Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks

­­Press Conference – November 30, 2023

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“It’s been a while. It seems like it’s been forever since we played on Thanksgiving. In regards to that, it was a great performance, but I must say that’s not going to do anything to help us this week. We got a great opponent, NFC Champs, a good football team, well-coached, a lot of talent across the board. Probably the best offensive line that we’ve faced all year, and it starts up front with [Philadelphia Eagles OL Jason] Kelce. I consider him to be First Ballot Hall of Famer, outstanding player, and he really makes that show go upfront. Tremendous run game. Does a great job in protection as well. [Philadelphia Eagles RB D’Andre] Swift, their run game, as I just mentioned, is phenomenal, along with [Philadelphia QB Jalen] Hurts it’s hard to stop. Then once you start talking about their outside threats with [Philadelphia Eagles WR A.J.] Brown and [Philadelphia Eagles WR DeVonta] Smith, tremendous threats down the field. They’re great after the catch, making guys miss. So there’s no question we’re going to have our hands full this week. And with that, I’ll take your questions.”


You mentioned Jason Kelce, what is it that makes him so different and special at that position?

“Just his knowledge of the game. I don’t know him personally, but I know that he spends a lot of time watching a lot of tape, really studying his opponent, listening to the TV copy, trying to get any opponents he can get for us, calls, adjustments and whatnot. He’s just phenomenal in really putting them in the best position to be successful up front.”


Is he the key to the brotherly shove play that they do?

“I don’t know if he’s the key. I know right now he’s definitely a major component of it. Definitely hard to defend, based off what they do. I was talking to the coaches, the only way to defend it is to not allow those guys to get in that position.”


Is there a way if you drew it up on paper, a tactic for stopping it? Would it be quickness from your interior linemen?

“I think that’s a complete study with physics and dynamics and everything, to be quite honest, because it’s about leverage, power and whatnot. They have leverage. They push and they’re shoving. So I think it’s real tough right here to limit that for as one yard. I know it’s funny, but you can’t allow them to get in that situation. We’ve got to try to find a way to win on first and second down. I mean, they operate off, I think he said, first-and-eight for them because it’s automatically going forward on fourth down. If it’s fourth-and- one, you approach fourth-and-two.”


Because of that, knowing that if you get them in fourth-and-one or fourth-and-two they might still be going before. Do you have to approach third down?

“Well, I feel like anytime we can get them into fourth down, it’s still encouraging. We still have an opportunity, regardless that we know that they’re going for it. So it’s something that we’ve talked about as a staff. It’s something that we definitely have worked on. So I’m not going to concede that we can’t stop it. We’re going to be prepared and ready for it.”


How has DB Deommodore Lenoir kind of grasp the challenge of going back and forth between the slot and outside and what’s made him so successful at doing it?

“Well, I just think his ability, number one, going back in the spring is just number one showing us that he wants to do it. He has put the time and the effort in, a lot of things that I know you guys don’t see. He spends a lot of time with [Defensive Backs] Coach Daniel Bullocks, extra meetings coming in and just really wanting to understand all the nuances of that inside nickel position. He’s done a tremendous job with his run fits. That was one of the things that we wanted to make sure that he improved on from the spring. His ability to cover and play out in space. I mean, he’s one of the best guys that we have that could do that. But in the run game, he’s a linebacker and that’s what he’s improved.”


You’ve got five really talented young defensive backs. How do you prepare them for this stage and this environment? Can you talk more about it this week?

“You know it’s a cliche and it’s funny, I just finished talking to the guys about it. We can’t allow it to get in the way, whatever that it may be. I know it was snowing early this week. It could be snowing or raining this weekend. You can’t make any excuses. The environment there is hostile, the crowd they’ve got great fans. That can’t be an excuse. I feel like our players have rose to the occasion each and every time, particularly [CB Charvarius Ward] Mooney, those guys. [CB Ambry Thomas] stepped up. Seattle’s a very tough place to play as well. I thought those guys handled that environment well. So it’s not really about them. It’s about keeping the focus on us and going to do what we need to do to win this football game.”


What’s unique about Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts and what’s the key to defending him?

“I think number one, just as a person, I don’t know him personally, so don’t take this the wrong way. I think he just shows a lot of poise, very confident. You can see that over the years and what he’s been able to accomplish. He has a great command of that offense. As we’ve seen the last couple of weeks, he has the ability to never be out of it. He can bring those guys back. I think they do a great job in really putting him in a position to be successful. No slight to this offense because it’s phenomenal, but it’s a RPO, college type deal. So there’s certain reads that they tell him to look for. That’s why we’ve got to do a great job on the backend and not tipping those reads off.”


How can you assess S Ji’Ayir Brown’s first start?

“I thought Ji’Ayir did a great job. It was nothing glaring that I felt like he was out of place. Again, I felt confident with [S Tashaun] Gipson [Sr.] back there, along with [LB] Fred [Warner] and the guys that we surrounded him with, that he was going to do well. He’s doing a great job with his communication. We saw that yesterday in practice, just being assertive in certain things on the backend. I feel very confident when I can hear and see that.”


Head coach Kyle Shanahan mentioned that he thought DL Arik Armstead and DL Javon Hargrave have really started to work together much better. What have you seen from them since the Bye?

“Well, I see that they’ve got their legs back, they’re fresh. They have completely, in my opinion, controlled the line of scrimmage the last couple of weeks. It’s going to be a challenge this week, but that’s the one thing that we talked about. We’ve got to do a great job inside with our tackles. I know you guys probably have talked to Hargrave, if you haven’t already. I know he’s excited about this game. But in the same token, it’s just another game, you know? So we’ve got to go and do the things we’ve got to do upfront to be successful to help us win this game.”


You had CB Charvarius Ward traveling with Seattle Seahawks WR DK Metcalf last week. Haven’t done that to my knowledge this season. How hard of a decision is that to make? How complicated is it? We did hear that general manager John Lynch and Kyle kind of had some input on that. How did it all work?

“Well, to be quite honest with you we talked about this back in the spring because we knew at some point in time that he was going to have to match up, and we started going left and right. Mooney came to my office probably about a month ago, talking about can he eventually get to that point? We looked at it against [Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike] Evans against Tampa. We had the mindset of doing it. We talked a lot of part of the week, and they felt more comfortable staying left and right. That was our mindset going into it. When I first got here, watching cutups, that was one of the things that jumped out to me, was his complete domination of DK when they matched up. So that was something that we wanted to do all week. I think it was just a conversation, a miscue of what we wanted. He went out and got it done. So, I think he’s fine and we’ll see exactly where he is this week for us matching up.”


What’s your philosophy on having a spy against a running quarterback? Is that anything that you’ve done in the past?

“Yeah. I tried to advocate for 12 this week, but I didn’t get that rule passed. But yeah, I think, anytime that, [Arizona Cardinals QB] Kyler Murray, [Baltimore Ravens QB] Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, you better have someone that’s allocated for him because at any point in time he can win with his feet and make things happen. The great thing about him, he’s not looking to run. He can escape, but his eyes will stay down the field and he’s still trying to put the ball in the air.”


Can you elaborate on Mooney, just getting to the point? What did you want to see from him to get to the point where he’s following a receiver?

“It’s not really anything I wanted to see. I just feel like he’s one of our better cover guys. That’s the reason why we paid him. That’s the reason why he came here. He’s stepped up to that responsibility. For him, like I said before a month ago, to come and ask me for that, it just shows me where he is and what he wants to do. So, I’m looking forward to once again, as we progress and move forward to see exactly what teams, is it this week or moving forward that he would match up again.”


What makes A.J. Brown such a handful?

“Size, strength, his ability after the catch, he’s just so strong. You put him in the class of the guys the last two weeks, DK and Evans, and very deceptive speed. As he gets down the field, he’s a go-ball kind of guy, can create separation, and then at the point of attack, he’s strong going up and trying to push you off to go get the ball. So again, great challenge for us this week.”