Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks

­­Press Conference – September 19, 2023

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“Trying to get ready for this Thursday night game, facing a good football team that just came off a very impressive win against the Arizona Cardinals. Just showed really their resilience and how they fought back. Got a lot of respect for the coach, I’ve known him for a long time. He’s definitely going to have these guys prepared and ready to play as you saw what they were capable of doing last week. And again, quick turnaround, we’re getting ready to go out on the field now in just a second, trying to get the guys acclimated to some of the things that we know we’re going to see Thursday night. But I always say this particular week is all about us fundamentally and what we can do with a quick turnaround and just making sure that we take care of our business and being detailed in the things that we ask the guys to do. And with that, I’ll take your questions.”

How challenging is it to face New York Giants QB Daniel Jones and the zone-read in particular on a quick turnaround?

“He’s very challenging, extremely athletic, does a great job with that format and that offense. They love to run the zone-read as you mentioned. That’s part of [New York Giants head coach Brian] Daboll’s offense. He did the same thing in Buffalo with [Buffalo Bills QB Josh] Allen. So, it’s definitely something that we’re going to see. It’s definitely something that we put on tape during preseason, so we’ve definitely got to be prepared for it.”

What’s the process been like for you to just be up in the booth calling the past two games and just getting a feel for your guys and what positions to put them in, which buttons to push? Is it just a year-long process or do you get more kind of in the focus of what you expect out of your guys?

“Well, I think it’s going to constantly be evolving throughout the year, but I don’t think it’s going to take, if I’m following your question correctly, a season to get a feel for what we want to do. I think you get a feel throughout the course of the game, and I think you saw that the second half and the adjustments that we made when we came out. With our defensive line, I try to allow those guys to settle in and go play. I try not to do a lot, but it turned into a game that [Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew] Stafford was getting rid of the ball quickly. So, you didn’t really see the effect of what we are capable of doing up front because they didn’t have an opportunity to do that. So, I had to adjust to be able to give those guys time. And the only way you can give them time is to get stickier in coverage on the backend.”

The fact that you ended up having to dial up more blitzes, which I assume ideally you want to just get pressure with four. I mean, is Stafford one of the few quarterbacks in the NFL that can force this defense to make that type of adjustment?

“I think he’s a seasoned vet. I think he understands and knows where he wants to go with the ball. He does a great job in getting the ball out quickly and does a tremendous job in looking you off at times. So again, I think we can do a better job, as we did in the second half, in tightening things up. And that starts with me. And then also I think when you get a guy of that caliber you can’t show your hand all the time. You’ve got to make him guess post-snap by showing him one thing pre-snap.”

Do you prep for New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley? And do you think they’ll look the same with New York Giants RB Gary Brightwell or New York Giants RB Eric Gray or New York Giants RB Matt Breida?

“I think the offense and what he wants to do is going to be consistent. Barkley, it’s disappointing for him that he’s out. But, I think all those guys are capable. But, when you really look at their offense, I think the question started earlier with the zone-read. I mean, that to me is their run game and what he’s capable of doing, not only from that point but also just scrambling, buying time in the pocket and doing things with his feet.”

With CB Isaiah Oliver, do you feel on Sunday that he took a step forward in this defense and it’s more indicative of what you’re looking for?

“I think all you guys can answer that question in the plays that he made out there, particularly that third down tackle, I think was phenomenal. Open-field tackle and that was huge at that point in time of the game. He came up with an interception, you can see just his length and the way he grabbed the ball out of the air. And then the fourth down play where he shot the gap. I couldn’t be more proud of him and how he’s stayed the course. You know, we moved some things around, he didn’t waver, he didn’t blink kept working hard and it paid off for him.”

Tightening up the coverage, is it just getting the outside coverage a little tighter or are there other things involved with that?

“No, it’s different. When we play certain zone coverages and the receiver splits are tight, we don’t get down in press because a lot of times if you sit here and run the ball now they’re getting two for one, they’ve got edges on you. So, it’s a give and take, and it’s a flow of the game that you got to get a feel for. And that’s what I did. And once I got a feel for the game, I adjusted on the backend to allow our guys to have our opportunity to get a little stickier in coverage. So, it’s mostly with the corners.”

This defense has had a bit of an issue containing scrambling quarterbacks for years spanning multiple coordinators. What’s the key to containing a scrambling quarterback? What makes it so difficult?

“I think number one, we’ve just got to maintain our rush lanes. I think sometimes that our guys and that position itself is just so aggressive and all of a sudden you’re trying to tell those guys to slow down and that’s not what they do naturally. So, we’ve just got to be able to again, with our different stunts that we want to call up front, allow us to be able to clog the rush lanes so he has nowhere to step up. And then once again just trying to be tight on the backend to make him hold the football.”

Oliver just said in the locker room, obviously as a competitor, you want to be known as the first-string nickel corner and that be that. And so, he wasn’t amused by that not quite being the case. It seems like he has handled that process well. I mean, has he been professional about it?

“Total class, total class guy, handled it the right way. That was the first thing I said after the game that it could have gone differently. But he didn’t complain, just went out each and every day, did his job, and when the opportunity came, he stepped up and made plays so very proud of his performance.”

The defensive ends in particular with the mobile quarterback, do you have to remind them don’t rush past the quarterback or does that go without saying?

“It somewhat goes without saying. We always use the term the depth of the QB and being able to step up and come underneath. So again, Daniel is extremely mobile. He does some great things, again, with the zone-read and buying time, getting outside of the pocket. Big boot team, trying to give him the option to get on the perimeter. If it’s not there, then he’s going to win with his legs. So, we’ve got to do a great job containing him this week.”

What’s your read on DL Nick Bosa and how he feels he’s done the first two games and I guess how hungry he is to go after Daniel Jones?

“Well, I think you’d probably have to ask him and he’ll tell you he’s definitely not satisfied with where he is. But as a coach understanding that he wasn’t here all offseason and to come in and take 32 snaps in the first game, I believe it was, and play last week. So, it’s going to come. You saw the effort there, you saw the push across the board with those guys. Again, Stafford was getting rid of the ball so fast so I think it’s only a time, only a matter of time.”

The Niner fan base in L.A. Can you talk about that?

“I can talk about them when they came to Carolina last year. We travel well.”