Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference
Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks
Press Conference – October 12, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
“Another good day of practice in our approach and quest right here to take on a good football team with the Cleveland Browns. A lot of speculation, who’s going to play, who’s not going to play a quarterback? To be quite honest, they’re very capable of still having a very functional offense. And that’s the one thing I’ve been telling the guys about. This run game is phenomenal and I know [RB Nick] Chubb is out, but [Cleveland Browns RB Jerome] Ford and as well as [Cleveland Browns RB] Kareem [Hunt] can really tote the ball. I think they do an excellent job upfront at the offensive line, creating holes and coming off the ball. So at the receiving corps, you look at [Cleveland Browns WR Amari] Cooper, who I’ve had a lot of respect and admire over the years. He’s still playing a high level. You know [Cleveland Browns WR] Elijah Moore, they move him around all over the place in the backfield, in the slot. And then of course [Cleveland Browns WR Marquise] Goodwin can take the top off at any time. So good football team that we’re going to face. And with that, I’ll take your questions.”
If Cleveland Browns QB P.J. Walker is the guy going this week? What does he offer as a quarterback?
“I think he’s very capable of running that offense. He makes good decisions. He’s good with the ball. He can win with his legs, a lot of what [QB] Deshaun [Watson] can do. So when people say are they going to dummy down the offense? I don’t think so. I think he’s more than capable of running that offense.”
You’ve been around LB Fred Warner for a little while now, but what have you noticed about his preparation, the work that he puts in a week and then how it manifests in games?
“Just one word, consistency. The guy’s consistent. He’s the same every day. The same way he plays is the same way he practices. He creates a kind of atmosphere at practice that gets really everybody on edge, particularly myself because I’m waiting for [Head Coach] Kyle [Shanahan] to start fussing at us because he just goes at a high level.”
What are your very early impressions of LB/DL Randy Gregory thus far?
“A short period of time just conversing with him, good person. I think he’s going to fit right in with the culture that we have here. He understands the tempo and how we practice. I love the way he moves around and just his willingness to get in here at all times of the day, just trying to absorb and learn this defense, says a lot about him.”
What’s your assessment of their pass rush so far? Sacks are a little bit down, but they’re keeping the quarterback in the pocket, creating a lot of pressure.
“It is hard to put a grade on it and everybody looks for numbers and you want to say [DL Nick] Bosa is not doing this, or [DL Javon] Hargrave’s not doing this, but as you just mentioned, they’re getting rid of the ball quickly. We do have a lot of disruption on the quarterback, meaning we’re hitting the quarterback and based off each game plan it determines exactly what we do coverage-wise. So I think there’s times that you can see this past week that we tighten things up a little bit and we’re able to get there and we force some ill-advised throws that came out in our favor.”
Beyond Warner’s skills, what does he mean in this defense as a leader? A lot of players have talked about him as the leader of the defense, and now that you’ve seen him for a while, how does he express that? How does he lead?
“I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I would probably say he’s probably the leader of the team. He just has that voice. But definitely on the defensive side, he talks to the guys all the time. I give him the floor at certain times, whether it’s the night before the game or certain times during practice when we bring it up. He talks to the guys. So he’s a voice of reason. He leads by example and I just love everything about him.”
Have you seen a guy come in with as much energy as he does every single day and then even it seems like more so on game day?
“Oh, yes. I started out with the word consistency. That’s exactly who he is. You’re going to get the same. It’s never a bad day, high energy. And again, his teammates feed off of him, which I love.”
LB Dre Greenlaw is violent every game. Do you look at him as kind of a tone setter for how you want your guys to play?
“I would say yes. But all our guys understand the mindset that we play with, we call it our DNA, physicality, effort. Definitely Greenlaw, he shows that each and every play. You look earlier in the game last week it was in the first drive, that tackle he had on the sideline with [Dallas Cowboys RB Tony] Pollard. I think it set the tone how we played the rest of the game.”
What have you come to learn or appreciate about S Tashaun Gipson Sr. since you’ve been here?
“Gipson right here is a tremendous leader for us. I can’t say enough about him. I think [S Talanoa Hufanga] Huf feeds off him, all the guys on the back end, tremendous leader. I was joking with him about that interception that he got in the game. He had a full tank of gas going to get the ball, but as soon as he caught the ball, he was on E. So but no, he’s phenomenal for us, man. Great leader for us back there. I’m glad we got him late last year. But he’s definitely had a full year offseason and training camp, and he’s performing well.”
Bosa was saying yesterday that he thought Randy Gregory would benefit from being in a three point stance in this defense. Does that help a taller edge rusher, six foot five guy, just in terms of keeping his pads down, that sort of thing?
“I don’t want to say that it helps him, but I think this is the game of pad level, you know? It’s always in regards to low man wins, kind of thing. So the lower you can be, the lower your pads are, the greater you’re going to be on that particular play, in other words.”
The mic’d up thing that the 49ers put out and on one of the times on the sideline, a couple defensive players were like after the interceptions ‘Wilks called this’. Do you actually like go the night before and tell them I think we’re going to get a pick here, or you point to a player, I think this you’re going to have a big game. Do you do stuff like that?
“Well, the coaches to me, I use this military term that teach, train and task. I always try to bring things from the classroom, to the practice field, to the game field. And I was talking about how [Linebackers Coach] Johnny Holland, he does this drill, so I pulled that actual drill from individual period with OB [LB Oren] Burks and him making that play on the quick game. And then I showed the exact same clip from practice, and I told him, if it happens tomorrow in the game, I said, ‘You’re going to get this interception.’ And it was exactly the same play. So the coaches do a tremendous job in really always showing the guys what they’re going to see in the game. That’s what I always tell them. There’s nothing that we can ask these guys to do if we’re not trying to put them in those positions in practice. So kudos to all the coaches.”
Do you tell the whole team this, the whole unit?
“This was Saturday night. Yes, the whole unit.”
The Browns are running a wide-nine. What do you like about that particular alignment?
“You really have to understand and know about it, which I didn’t know before I came here. I’ve seen it, went against it, but there’s different things about it, which I’m not going to allude and go into. But [Defensive Line Coach Kris] Kocurek does a tremendous job in coaching those guys, and it’s pretty effective in taking a lot of things away in the run game.”
You mentioned a couple times that coaching up in the booth would keep you calm a little bit more. How has that been through five games? Has it kept you maybe a little bit calmer?
“It’s been pretty good. I stay ahead of the down and just being able to look at my call sheet and get ready for third down calls and things like that. But it can still get emotional up there on the headsets.”
CB Deommodore Lenoir was talking about how he likes that you have shown confidence in these guys and let them play a little man-to-man. How has he developed since the beginning of camp?
“I think the confidence with me comes from the confidence in them being able to go out there and perform. They start that in practice. With Demo, I’ve told you about him since I got here. I’ve seen that progression, that growth with OTAs, mini camp, training camp, being consistent in what he’s trying to do. And to be quite honest, I saw that last year when I started watching the cutups and all the games. You can see not so much a confidence early on in the year, but by the time he got to the latter of part of the year in the playoffs, he was playing with a lot of confidence and he just built on that since last year. So, happy where he is.”