Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks

­­Press Conference – December 22, 2023

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“With practice, I think the guys are progressing and moving in the right direction. Got another difficult task this week in the Ravens. That offense is high volume, very explosive. [Baltimore Ravens QB] Lamar Jackson is playing at that MVP level, as he did a couple of years ago. All the weapons around him are exceeding. [Baltimore Ravens WR] Odell [Beckham Jr.] is still playing high. I love just watching [Baltimore Ravens WR Zay] Flowers and the things that he can do. It’s going to be a difficult task. And with that, I’ll take your questions.”


What makes Lamar Jackson different and perhaps more difficult to defend than the other more mobile quarterbacks you’ve seen the last couple weeks?

“I think just his ability to make guys miss in space. He’s very elusive. And to be honest, I think, he’s playing so much better from a standpoint of the passing game as well, which I think creates other elements of his ability to be able to scramble when things aren’t there. So, he’s really playing good football, not turning the ball over which is a key for them. And again, we’ve got to do a much better job than we did last week from a standpoint of tracking the ball carrier and most importantly, tackling.”


Referring to your own team, when you said the guys are progressing, what areas do you want to see them continue to get better?

“Most definitely from what we did last week. I felt like we had too many missed tackles. Just what I just alluded to, I think it was more us and not executing our technique, not understanding where our help was coming from. You had a couple of times we had a situation where it could’ve been really fourth-and-nine and all of a sudden now we miss the tackle because we we’re not tracking the right way, it’s fourth-and-three and they go for it. So just the little things like that we have to improve on, and that’s the progression that I’m seeing this week.”


I think we ask you about CB Charvarius Ward every week, but going back to when you got here, what was your assessment of what his skillset was and in what ways has he maybe even exceeded that?

“Well, I think it was high from what I saw, and that was the reason why [general manager] John [Lynch] and [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] brought him over. I think he’s now playing at that All-Pro caliber level. You saw that, and I’ve seen it all year. You saw it definitely last week with his two picks. The one thing that I pointed out this week, and I believe it was yesterday with the defense, I took that exact same clip that we had in practice, the exact same route, the exact same break. What I always talk to those guys about is just how we practice. What you’re doing in practice is going to be just a reflection of what you do in the game. So, he got that rep early, he made that play in practice, and it was just routine when it happened in the game.”


He indicated that he had been working with QB Sam Darnold and catching balls from him. Was that something he came to on his own or was that suggested to him?

“Yeah, most definitely. That’s another area of his growth where he gets extra work in after practice. It was something that he went to Darnold on his own to be able to get that assistance. So, Sam did a great job last week in preparing him.”


When you talk about that clip from practice, that was in preparation to face the Cardinals?



Is that unique that something like that happens exactly like that?

“It is. And a lot of times in our teaching progression, we’ll always try to show that for us, plays back-to-back. It was just very fortunate that we were able to get that exact clip.”


Kyle was saying yesterday that their two linebackers, Baltimore Ravens LB Roquan Smith and Baltimore Ravens Patrick Queen, are pretty similar to what you’ve got in LB Fred Warner and LB Dre Greenlaw. I won’t ask you to speak on their linebackers, but when you have two like you do that can cover that much ground sideline to sideline and be at that athletic, what does that do for your defense in terms of what you can call and that sort of thing?

“Well, it makes our defense so much better when you have that kind of speed. I think, that’s really where the game is now. You play so much out in space where offenses try to spread you out and get you in those different looks. That’s why the old school, traditional MIKE linebacker is not the case anymore. We look for three WILLs that can play MIKE and SAM. So, their ability allows not only me, but everybody around them to play better.”


This kind of an example of four modern linebackers, their two and your two, and what the position has evolved to?

“I think it’s going to showcase a lot of speed and talent on that field on Monday night. A lot of respect for those guys. I know of them coming out of the Draft and just watching them on cross tape. But, I definitely love the guys that we have. I think our guys are going to go out and perform well.”


Why is the Ravens run game so efficient and what’s the key to slowing it down?

“Just really all the gap scheme, then the zone read, Lamar with his ability to be able to pull it at any time. This is going to be a very disciplined football game. A lot of times you see talent on both sides of the ball, but it’s a team that’s real disciplined in their assignments. When you take the dive, take the dive. When you have a quarterback, have the quarterback, vice versa. So, we’ve got to do a great job communicating on every snap as we did today and yesterday and be very detailed in our assignments.”


How particularly tricky is that for the nickelback, whether he’s watching the quarterback and also has a pretty good slot receiver to chase around?

“It’s definitely a difficult task. I think [DB Deommodore Lenoir] Demo is up for it. We can’t put everything on him. That’s why based off the call you always have different assignments in, putting him in a situation to where if he’s part of the run game, he’s got to execute that. Then there’s times where he’s not a part of and he has to play pass first. So again, I think it just goes back to being disciplined and executing your assignment.”


Are you encouraged by what you saw from DL Javon Hargrave today?

“Yes, definitely encouraged, but it’s still a wait and see kind of thing. But, I’m definitely encouraged by what I saw today.”


How’s CB Jason Verrett coming along?

“He’s looking well each and every day. We’ll see whether or not he’s going to have the opportunity to be up and if so, how many reps he’ll get.”


Much is made of the way the wide receivers here block. When look at other teams, is it unique or do you see other teams that have the same commitment to all 11 taking part in the run?

“Well, I think it’s extremely unique in how our guys block. I was very impressed with that when I first got here. We get a lot of good work going against those guys in OTAs, in training camp. I talked to [WR] Deebo [Samuel] one time and I asked him about that and his answer to me was, ‘if we don’t block, we don’t get the ball.’ So, I think there’s a certain culture that Kyle has created that it’s not just about catching a football. You can see it throughout this team, very unselfish individuals. You go back to [WR Brandon] Aiyuk on that play against Seattle, I believe it was, where he went down there and made that block inside the five. Just a very unselfish play. Those guys prepare us for every game and every week.”