Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference
Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks
Press Conference – November 16, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
“Great to bounce back the way we did, coming off the Bye. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of men than I am, the players and coaches and how we responded. I thought they were prepared by the coaches and they went out and executed and did an outstanding job. I would also say this as great as that performance was last week, it was last week. We got to move on. We got a good football team that’s coming in here on Sunday in Tampa Bay. Those guys, in my opinion, can do pretty much everything from a standpoint of run the ball. I don’t look at the stats and where they are. You look at [Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Rachaad] White and [Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Chase] Edmonds, Chase they do a great job in totting the rock. Their receivers, as we all know, [Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike] Evans is probably one of the best in the league. He can run every route on the route tree. He can run by you. [Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris] Godwin, and then as well as [Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Deven] Thompkins and [Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Trey] Palmer, they can take the top off. So we’re going to have our hands full, so we got to do a great job. I think [Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB] Baker [Mayfield] is playing at an extremely high level. He’s protecting the football, he’s placing it where it needs to be placed. Those guys are rallying behind him. He’s a fierce competitor. I’m excited how he’s playing and we got to do a great job of trying to stop him this week.”
How did it feel being down on the field to the game?
“It was fine. I enjoyed the interaction with the players. I think, in that regard, it was good to be able to look in their eyes and communicate and create some clarity in my thoughts moving to the next series.”
Is that the main reason you guys gave up three points and forced four takeaways?
“Believe me, that wasn’t nowhere near the reason why. We got good players and me being down on the sideline had nothing to do with it. I was just really excited once again how they responded. I’m not living in the past. I felt like we were a little tired and we needed that Bye, and you could see when we came back on that Monday that they were fresh with their legs. The attitude was completely different. We played to our standard this past week, and we got to be consistent moving forward.”
All the years you’ve been doing this, how many years have you actually spent upstairs versus on the sideline and what is the advantage of being on the sideline?
“Again, I was in the box in Carolina. I was on the field in Cleveland. I think the advantage is just that direct communication with the players. Where I thought our communication was great with the coaches, but being able to talk to each position group and hear their thoughts, tell them my thoughts, it just projects how I think the next series as far as calling in the game.”
What was your assessment of DL Chase Young on Sunday and how has he continued to pick up the defense?
“I thought he went out there and played well. It was a Buckeye meeting at the quarterback first, per se. So I thought he did some great things. [Defensive Line Coach Kris] Kocurek is in my opinion, the best D-Line coach in the league, and he’s getting the best teaching and he’s continuing to progress and the things that we want him to do in regards to stopping the run and how we play it. But I think right now he’s playing well. I’m excited to see what he does this week.”
You talked a lot about tying the pass rush to your coverage. It seemed like you guys were able to do that on Sunday. Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence pat the ball a little bit more than he usually does. How were you able to do that?
“Again, I thought we complemented each other well. Also coming out of the Bye, just trying to evaluate our coverages, our front, most importantly how they look and what I had been calling previous weeks. What we tried to be able to do is just work on our disguise a little bit more and try to create some confusion to where maybe he thought we were coming where we’re not coming, and then vice versa, we’re sitting back and all of a sudden we bring pressure. So it is just definitely trying to take the game out of the coordinator’s hand and allow the quarterback to be able to see certain things post snap.”
Can you talk about CB Ambry Thomas and what can you do differently with him on the field as opposed to CB Isaiah Oliver?
“I like Ambry. I thought Ambry did some great things in preseason. And also, just to speak on Oliver, Oliver, I thought has helped us win a lot of football games early on. He’s going to continue to help us win games. This league is all about, each week is matchups and different things. So I felt that [CB] Demo [Deommodore Lenoir] played well inside. Ambry just brings a different element when he can play outside. I love his man-to-man technique. I think he’s quick in and out of his breaks and he’s physical. He steps up and he tackles, and I love the way he took the ball away in plus territory when those guys had three points, we took points off the board.”
You played eight games and everybody pretty much agreed that you needed a Bye and that the Bye was beneficial. Now you got to play nine more and potentially the postseason. How do you keep fresh over that stretch, it’s even longer than the one that you started the season?
“Well, I think really and hats off to [Head Coach] Kyle [Shanahan]. I think he does a great job of really orchestrating, the practice and how we go about our business, whether, it is taking pads off, whether it’s trying to create a walkthrough, having the foresight and the forward thinking to understand that we got three games right here in 12 days and how we go about our businesses trying to really preserve some energy, but also be effective in what we’re trying to get done. So he does a great job with that. I think we’ll be fine. We got another mini-Bye coming up after the Thursday night game, so that’ll help us a little bit as well. But our focus right now is on Sunday with Tampa Bay.”
Some the focus was on the pass rush during the losing streak, but obviously the coverage was tied to that. The guys in the secondary, were they taking that personally?
“I hope we all were taking it personal being 0-3, I know I was. I do agree that those guys were getting criticized, but if you understand and know the game and watch the actual tape, we got a lot of pressure on the quarterback. So there was different things, yes, probably within the secondary that we could do differently, starting with maybe the calls and allowing those guys at certain times to be a little bit more sticky in the coverage or as I just talked about this past week, given a different look which confuses the quarterback and makes him hold the ball a little longer. That’s all we really need sometimes with the guys that we have up front, it’s just that second hitch. So again, it was great to see those guys complement one another.”
S Ji’Ayir Brown only get a few snaps, some of them look kind of promising. Where is he in his development? What do you kind of want to see from him going forward?
“It’s funny, we’re just talking about him on the last play of practice. He’s progressing, gotten a whole lot better. When you really look at the college season, it’s pretty much over, right? You’re probably getting ready for conference play and bowl games. So he’s really had that full year and you can really see his confidence and how he moves around at practice, just the way he communicates and those kind of things, that he’s gotten better with this year. So I’m excited about him moving forward and any time we can get those guys into the game, it’s just only going to continue to help develop them.”
How do you get better at defending the screen game? What can you do in practice to get your guys better prepared to defend the screen?
“I don’t think it’s so much, if one of you guys would in indulge in doing the study, I’m sure you’ll figure out it’s no magical call with the screens. It’s all about sometimes effort. I say all the time, you just got to go whoop that in front of you. You got to set the edge and we got to get guys turning and running, getting out of the stack and it’s just sometimes that simple. If you look at the way our D-Line turns and run, I think a couple of weeks ago Cle [DL] Clelin Ferrell] I can forgot who it was, what team rather, I mean, he saved one because we just turn and run, but we got to do a better job setting the edge perimeter, the run game and stop running lateral and just get vertical. So that’s the key thing there rather you’re in two, rather you’re in three, rather you’re in man, somebody’s got to whoop their ass, that’s it.”
How about the key to stopping Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans or trying to stop Mike Evans? You’ve obviously faced him so many times over the years.
“It is tough, big body guy. You try to sit here and you press him, he’s going to muscle you at the line of scrimmage, you play off, very deceptive speed, he’s going to run by you. So again, we got to mix things up, from a standpoint of man-zone, getting our hands on these receivers and just try really trying to be physical.”
CB Charvarius Ward is getting a lot of penalties. I think he’s got 10 called on this year. Are they ticky-tack penalties that he is drawing mainly rather than flagrant?
“Well you know, a penalty is a penalty. You know what I emphasize and talk a little bit more, he has outstanding feet, and when he moves his feet, in what I call in phased position, we don’t have to grab. So we’re trying to get away from that a little bit and just really trying to emphasize more of his technique and how that’s going to help develop him within the course of the rep.”