Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks 

­­Press Conference – October 26, 2023 

San Francisco 49ers 

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Opening comments: 

“I got to be honest with you by the time I talk to you guys win or lose, mentally I’m on to the next game. I know there’s a lot of questions about the call right before the half. So I definitely want to address that before I move on to Cincinnati. I take full responsibility for that call. I have to do a better job in putting the guys in a better position. We have good players, I know that and can’t really press the issue. And with that, moving forward it’s my responsibility to do that. So I wish I could take it back. But again, I got to do better. So this week moving forward, I would say we have definitely a challenge ahead of us. [Cincinnati Bengals QB] Joe Burrow, in my opinion, is one of the best quarterbacks in this league. He has a dynamic trio at the receiver position, [Cincinnati Bengals WR Tyler] Boyd, [Cincinnati Bengals WR Tee] Higgins, and what I think one of the best in the league [Cincinnati Bengals WR Ja’Marr] Chase. [Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe] Mixon is still running the ball at a high level. I think they do a great job upfront in the offensive line as far as the run game, as well as trying to give him time in the pocket for his protection. So with that, I take your questions.”


Was that call partly a reflection of not being able to get to Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins? 

“I don’t really want to elaborate on the call. Again, I can’t press it. Our players have shown an ability to be able to do certain things and I got to be able to trust that. I know exactly what we have and the caliber of guys there, and once again, I take full responsibility for putting those guys in that position.”


How do you explain the front four not getting…? 

“It’s a combination of both. It starts with me from a standpoint of calls, got to look at my calls. We got to look at what we do from a coverage standpoint and giving those guys opportunities because when I evaluate the tape and I watch things, we’re this close. You look at certain situations why the quarterback is getting rid of the ball, we got to be better than our zone drops, getting in that particular window that’s going to make him hold the ball. Then [DL Nick] Bosa is right there to get the sack, or he’s going to check it down, as we always talk about forcing the ball to the kill zone. So there’s a combination of a lot of things and we all got our hand in it, and we got to get better.”


As far as the depth of this defensive line, you’ve never been around anything like it, and not to call out specific guys and numbers, but the numbers don’t show that at this point. From a production standpoint do you know why that depth in a way just hasn’t happened?  

“You know it varies throughout the year and each team. I go back to really what I just stated. I think we can do a better job on the back end in coverage, whether it’s man or zone, and allowing the quarterback to hold the ball a little longer. Watching tape, I think we’re close, I think we’re close a lot. We’re going to eventually get there. I’m not really pressing right now about the lack of production because I feel like it’s going to come.”


CB Charvarius Ward was able to get the pick on the first series and he almost got the one on that call right at the end of the half. What kind of communication do you have with him and confidence do you have in him? 

“A lot of confidence in him. I think he’s emerging each and every week. I think it starts in practice. Just leaving practice now, just watching him, how he goes about his job, it translates and carries over to to the game. So he’s working hard each and every day. The confidence there to be able to call man or zone when he’s out there.”


Was he pretty crushed after the game Monday night? 

“I think we all were. As professionals, as pros, we got to quickly move on.”


What is your working protocol with Head Coach Kyle Shanahan like after games? Do you guys meet on the plane when you’re coming back from an away game or do you have meetings with him the next day? 

“Talk on the plane, we meet the next day, evaluate and go over the the game tape. So there’s constant dialogue.”


You want to look at your pressures, your play designs, your play calls. Do you ever go back and look at what was successful for Houston Texans Head Coach DeMeco Ryans, New York Jets Head Coach Robert Saleh with similar players? 

“I think you have to because it is based off the defense. This defense is a unique defense, and there’s certain things that go with that particular defense. I’m learning that. There’s certain things that you can’t sway away from. So as we evaluate, as I evaluate and talk to the coaches, most importantly as well as Kyle, I see those things. So again, that’s why I’m not panicking. I know we have the personnel. I know we have the talent. I just got to do a better job putting them in a position.”


What’s it like learning a defense and coaching a defense at the same time? 

“You know it’s always challenging. When you’ve done your own thing for 17 years, it’s a little different, but I’m encouraged. I got a great supporting cast. These coaches around me are phenomenal. They know this defense. They know their craft. These players are great. So we’re all in this together, man. So I’m not hitting the panic button at all.”


There’s a lot of great receivers in this league, but Chase might be in his own category. They’ve targeted him 32 times in the last couple games. What separates Chase from just your other great receivers around the league? 

“One, I think it starts with the quarterback. They have a unique relationship. When you look at ball placement, Burrow is phenomenal and throwing the back shoulder. He gives the receivers the only opportunity sometime to catch it. So I think that chemistry is there. He’s just so dynamic after the catch. So it’s hard to really try to give him a lot of space. You got to try to do certain things, whether you’re rolling the coverage to him, whether you’re playing man but you got to have definitely a lot of zone eyes on him. But I can also say this, if you try to overplay him, the other two are going to hurt you as well. So we talked about that trio. So we got to do a great job of just trying to balance things out.”


When you watch Burrow in the first three, four games and then maybe the last couple of games, how different do they look in terms of him getting healthier and how much does that show up on the tape? 

“Well, I still think they’re productive. But you can see certain things on tape that where the injury is there. I don’t know where he is right now from a standpoint off the Bye. A lot of things that they’ve been doing is out of the gun, where he normally operates underneath the center. So we’ll see exactly how that is on Sunday. But the guy’s very capable of still running the offense to the fullest.”


With QB Brock Purdy in the concussion protocol, there’s at least a chance that QB Sam Darnold would start and you have the experience of being on the sideline with Sam as a starting quarterback. What could we expect to see? 

“A lot of poise. He’s going to lead the offense the right way. I think he’s shown that last year, coming in under the circumstances. So great leader, he’s going to do everything he has to do in running this offense to the fullest. So we’ll see exactly how that goes and, hopefully Brock’s ready. That’s a definite question for Kyle.”


I think there’s an assumption you’re more of a blitz guy and they didn’t blitz much here before, but I’m not sure the numbers bear out that you’re blitzing more. Do you find the numbers do bear out that blitzes haven’t been overly effective? Do you find you’re not blitzing in the right situations? 

“You go back to Cleveland, right before the half, we got a sack, caused a fumble, they ruled it incomplete. Bosa got a sack there. So I think it’s all timing, you know what I’m saying, in the situations. Some get picked up, yes. But I think you have to be on point at times when you are bringing pressure because you don’t want to get hurt with it. So we try to mix it up a little bit for us, man-zone and zone-pressure.”