Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks

­­Press Conference – January 4, 2024

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“Referencing the game from last week, I thought the guys performed well. Of course we came out of there with a win. You saw some great things out of [CB Charvarius Ward] Mooney, as well as [DB Deommodore Lenoir] Demo, in regards for us taking the ball away. As we finish up this week, regular season, playing a good football team that’s very talented. So, I want to make sure I first of all recognize the guys that we had for us, Pro Bowl. [DL Javon] Hargrave up front, [LB] Fred [Warner], you look at [DL Nick] Bosa. This is my opinion and my opinion only, I don’t think there’s another corner in the National Football League that’s playing better than Charvarius Mooney Ward. So kudos to him in being elected for his first Pro Bowl. Hopefully that predicates also in All-Pro because I think he’s playing at that caliber level. In regard to the game this week, I’ll take your questions.”


In Pro Bowl voting, interceptions are probably looked at the most. How do you judge a defense back as far as whether he’s having a good season or not?

“I think what you just mentioned, production. That’s going to stand out. Particularly when the fans have a say so in the voting because they don’t watch the game sometimes as we may watch it. I think he’s one of the best tackling DBs, not just corners, but DBs in the National Football League, when you really break down and watch the tape. He’s doing a phenomenal job there. That’s one of the things that we believe in. We just, cover corners, we tackle. That’s a major part of what we do. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to [defensive backs coach] Daniel Bullocks as well, just with his teaching and getting those guys to perform at a high level. He doesn’t get enough credit as well.”


What improvements have you seen from Mooney from last year in the film you watched to where he’s playing right now?

“Just in the details of his technique and then the consistency in which he practices. I think you guys heard me say this once this year and calling him out. He’s full speed on a Friday. He’s going to the ground trying to get the ball. He made a statement the other day talking to the team when [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] had him break it down, which I love. He said, ‘continue to compete against the man in the mirror.’ That’s what he’s been doing all year. That’s his quote. He’s been competing against himself trying to get better each and every, not week, but day. It’s shown up and it’s paid off for him.”


Do you think him having this relationship with his daughter has really kind turned him around from being happy at home to being happy here and being able to focus more? Have you seen that shift in the last two months?

“I’ve seen definitely a change in his demeanor. We talk about it all the time. I think he is at a different place and space in his life and how he handles certain situations. I’m just so proud of him. Not only what he’s doing on the field, but who he is as a father. It’s just tremendous.”


When you have someone like that in that room, what does it do for the younger guys, specifically Deommodore Lenoir?

“It definitely shows how you’ve got to lead by example, and he does it the right way. I’ve got to really recognize [S Tashaun] Gipson [Sr.] as well, older vet in the room that shows those young guys how to do it. But Mooney has been consistent all year in his approach and how he studies the game. He sees certain things. I talked to the coaches about this watching tape, even when the play is not coming to his side, just the way he uses his eyes and how he positions himself based off certain route combination. You can tell that he understands the concepts.”


You were able to take a longer look at S Logan Ryan this past weekend and DL Sebastian Joseph-Day a little bit shorter, but what were just kind of impressions of both of those guys?

“Logan, again, great communicator. I don’t know if you guys saw that one open-field tackle that he made saving a touchdown. That’s his job as a safety in the National Football League. I think the guys love playing with him. I think he has really accepted and fit right into the culture that we have and it shows out there on the field. Sebastian, I thought he did some good things. He is a guy that has been a two gapper his whole career. So, [defensive line coach Kris] Kocurek is still working on him, number one with his stance and his get off, but his effort was there. We’ve just got to continue to improve on his technique.”


How eager are you to see some guys that haven’t gotten a lot of snaps this year in this game?

“It’s going to be great, just to be able to see those guys come in and perform as they did the latter part of the Commanders game. The one thing that I enjoy is seeing that the standard didn’t change, doesn’t matter who’s in there. So, definitely looking forward to whoever’s out there still playing the 49ers way.”


At the beginning of games and halves, DL Clelin Ferrell seems to be really impactful. Are you noticing that as well? Is there a way to get his endurance better or spot him better so that he’s big in big spots for you?

“To be quite honest, I don’t think there’s an issue with his endurance. He runs, if you look at his GPS, he probably runs more than some of the other skill players, to be quite honest, the way he chases the ball and runs down the field. I think he does a lot for setting the tone early in the game. And Kocurek really does a good job just how he rotates those guys and constantly trying to keep them fresh. So, I think Cle has been consistent for us and hopefully he can continue to do that for us moving into the playoffs.”


What are the areas of improvement you’re going to emphasize over these next two weeks before the playoffs?

“I think as we’ve been talking, it’s no different from the beginning of the year, fundamentals and technique. We talk about our weapons all the time, eyes, hands, hips and feet. What happens this time of the year, guys start pressing, wanting to try to make a play, get outside the scheme. They feel like here’s the playoffs and then now we’ve got to increase our play. Our standard still stays the same, be one of 11. So, that’s been our approach all week is just really fundamentals and technique, getting off blocks, setting edges, running to the football, because our scheme will take care of itself.”


Greenlaw has played really well for you, but he didn’t make the Pro Bowl. How much do you expect him to play in this game when you have an extra linebacker up to try to maybe reduce some of his workload in Week 18?

“Well, Kyle will make that call in regards to how much he wants those guys to play. The mindset that we are trying to create is that we can’t let up. We want to win this last football game. We want to have momentum going into the playoffs. So, Kyle will determine exactly how much those guys will play. In regards to him not making the Pro Bowl, it’s definitely disappointing. He hasn’t mentioned anything. I’m just saying it’s disappointing in regard to myself because I think he’s still one of the elite linebackers in this league. The way he plays, he’s a tone setter for us, him and Fred both out there. He missed a few games. Once again that happens a little bit from a standpoint of the voting. But if you know football, he’s one of the best in the league.”


Seems to be a scenario where CB Isaiah Oliver could play some safety on Sunday. If that does come to pass, who else is available to play nickel to kind of fill in it?

“I thought about trying to get you out there, if that’s possible (laughter). No, no, seriously, we don’t know where exactly, Oliver may play a little bit of safety, definitely the nickel position. [CB] Samuel Womack [III] is a guy that’s played there before. So we definitely have some options. Most important, we’ve just got to do a great job trying to get to this game in regards to who finishes.”