Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks 

­­Press Conference – December 7, 2023 

San Francisco 49ers 

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Opening comments: 

“Good afternoon. You know how I feel about talking to you guys on Thursday in regards to the previous game. We are so far removed, but I will say that I was extremely proud of the coaches and players and how we performed. I thought the coaches did an outstanding job in our preparation in getting these guys ready to play. I thought the players did an outstanding job for us going out and executing. Everything we do starts up front. Our D-Line is really the focal point of this defense. You can’t say enough about 54 [LB Fred Warner] and 57 [LB Dre Greenlaw] and what they do. The best two in the league. But I think there’s a position group that gets overlooked quite a bit. The secondary, they’re playing phenomenal football. I want to make sure that I recognize those guys with the performance that they have played with the last several weeks. I think Mooney [CB Charvarius Ward] is doing an outstanding job trying to mirror and follow the top receiver. Demo [DB Deommodore Lenoir] has been able to kick inside and play nickel because of the play that we’re getting out of [CB] Ambry [Thomas] and stepping in and performing at a high level. So, kudos to those guys that are on the backend. You talk about Gip [S Tashaun Gipson Sr.] the leader back there, along with [S] Ji’Ayir [Brown] who has stepped up since Huff [S Talanoa Hufanga] has been out. Those guys are playing well. It’s going to be a difficult task this week. A lot of respect for [Seattle Seahawks Head Coach] Pete Carroll and that coaching staff. Thanksgiving Day game has nothing to do with our performance and how we’re going to play on Sunday, nor does last week. We’ve got to go earn this one. We’ve got to go earn this one. And with that, I’ll take your questions.”


Head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game that what the D-Line did was so counter to its DNA, being so patient and kind of deliberate. Was that difficult in the week of practice to kind of get them to be other than what they’re used to being? 

“It is always hard to try to really deter from your identity, but it’s all about the element that particular week, the situation and what’s best for the defense. Kudos to those guys [defensive line coach Kris] Kocurek and [assistant defensive line coach Darryl] Tapp up front for number one, implementing the game plan and those guys going out and executing. It wasn’t about trying to get stats this particular game. It was about making sure that we maintain our rush lanes and didn’t rush past the quarterback, not giving them an opportunity to be able to step up inside the A and B gaps.”


How do you go about coaching that or implementing that type of a game plan that is so kind of drastically different during the course of the year? 

“It’s just discipline and constant repetition of what you want. Again, I just thought the guys did a great job trying to execute and being very unselfish and doing their job this past weekend. So, I was excited to see that. And once again, I know a lot of times everything is predicated off production and sacks and those kind of things, but they executed the game plan. It was great.”


How rare is it to find a group that is so unselfish like that? 

“This whole group, this whole defense is that way. You can see even at the end of the game when [DL] Kalia [Davis] got his sack, K.D., everybody on the sideline was so excited. You even saw [WR] Deebo [Samuel], you saw [T] Trent [Williams], you saw Juice [FB Kyle Juszczyk]. Everybody was so excited for him. And that’s just how this team is, very unselfish players.”


With Mooney, is there something he’s been doing differently that’s really just taken his game to another level the last couple of months? 

“I don’t want to say so much different, besides, yeah, definitely going with the number one receiver. I think his level of confidence is there. I think he’s playing with great technique, eyes in the right spot. I think he’s just really locked in and focused.”


Shanahan was saying that since the Bye DT Javon Kinlaw has gotten a little bit better and better. You’re there watching them early in practice. What exactly is Kinlaw doing over this last month that is noticeable? 

“Well, I can really go back even beyond that and I know you guys heard me talk about Kinlaw back in the spring when we were talking about guys who I think are going to have a great year. I think the number one thing with him is he’s healthy, unlike he’s been in the past. And then there’s one word that you’re alluding to, which is he’s playing consistent. He’s really been consistent these last couple of weeks. I love the way he’s playing with lower pad level. Really as we talk about all the time, trying to create a new line of scrimmage, playing on their side of the ball. Everything we do is about penetration and you can see that with him.”


On Kinlaw’s sack, Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts held the ball for a long time and you guys had held up on the back end with tremendous coverage. How did you get from Cincinnati where it seemed like everybody was open to where you guys are at now in coverage? What kinds of things did you work on to get from there to here? 

“I think everything is different, maybe based off the call. We always have a certain term and terminology as we call plaster when the quarterback starts to scramble and get outside the pocket. That’s been a point of the emphasis the last couple of weeks, particularly with Jalen Hurts with his ability to extend plays. It’s the same thing with [Seattle Seahawks QB] Geno [Smith]. So, we’ve got to do a great job in coverage and then when he’s ready to try to start winning with his legs, we’ve got to do a great job on the backend for his plaster and staying with the receivers. That’s what you saw this past week.”


What does S Logan Ryan add to your defense? 

“A lot of experience, two Super Bowls and a wealth of knowledge where he can communicate and talk to these young guys, particularly on the backend. And then also just understanding he’s coming into a culture that he’s probably used to. These guys know how to work. They go about their business a different way each and every day. So, I think with him coming in, it’s going to be a smooth and easy transition for him.”


What have you seen from Ji’Ayir Brown as a full-time starter? 

“I like the word confidence. He’s very confident. I love how he’s communicating and talking. He has really taken the initiative to be that vocal guy back there. We always say all the time the formation is talking to you, you’ve got to listen with your eyes. It’s telling you certain things. He’s communicating and verbalizing that with guys out there, which is allowing him to be able to play fast and be in position to make plays.”


Kalia Davis, we haven’t seen a lot of him, but he’s obviously a very talented player. What do you like about his game? 

“Man, Kalia has really the whole time when he wasn’t in there, he kept that mindset of just waiting for his opportunity. For him to seize it the way he did this past week was glorifying for not only him, but for everybody. Good pad level. He’s very strong. I love the way he comes off the ball, uses his hands well, and good lateral movement where he can shed and get down the line of scrimmage and chase things down. So, he’s going to be getting a lot of reps here coming up soon.” 


The Seahawks have only had one game since you saw them last, but it was a really good game, obviously. Was there anything that popped out or jumped off the screen to you?  

“Explosive plays. [Seattle Seahawks WR] DK [Metcalf], of course we know at any time he can make those kind of plays, that’s what popped off. I know they’re running the ball well, trying to run it more. That was really Coach Carroll’s mindset and trying to get these guys going which is going to open up the play action for him. I assume [Seattle Seahawks RB Kenneth] Walker’s [III] going to be back. That’s my mindset. That’s our mindset. It’s going to be a difficult task. And like I said before, Thanksgiving Day, last week doesn’t have anything to do with how we’re going to perform and win this football game. That’s our mentality. So, we’re going to have to go out and earn it and I know it’s going to be a tough, hard battle.”