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Steve Wilks talks defense ahead of 49ers-Chargers preseason finale

Aug 21, 2023 at 4:07 PM--

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San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks spoke with reporters after Monday's practice. The team is preparing for its preseason finale against the Los Angeles Chargers. Here is everything he had to say.

Transcript provided by the San Francisco 49ers Communications staff.

Opening comments:

"Start out by saying, man, it was great to get a win on Saturday. To see the guys bounce back. One thing we never questioned is our physicality and our effort. We felt like we had better execution on Saturday. Still some things we need to improve on, need to work on, but very pleased of how we started the game with our starters and then most importantly, how we finish with the backup guys. And with that, I'll take your questions."

Who were your standouts from Saturday's game?

"I think upfront when you look at across the board with the starters playing, when they left out you saw [DL] T.Y. [McGill]. I thought he did a tremendous job doing some things. He had a sack, [DL] Marlon [Davidson] had a sack coming off the ball. They hit us with a lot of permanent screens. And to see those guys retrace, as we call them stack monsters, come out of the pile and make plays with the perimeter, trying to force it back inside I thought was very pleasing. And that's our style of play. Middle linebacker [LB] Jalen [Graham] continued to stand out for us. He's doing a great job playing the MIKE, great job communicating, getting everybody aligned. The physicality continued to show up each and every week playing downhill. And then on the outside, I think you've got to continue to look at [S] Ji'Ayir Brown. I think he made a critical play with A.T. [CB Ambry Thomas] biting on the double move, giving us an opportunity and chance right there to line up and play again. Of course, they couldn't get the snap off. So that was a big play of the game."

Did Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson look different this year to you than what you saw last year? I know he's lighter.

"I think he's still, again, another offense, just trying to learn the system. I still think he has a lot in the tank. I still think he's a game changer. You saw that with the early third down mishap on our part, not standing our rush lanes. He was able to escape and use his feet. So, he didn't play long. Neither did our ones. But I still think he has some juice in the tank."

Where does the competition stand for your nickelback position?

"It is open just like every other position. I'm very pleased with where we are. And just to indulge a little bit of information and don't get in the habit of listening to this or thinking that I'm going to do this every time, but we're very pleased with where [CB Isaiah] Oliver is. We brought him in for a reason. This league's all about matchups. I've never been a part of anything like this to have this kind of depth. I've been on teams where we're waiting to see exactly the last preseason game of who gets cut and everybody's looking at this particular team trying to pull from. So, to have the options that we have, not only at the nickel position, but across the board, linebacker as well as D-Line is a luxury. And again, with the matchups that we're going to face, Oliver's going to be in there. [DB Deommodore Lenoir] Demo may be in there based off who we're playing. We continue to just try to find a perfect mix. So, I think that's the key thing. And that's the reason why you saw Demo in there last week."

How did he look? He looked like he had like five or six snaps in there.

"Looked pretty good. Looked good all week during practice. Very natural in there. Great vision, understands concepts. And most importantly, he gives you that ability to be able to still match up in the slot with quicker receivers."

How's CB Samuel Womack III looking outside to you? He almost had a chance at a pick-six?

"Very disappointed he didn't get that one. Particularly with the next play being what it was. But, we've got to take advantage of those opportunities. I think he's playing well. He had some critical plays in the run game, stepping up, making some good tackles. So, I'm excited where he is. But most important right here, he needs to take advantage of those opportunities."

What have you seen out of DL Javon Hargrave this camp? Last game he had a nice tackle on Russell Wilson and stopped him short of the first down. So just how has he come along?

"I think he's everything that we saw on tape, everything that he's been in this league the last couple of years. Dominant force up front. It's going to be hard for them to single block him. I think he probably had double-digit sacks last year inside. So, I'm looking forward to him being at that force inside. He did make a critical tackle right there when Russell stepped up again. He was one of the guys that I talked about on the perimeter screens coming out of there, making another good play as well as T.Y. So, very pleased with where he is right now and how he's playing."

How often do you ask about Bosa?

"Out of my pay grade. Not in my pay grade, so I don't bring it up."

Are there things he's missing that would be helpful that you would like to get him in there for? Or is it as easy as just kind of plug and play when he gets back?

"I think, you guys have been around here longer than I have and I've seen it from afar, but I think he'll be fine when he gets here."

When you say you're pleased with Oliver. Wouldn't you like a nickel corner to be able to just handle big, small and just handle that position regardless of who's there?

"Think about the league and how it's made up. It is no utopia. So, for us to be able to have balance right there is critical. I wouldn't put Demo on a tight end. We may want to go nickel with 12 personnel. I'm not going to put Demo on the tight end. Oliver's going to be on that other tight end. There's going to be certain matchups in the slot right there based off who that guy may be. I'm not going to put Oliver in that situation. Demo may be that guy. So, there's teams that don't have this flexibility. I think it's a luxury."

He probably didn't have his best game against the Raiders and did miss a tackle against the Broncos. Are there things he needs to clean up?

"I think Saturday, we all missed a lot of tackles. I know you're going back to the Raiders game, but that's something that we all need to improve on. He did have a critical one on that third-down play, but tackling is something that we emphasize, we talk about. We've got to continue to work it as coaches and continue to make sure that we improve on that. First week of the season, that's what you're going to see. A lot of fundamentals and technique is the reason why teams lose the football game. We've got to do a great job with our fundamentals and we've got to do a great job communicating and make sure that everybody's on the same page."

DL Kalia Davis was back at practice today. What have your impressions been of him? I know he hasn't practiced a lot.

"Going back to when he was in there, I thought he was doing a great job. Again, it's a lot of competition inside. I know we talk about Hargrave, we talk about [DL] Arik [Armstead], but I feel very confident when [DL Javon] Kinlaw and [DL] Kevin Givens come in the game that we are not missing a beat. K.D.'s done a great job as well. He had a couple plays in practice today. So it's good to see him back out there."

DL Drake Jackson had a play today. Did it kind of show what he can do athletically from the pick from QB Brock Purdy? I know he missed a little bit of time with a nick of some kind, but have you seen the steady progress from him you want to see?

"I saw it all offseason. Saw it during the summer when he was here, dedicating himself to be here all summer. And unfortunately, he did get nicked a little bit, but he's back. That's just a hell of a play that he made today in practice, as you mentioned. Just his athleticism and his length allows him to be able to do things like that."

Kinlaw has talked about his pad level. Coaches have talked about his pad level. Where is he as far as getting that right?

"Well, number one you like for players to be able to self-correct themselves and see where they need to improve. So, kudos to him on that. He's a tall, massive man, so pad level is something [defensive line coach Kris] Kocurek emphasizing talks about all the time. You see them in individual period working on that. So, I see the improvement. Got to have the consistency."

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