Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks

­­Press Conference – July 27, 2023

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening Statement:

“Good start to training camp the first two days, a lot of energy and love the way the guys are flying around. And I think that’s definitely a great start for us defensively, pretty much trying to pick up where we left off in the spring. Communication is always the key early on, and really trying to avoid the mishaps right here as far as miscommunication. I think the guys are doing an outstanding job, number one of communicating with one another, and as you can see, being out there flying around and getting to the football. So with that, I take your questions.”


How is the acclimation process going for you coming in with basically a holdover staff and just learning things as you go?

“I think that’s the key thing that you just said is having an open mind to learn. I’ve been around quite a bit. I’ve done a lot of different things, but it’s not my way it’s the 49ers’ way. So easy transition from the spring to now and just trying to continue to build onto the things that we’ve established in the spring.”


With DL Nick Bosa gone, is it helpful to get a chance to get a better look at some of those other guys who are jockeying positions around him?

“It is a long season and you’re always going to have guys step up and have to play. I go back and I look at the spring with the opportunity that those other corners had with [CB Charvarius] Mooney [Ward] not being here. He had an opportunity right now for [CB] Ambry [Thomas] to get better. He saw Demo [DB Deommodore Lenoir] progressing, getting better, so I agree totally. It’s a chance for [DL] Drake [Jackson]to step up along with [DL] Austin Bryant and a lot of other guys.”


What are you seeing from DT Javon Kinlaw?

Well from day one, I’ve been talking about Kinlaw and his progression. He stayed here all summer, dedicated himself as far as trying to continue to get his body right. Mentally, he’s in a great spot and just love the way he’s playing violent, hands up front, getting off the ball and the way he’s turning and running and getting to the football is amazing. I know [Head Coach] Kyle [Shanahan] showed one of the plays in the team meeting this morning with him just coming out of his stack, as we call it, and I’m just excited right now and just looking for him to have a great year.”


What makes DL Javon Hargrave difficult to block on pass plays?

“Pad level, very explosive, low center of gravity to the ground. He has a great quick first step coming off the ball. And he’s very powerful.”


Is there added energy on the defense when QB Brock Purdy is back?

“Well, I think it’s great energy across the board. We know what he can do. We know what he was able to establish last year, so guys feed off him. Just my perspective, I’ve seen all those guys progress and get better. Trey’s [QB Trey Lance] done a tremendous job back in the spring as well, but Purdy does bring a level of excitement.”


What did you see on the pass breakup play yesterday with S Talanoa Hufanga?

“Great read, good anticipation. We always teach those guys it’s not so much where the quarterback is looking, when he is dropping back it’s when he gets to the top of his drop. And he did a tremendous job, really reading the quarterback’s eyes, anticipating, had a great break, and also understanding the formation. So we always say the formation is talking to you, you got to listen with your eyes. It’s certain things that he saw pre-snap that gave him a jump on the ball.”


You mentioned trying to limit the number of explosive plays in the secondary. How is that working during practice and how it’s tying into the defense?

“It is tying together just everybody understanding that I’m going to make my play when the opportunity comes. That if they catch something inside and in front of us, it is not going to beat us. We got to line up and play again, but we can’t give up the big play. And we talked about that day one when we came back, the Miami game was something that I talked about and showed clips from last year, the first play of the game, 75 yards. So we weathered the storm there, but we want to make sure we’re not giving those up.”


S Ji’Ayir Brown got a first team rep and then he immediately came off the field. Are you doing that to give him specific looks against a specific alignment?

“Not so much that, we just got him in the rotation and really long term also trying to take some pressure off [S Tashaun] Gipson [Sr.], who’s a seasoned veteran. And we are looking at the long haul and making sure that he’s there at the end of the season. But also opportunity for those young guys to progress because again, at some point in time, we’re going to need him.”


How does having a veteran like Gipson in the safeties room help the group develop?

“Oh, it’s great. We had some veterans that left us that were great players for us. But with Gipson being there it’s been a tremendous boost for us. A guy that’s been around quite a bit, can really be that vocal piece, extension of the coach in that meeting room as well as the locker room. Huf, third year, but he’s progressing. He’s starting to learn and come along as well. So I like his leadership and the way he communicates out there.”


Is DB Isaiah Oliver becoming a group leader a goal for you as well?

“He does, because number one, he controls a lot based off formations and the communication that the nickel has to talk to the linebackers, particularly when we start getting motion and things that are changing. So we emphasized that the other day that he has to be vocal, he has to take control, and he’s done a tremendous job of that thus far.”


DL Arik Armstead has played outside at times and moved inside recently but do you see him playing some outside?

“He gives us that flexibility. I think the rotation that we have outside right now I think is pretty good, pretty deep, but you never want to get to the situation where injuries come up. It happens, but he gives you an opportunity to be able to go outside and play. Right now inside, man. I mean I probably have never been around a group like this on defense, particularly up front, the talent level that we have.”


Schematically, is he playing the three-technique basically?

“Yes. He plays three at times right there we can put him at the two-eye and the nose as well. But he’s pretty effective. We just have the three-technique.”


Armstead was saying yesterday that he’s not really a real overly vocal rah, rah guy. DL Nick Bosa is pretty lowkey and deadpan. DL Javon Hargrave is a really humble, hardworking guy. Is there a presence in there that is kind of the guy that stirs things up or I think Armstead said stirred up as the way we play. What do you see about the front seven besides the talent, how they carry themselves?

“That’s what I was ready to echo. I think the way they play speaks volumes. Our vocal guy is [LB] Fred [Warner], he’s going to get everybody going from the front and the back. So, the way those guys play up front speaks loud. So, I want them to continue to play hard, get off the ball and do the things that we’re asking them to do.”


What’s been your impression of just seeing Fred and that energy during the first two days of camp when things are maybe a little slow and he’s being that vocal leader?

“Again, he just brings the juice. I think it excites the defense. I go back and I think about a guy like [former NFL LB] Thomas Davis in Carolina, Fred’s that guy, very vocal, but also his play is phenomenal.”


You’ve mentioned that the guys up front are unique in terms of how they play, and that you haven’t really been around a group like that. You look at your past and other different stops, is there anybody that they remind you of in terms of a group?

“Well, I don’t like to compare, that’s the thing with me. I think these guys are unique. And when I say I haven’t been around a group like this, that’s what I mean, a group. I mean, we have depth, and it’s not when one guy comes out that you feel like, okay, we’re going to drop off. No, not at all. So, the depth that we have across the board, inside and out, man, that’s what I’m talking about. Never been around anything like this. So, we’ve done a tremendous job starting with [general manager] John [Lynch] and [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] building this roster and getting us the guys that we need to play and succeed with. So, I’m excited about that.”


Are you or any family members, members of the coaching staff that you know of pretty jacked up for Taylor Swift?

“Well, I would say this my wife was pretty upset because she’s back in North Carolina right now, so she was pretty upset, the mere fact that she wasn’t going to be able to go to the concert. So, she thought about flying out here and yeah, so I’m not a real big fan, but she was definitely upset about it.”