Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference
Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks
Press Conference – June 7, 2023
San Francisco 49ers
“Mini-camp was great. It was good to get everybody in house. [DL Nick] Bosa was here. [DL Javon] Hargrave was here. And I thought we made progress throughout OTAs and it was a great finish today with mini-camp, so I know you guys have a lot of questions, and with that I’ll open up the floor.”
CB Charvarius Ward didn’t take part in any of the 11-on-11 stuff, but that gave you an opportunity to look at some other younger cornerbacks out there. How do you sort of assess that outside position at cornerback?
“I thought it was a lot of great competition this offseason. You look at Demo [DB Deommodore Lenoir], I thought he took strides this offseason and is really getting better. You can see his confidence and I think his confidence is coming from really in his preparation. If you watch him each and every day as I have, you see him taking steps and really focusing on the details in the classroom and it is transferring to the field. [CB] Ambry [Thomas], I thought has had a great OTAs and mini-camp, so when you look at those two guys with the amount of reps they’ve taken with Mooney not being there, I think it has only been a plus. And I saw progression with Sammy [CB Samuel Womack III] as well, Womack, so I’m excited about the young guys that we have on the outside.”
Do you think that Ambry has sort of the physical traits we were talking about the last time you were here to do the press stuff that Charvarius does, and CB Darrell Luter Jr. that you liked about him as well?
“I think he does. I think only time would tell. I think right now, I’m very impressed with being in gym shorts right now, but I think once we get the pads on in training camp. We have an opportunity to go practice against the Raiders before we play them and we’ll see exactly once we get to the preseason, but I’m very confident that he can get it done.”
What have you seen or learned about Charvarius Ward?
“I think he has, just as a person, tremendous character. I just like how he takes care of his business on and off the field. I watched a lot of tape on him, before I got here, and then since I’ve been here, so he has the skillset to be one of the top in the league. And he and I talked about that, so it’s all about him just being locked in and focused this year and having consistency.”
How’s it been having Hargrave here?
“It’s been great. I love all our guys up front and you’re going to hear me say this time and time again, everything we do starts up front and we made that commitment with [CEO] Jed [York] all the way down with [general manager] John [Lynch] and [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] to try to assemble the best defensive line in the league, so with him being here, Bosa being here, you talk about [DT Javon] Kinlaw, [DL] Arik [Armstead], [DL] Drake [Jackson], I’m excited about what we can do up front this year.”
Bosa mentioned that he spent some time with you yesterday and had a long conversation. When you had those conversations with a player of his caliber, how much is there give and take of you kind of trying to find out what he likes, positions he likes to be put in, things like that?
“I think really what I was doing, I think I told you guys this from day one. I’m about relationships, so it was more about trying to learn him as a person. And I think as you get to learn him as a person, then now you get a feel for the player and then you can put him in position. One of the things we talked about is just his commitment to this game and him still trying to get better, defensive player of the year and can I take the next step? Can I do it again? He has that focus and determination, so I just love coaching guys like that, it’s not about my status. It’s definitely not about the money. He’s committed to trying to be one of the best.”
S Ji’Ayir Brown as a rookie, you have had a fond appreciation for him. How has he done so far in just a few weeks?
“I think he’s done well. He’s had an opportunity with [S Tashaun] Gipson [Sr.] being here to be able to learn from a veteran guy, and they do a great job communicating and talking. Gip is one of the older guys in the room and I think he does a good job trying to relay things from a coach’s perspective, so he’s helped Ji’Ayir out tremendously. And his skillset, I told you from day one, I was excited about that and I’ve seen him make strides and his ability to make plays on the ball from the post is tremendous. He covers a lot of ground.”
I’ve seen you on the practice field, you’re communicating with your DBs almost after every play? Is that kind of the way you’re coaching kind of through the back end, or is that just kind of we’re just seeing it today?
“I coach through the backend because that’s really my expertise, so I see certain things back there and I try to make coaching points on the run just to try to get those guys to self-correct themselves because there’s times, of course, during the game you can’t get to them, so you just want them to be able to think about what’s just happened and then hit the reset button and get ready for the next play.”
You sort of told us last week that when you two talked prior to you taking the job, that it was pretty apparent to him really that you guys saw things in a very similar way. What do you mean by that?
“I think you go against these guys, you see them on tape, you got the crossover film and those kinds of things and sometimes you really don’t understand the teaching behind it. Okay, the wide nines and those kinds of things, what we may be doing up front, but once I was able to get here and understand how detailed he coaches everything, it fits into my philosophy and the things that I believe in, so we’re on the same page. As a defensive guy and running things from the back to the front. I emphasize every meeting, pointing out things up front just to let those guys understand and know that it’s not just lip-service. Everything we do starts up front and I want those guys to understand that.”
You probably watched last year’s defense with Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans, how is the backend? Do you think anything is going to look different to us this year?
“Well, number one, one of our goals we talked about trying to lead the league in the least explosive plays. I think we gave up too many last year, so hopefully you don’t see that, the fastest and quickest way to win a game is through the air. As great as those guys may be playing up front, we have to make sure we secure things on the backend. We don’t want to give up explosive plays, that’s number one. And two, we have to make more plays on the football, interceptions and then find a way to get in the end zone with those.”
I know you just met Bosa, but I’m sure you got a sense of his commitment, greatness, everything. What are some of the players that pop to mind that you’ve coached in that realm?
“I’m going to say this first and I think I’ve already said this, I don’t like to compare, but I don’t really think that’s a comparison. You’re just trying to reference other guys. The first one who comes to mind is [former Carolina Panthers LB] Luke Kuechly, [HOF LB] Brian Urlacher, guys that just committed to that craft and trying to get better each and every day. And all those guys that I just mentioned along with Bosa are about really trying to create a legacy and that was probably one of the things that I did talk about beyond just him as a person. It’s just, what are we building towards now, which is each step is towards Canton. I think that’s his mindset as well, but he has to stay in the moment each and every day, be where your feet are and take it as it comes, but ultimately, that’s his goal.”
Were you installing during this time or does the install come in training camp?
“No, we installed from phase one and then we reinstall again, OTAs as well as mini-camp. We’re ahead in regards to a lot of things that I wanted to get in, so I’m excited about that and the things that we’ve been able to rep. Our philosophy and the things that we believe in hasn’t changed from a schematic standpoint of who we are, who we’ve been in the past. We’ve just been able to add a little bit of wrinkles here and there and what I call tools, but I’m very excited with where we are right now and how the guys have been working.”
What will you be doing during your forty days off? What is your plan in the offseason?
“I’ll be back in the mountains of North Carolina in Boone sitting on my deck watching the mountains and probably smoking cigars and I’m not going to tell you what else I’ll be doing, but it’ll be very enjoyable.”
Do you take a look at film or what do you do?
“Yes. Yeah, definitely before I leave, we’ll have all the cutups on my laptop from Spring, trying to go back and figure out how we can improve from there. You always try to get a jump on your first two opponents, so that’ll be things you’d be working on. You’re never really on vacation.”
How much of last season do you look at? Do you look at everything or do you look at certain things that stand out?
“I think you have to go back and look at just certain things, particularly with us playing the AFC North, I had an opportunity to play that division last year. I played this division last year as well, so I would go back and look at our games alright, that we played against them, just to be able to see certain things and try to get some key tendencies from there.”