Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks

­­Press Conference – September 28, 2023

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“Good afternoon, hope everyone is doing well. When you look at Arizona, good football team, very good football team. After watching the tape, impressed with every facet of their offense when it comes to running the football. They do it well. A lot of respect for [Arizona Cardinals RB] James Conner, respected him when he was with the Steelers, and he’s still running the ball hard. [Arizona Cardinals QB Joshua] Dobbs when you look at his play, hasn’t turned the ball over. Does a great job protecting the ball. Can put it in the right spot. They have two great receivers in [Arizona Cardinals WR] Hollywood [Brown] and [Arizona Cardinals WR] Rondale [Moore] that can take the top off and do a great job getting on the perimeter with the jet sweeps and the offensive line doesn’t get enough credit upfront with [Arizona Cardinals OT] D.J. Humphries. I’m very impressed with their tight ends being able to block as well as get down the field and stretch the field in the passing game. So with that, I take your questions.”


What are the things you see in that run game that’s allowing them to have so much success?

“I think number one, Conner runs the ball hard, very determined guy, makes a lot of people miss after contact. And again, the offensive line doesn’t get enough credit. They do a great job with their gap schemes, opening up holes, getting on the perimeter, getting to the second level. So, they create a lot of problems.”


Is there anything in the last game that they showed that pushed them over to be so successful on the ground as opposed to the last two games?

“I think really when you break down the tape as a whole, you see it in each and every game. They were two plays away from beating Washington, they were up on the Giants and lost that football game. So we’ve talked as a staff, this unit right here could easily be 3-0, so we’re definitely not taking these guys lightly at all. It’s going to be a good football game.”


When you’re formulating your game plan, you watch that Giants second half. The Giants pressure Dobbs a lot. How do you balance the desire to get pressure with trying to be conservative against their explosives?

“Well hopefully, we’re able to get pressure with our front four. I have a lot of confidence in those guys, coming off the ball and trying to create some havoc. The key thing that we got to do first, we have to stop the run.”


What’s the signature of Arizona Cardinals TE Zach Ertz for playing in the league for so long. What do you see out of him?

“I just really think the balance, the consistency. As I said before, I think he’s good in the run game, as a blocker and can do a great job right here creating matchups really and can stretch it down the field. Good seem ball, guy runs a great seven route. They do a great job with the tight end screens, hiding him at times and he’s a red zone threat as well.”


Head Coach Kyle Shanahan was talking yesterday about what the Miami Dolphins have unveiled or are using a lot, the quick motion, particularly with Miami Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill this year, that a lot of teams are now using, including the 49ers. I can’t imagine that’s new to the NFL or has it been dusted off? Where did that come from or is it truly the Dolphins coming up with that?

“No, I don’t think it’s new at all. Really, to me, nothing in football these days is new. We all steal from one another. I call it window dressing, [Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean] McVay does it all the time. We do a great job of doing it here. So, it’s just trying to really create matchups and get your eyes in the wrong spot, get you looking at things that you shouldn’t be looking at. They do a great job. Of course, with him coming from here, a lot of what you saw is a lot of things that we do as well.”


You used five on the defensive line against the Giants, a few more snaps last week. How much is that a reflection of the confidence you have in LB Fred Warner, given the strain that approach can put on a linebacker?

“A lot of confidence in those guys across the board, particularly up front and knowing that [DT Javon] Kinlaw has worked his butt off all in the offseason, done a tremendous job. I think it just gives those guys an opportunity up front, to get one-on-ones, which I think is tough for anybody to block our guys up front one-on-one.”


Is it partially a reward for Kinlaw just to be able to get him in there more?

“It’s not so much a reward because he does his share as far as him rotating in there and collapsing the pocket and doing a great job. But I just think it’s a change of pace for us in just trying to create the matchups that we want to create a spark.”


Javon Kinlaw said he lobbied for that five-man front. How did those conversations go?

“Well, they lobby every week and can get a little testy when I don’t call it like, ‘It’s up when are you going to call it?’ So I got to it. We had success and wanted to go back to it as well. And those guys did a great job, so I’m happy about it.”


Is it a different rush angle for DL Javon Hargrave?

“No, not really. Again, we’re just trying to collapse the pocket. I tell the guys on the outside and [DL] Drake [Jackson] missed one. I told him it’s like a layup if you just stay outside because they’re going to flush the quarterback. So, he missed that one. They chipped him and he got a little out of control and the quarterback was able to get outside. So, with those three guys, you’re talking about Hargrave, [DL] Arik [Armstead] and Kinlaw collapsing the pocket, we’re going to flush them.


LB Dre Greenlaw had a couple unnecessary roughness calls the last two weeks. Kyle said he was waiting to get the film back, but he thought they might’ve been a little borderline. He also had a few last year. Is there a fine line between trying to educate him to not make those fouls or do you just not want to take away his aggressiveness?

“Well, let me first of all mention that the one that they called, it is very apparent on the tape that the guy was still up and I didn’t see the whistle being blown. So, we accept the penalty, they called it. But I thought he was still in legal play for making that hit. I definitely never want to take away his aggressive play. That’s who he is as a player. We always talk about protecting the team. That’s what Kyle mentions each and every day. You get a fine line with some of these quarterbacks that run the ball sometimes, they’re sliders, sometimes they stay up. Dobbs is a guy, if you watch him on tape, he’s not sliding. So, we got to be ready to hit him.”


You’re the coordinator, but does Defensive Line Coach Kris Kocurek have autonomy to dial up whatever games he wants up front and does it change against a mobile quarterback?

“Oh, we do a lot of prep as far as game planning, but any and everything that happens on game day, I’ll call it. But with his experience being here and all the different pressures that we’ve done, yeah, we collaborate on that.”


DL Nick Bosa said that he felt like the defensive line had its best game yet. A lot of pressures in that last one on Thursday Night. What do you see from them and how much more potential do they have, looking at it, obviously it was a win, but knowing that their potential is probably a lot greater?

“Far greater, far greater. I’m not doubting what he said, that is our best game, up until today. We want to continue to take the next step each and every game. So, the potential that this unit has, not just upfront as a D-line, but as a unit, sky’s the limit. We talk about it each and every day. So, I told you guys back in the spring, I’ve never been around an elite group like this before. And it’s not just so much the talent, it’s about how we work. These guys grind every day, walkthrough, they’re locked in, they’re focused. Everything is about details, that’s the difference at this level. I’ve been doing it for a long time. There’s a lot of talent around the league, but nobody is a stickler to the details as we are here.”


Does it make you excited about what could be in the future?

“Oh, of course. Only thing that we talk about is trying to win today, taking one step at a time, and right now is Arizona.”