49ers Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Remains Unfazed Amid Criticism
Wilks Makes Small Change to Game-Day Routine in Effort to Improve Defense
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Despite the San Francisco 49ers’ recent defensive struggles, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks remains unfazed by the criticism that has come his way. Wilks, who is in his first year with the team, expressed confidence in himself and his players, stating that he is “built for this” and has seen it all during his 17-year NFL coaching career.
In an effort to turn things around and recapture the defensive prowess that propelled the Niners to a 5-0 start, Wilks will be making a small change to his game-day routine. Head coach Kyle Shanahan announced that Wilks will now be calling the defense from the sideline instead of the coaches’ booth, a decision made after discussions between Shanahan and Wilks during the team’s bye week.
While Wilks doesn’t view the change as dramatic, he believes it will allow him to have more direct communication with his players during games. Previously, Wilks would relay the defensive playcall to linebackers coach Johnny Holland on the sideline, who would then pass it on to linebacker Fred Warner and the rest of the defensive huddle. With the new setup, Wilks can now directly call plays to Warner and have real-time conversations with his players, gaining valuable feedback and making adjustments on the fly.
“I want to talk to all the guys,” Wilks said. “I have certain thoughts going through my mind as I’m calling plays and looking at the game. Now, I can go right over to the D-line and say, ‘I’m looking to change this up next series.’ It’s just a little more dialogue coming directly from me.”
Wilks had initially chosen to work from the coaches’ booth at the start of the season, citing a tendency to become too emotional when he was around the players. However, he dismissed the notion that his group needed an injection of energy, stating that they all feed off each other.
The 49ers’ defense started the season strong, ranking first in points allowed per game, third in yards allowed per game, and fifth in defensive expected points added through the first five games. However, in the three games that followed, their rankings dropped significantly, highlighting their struggles to stop the run, generate consistent pressure on the quarterback, and tackle effectively.
Linebacker Fred Warner emphasized that the blame for the defensive struggles falls on everyone and that the fixes will require a collective effort. He stressed the importance of getting back to their style of play, which involves swarming to the football, imposing their will, and dictating on the defensive side.
“We’ve always been known for our aggressive and dominant defense,” Warner said. “In the last three weeks, we’ve lacked that. We’re all taking a hard look in the mirror and focusing on what we can do better, starting this week.”