the overall pass rush pressure and how you affected Green Bay Packers QB Jordan Love?

“I thought we affected the passer. We didn’t have the results we wanted from a standpoint of sacks. If you look at it, he got rid of the ball quickly in their quick game. He does a great job of really hitting that back foot. I’m talking Love now and just getting rid of the ball. Goff does the same thing, so we have to do a good job really getting our hands up when we can’t get there and we have to find different ways to get to him, which we will.”


How has the absence of S Talanoa Hufanga impacted the defense or changed what you’ve been able to do the last half?

“All-Pro player. I mean, a guy that’s a leader of this team, not just the secondary. So he’s definitely missed. And you’re going to see a little bit of that particularly when you don’t have the performance and the play that you want, as you guys mentioned on a couple of plays. So, you’re going to reference Huf, but we miss him. He’s not here. Other guys have to step up.”


When you reflect over the past year since your first conversations with this team, what would you say with your relationship with head coach Kyle Shanahan that you’ve learned from him, and what do you think he’s learned from you?

“I can’t tell you what he’s learned from me. You’ll have to ask him that question, but I learned a lot from him. He does a great job in really painting a picture at the beginning of the week and what it needs to look like with the team. He creates a summary on Friday going around the league in certain we call situational football and just making the guys are aware of certain things that have gone on and things that we need to be prepared for and then he wraps it up Saturday night before the game. So, I think he’s on point. He has a great pulse of the team. I think his messages are on point and things that he talks about. The structure of practice, whether need to cut reps, take the pads off, keep the pads on. All those things I think he’s just learned from previous experience. He’s been around his whole life with his dad, so a lot of things I’ve learned from him.”


What strikes you about DB Deommodore Lenoir’s confidence this relatively early in his career and his ability to improve week after week?

“Just that. He’s just a confident individual and I think it just goes with preparation. I think he has put a lot of time and effort into his craft this offseason. You can see his technique has improved, which allows him to be able to go out and perform at a high level. We have a lot of confidence in him. That’s the reason why we can move him around and do the things that we do with him.”


What is the biggest challenge that their pass block creates and just how confident are you that you can beat them there and affect the quarterback this week?

“I think it’s not so much their protection. I think it’s really their run game, which in turn affects their protection. So, when their run game is going, it allows them to be able to slow us down a little bit with the play-action. So, we have to do a great job, as I stated before, in really trying to stop and take this run game away and make these guys one dimensional. And that’s still not going to be an easy task because Goff is a real good quarterback.”


What’s the biggest challenge of a guy like LaPorta? You don’t see a lot of tight ends always come in with the production he’s had.

“I think it creates different issues. I don’t want to say problems, but different issues. They put him out at number one, like a receiver, you know overload the front side we call triples, putting all the receivers there and he’s very effective backside. They put him in a slide, they put him at three on what we call race routes, so they get the ball to him in different variations and with him and St. Brown it’s definitely a difficult task. And as I stated before, Williams can take the top off at any time.”


What does CB Samuel Womack III need to do to get back on the field?

“Everybody has to improve. I’m not trying to diminish your question right here, but my focus is more broad on the defense as a whole. He’s just got to continue to keep working and the opportunity will come, whether special teams, whether it’s defense, but the 11 guys that are going to be out there, they have to step up and perform this week.”


You talked about their play-action game. They threw the second most passes off play action and gained the most yards off that action. What makes it so efficient from their perspective?

“Again, I think it is just the two dynamic running backs that they have. You put a lot of emphasis on trying to stop those guys, so sometimes you get a little bit more aggressive, getting downhill. That’s not only with the linebackers, but also in the secondary, which now exposes you to a vertical passing game over the top. So, that’s something that we’re going to have to try to diminish and how you do that is trying to make them one dimensional.”