Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference
Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks
Press Conference – October 20, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
“Good week of practice, bouncing back from that disappointing loss this past week. I like where the guys are. They’re focused, they’re locked in, and we’re looking forward to a great performance this week. In regards to last week, quickly, we felt defensively we had a chance to win the game on defense several times, and we didn’t take advantage of it. We got to do a much better job in stopping the run, number one. It was slow bleeding as I call. The longest run was like 20 yards, but they had just too much in between. This was probably one of our worst games as far as missed tackles, and that’s something that we got to correct and get better at, as well.”
In regards to the run defense, DL Nick Bosa said yesterday that there was an issue setting edges. What did you see there?
“It’s always something that we emphasize and talk about because we know that’s where teams are going to try to attack us. Just with our perimeter, we got to do a much better job, as you just mentioned, with the defensive end, the nickel, linebacker scraping over the top and the safety running the alley. So that was the issue. That’s been a point of emphasis this week.”
You guys have been so good at tackling this year. What did you see in terms of what may have led to missing so many?
“It’s nothing in particular. I just think, once again, as coaches, it reminded us as a staff, that we can’t get away from the fundamentals and technique. We talked about that Week One against Pittsburgh. We wanted to be the best tackling team that particular week because that’s how I know teams lose games, busting coverages and missing tackles. That mindset, Week One can’t change. That’s what we got back to this week.”
How would you assess LB/DL Randy Gregory’s performance on Sunday, and how have you seen him progress throughout the week?
“Short period of time, just coming in, trying to learn the defense and really the culture and how we operate. I thought he did a pretty good job. He pressured the quarterback, TFL, got a sack, so that was phenomenal. I wish we had a pressure on, he came a little too wide one time, and I think he had a strip sack fumble. So just cleaning that up and letting him understand a little bit more details of the defense, which I think he has this week. I think he’s going to continue to progress.”
I thought that hit that S Tashaun Gipson Sr. had was textbook. What was your reaction in real time to that call?
“I can’t say that right now [laughs]. But no, in all seriousness right here, I know the league is definitely all about the safety of players and so are we. We teach our guys how to lower their target. Personally, I thought it was clean. They called the flag. That’s part of the game. And again, going back to how it initially opened up, we had several times after that defensively, to finish the game, and we didn’t.”
It’s so hard to make in such a bang, bang situation. Do you feel that should be something that maybe they could do quick reviews on?
“If you can get that to the league office and see if that can pass that this spring, that’d be great. Didn’t baseball do that? So yeah, I think you need to do that.”
Tashaun said that if he were to do it all over again, he probably would do the exact same thing. Is there anything he could have done that it would be a coaching point to avoid that kind of penalty?
“No, not in how we teach him. I felt like once again, he did everything he could for us trying to lower his target right there in the moment. You’re talking about, I don’t want to say human error, but humans are trying to determine whether or not it’s a foul or a good hit. They called the flag on it and we got to live with it.”
How do you how do you assess the Minnesota Vikings without WR Justin Jefferson and RB Dalvin Cook or WR Adam Thielen from last year?
“They’re still a good football team, a real good football team. You talk about [Minnesota Vikings WR Brandon] Powell and [Minnesota Vikings WR Jordan] Addison, receivers. I think everything starts with [Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk] Cousins. Kirk’s still playing at a high level. He’s a seasoned vet, can make every throw, smart, understands the looks that you’re giving him and he’s going to know exactly where to go with the ball. So we got to do a great job in stopping the run. I think [Minnesota Vikings RB Alexander] Mattison to me is at times you blink he looks like Cook, the way he runs the ball. So they’re going to do a great job in really trying to establish the run and then quickly do what they do best, which is putting the ball in the air.”
When you have a game that you talked about last week where there were some things that showed up on film, and obviously the Vikings are going through that, how do you work that balance of cleaning stuff up that showed up last week, knowing the Vikings are going to attack that, while also not leaving yourself vulnerable in other spots by overcorrecting?
“I think this is a copycat league, like I told you before, earlier. I don’t think it’s not too much that’s original. So anything that we put on tape, we understand and know going all the way back to preseason when it was a zone read that we didn’t do well. We knew we had to emphasize and work on that. We’re going to eventually see it and we saw it throughout the year. It’s not going to be any different. They’re going to attack us on the perimeter this week. We know that. We got to make sure that we set edges and we got guys over the top, let’s run it to the football. We know we’re going to get screens. That’s what they do. So that’s all been a point of emphasis, just really guys making plays when given the opportunity.”
The Cleveland Browns seemed to run the same play three times. That pitch left to RB Jerome Ford when they brought TE Harrison Bryant in motion, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones had a down block. It looked like they just blocked it very well. Defensively when you look at that, what should have happened?
“Well, number one, we play a wide-nine, so it’s certain runs that we know that we’re not going to get right. And then it’s certain ways that teams are going to attack us, which is really trying to pin the nine and get outside on the edge. So we got to do a better job, there as far as getting vertical and trying to knock someone off. Then we can’t have guys running to the sideline. It’s about trying to get downhill. Once we emphasized and talked about that in trying to clean things up, so therefore the backers and the safeties can run the alley. That’s what it’s all about. I think guys are just running too parallel when they got to get vertical.”
There were a lot of missed tackles in this game, you’ve been doing this a while. What’s the coaching point, or what’s your process in trying to just talk about it more, you yell, you plead, how do you emphasize so you don’t see it again?
“Well, I don’t think yelling is the key which sometimes you want to yell, particularly during the game. It’s all about teaching and that’s the point of emphasis that we did today. We had pads on today, so it was tackling every day for us, just guys running and tracking in near hip, D-linemen coming out of the stack. So again, it’s just getting back to the fundamentals and technique and everything that has made us good up to this point. I think that’s what happens with everyone throughout the year, that you start thinking about reps, you start thinking about this and you get away from the fundamentals. So we hit the reset button, that’s where we went this week.”
I know it’s kind of bounced around, but is CB Isaiah Oliver kind of a permanent slot guy?
“For us, right now, yes. I think we have the numbers and particularly the guys that we brought in, [CB] Anthony Brown and those guys that can give us flexibility on the outside as well as he can play inside as well. But I think Oliver has definitely positioned himself inside at the nickel position.”