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The 49ers are one of two undefeated teams in the NFL. The offense averages over 30 points per game, while the defense has allowed 14.5 points per game. Still, there is a growing discussion about first-year defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and the defense. Wilks is in his first season after a stay in Carolina in 2022. Replacing beloved coordinator DeMeco Ryans was one of the question marks heading into 2023.
The 49ers defense has allowed 264 rushing yards (66.0 per game), 873 passing yards (218.2 per game) and 284.2 yards per game. They have generated 97 pressures, 19 QB hits, 69 QB hurries, and are ranked ninth in the NFL with a 50 percent pass rush win rate, per ESPN. The discussion is around the lack of sacks for the defensive line, and that number sits at nine. The defense also has five interceptions.
The concern comes with what many describe as “soft coverage” in the secondary. The Week 2 matchup with the Rams highlighted some issues that could be exploited if the pass rush isn’t getting home. The 49ers adjusted in the second half and left with a victory.
But is it an issue? Or is it Wilks’ style of coverage? Let’s take a more in-depth look into Wilks and his coverage tendencies.
Last season, as the defensive coordinator/interim head coach in Carolina, the Panthers defense played zone coverage 64 percent of the time (5th in the NFL) with a 45 percent success rate (12th in the NFL). The defense was in man coverage 21 percent of the time (28th in the NFL), and the split between the two was 79/15 in favor of zone.
The majority of the zone coverage was MOFC (single high safety looks, either Cover 1 or 3) at 46 percent over MOFO (two high safety looks, Cover 2 or quarters) at 39 percent. That ranked 18th and 17th in the NFL, respectively.
Wilks’ defense also blitzed 31 percent of the time, which was good for ninth-best in the league.
This season for the 49ers, Wilks’ defense is in zone 67 percent of the time against 24 percent in man coverage. The difference is in the MOFO vs. MOFC numbers. The numbers favor MOFO 48 percent (7th in the NFL) to 43 percent (22nd in the NFL).
Another big difference is the blitz rate, the number is down to 22 percent (21st in the NFL), with a four-man rush being used 77 percent of the time (9th in the NFL). The blitz has seen a success rate of 37 percent, and that’s good for fourth in the league.
Coordinators have to play to their players’ strengths. Wilks likes to employ zone coverages but understands that his front four can generate pressure without losing a player on the back end to help. This likely wasn’t the case in Carolina.
The sacks are coming, this line is too talented to not get home and finish plays. Once the sacks start to pile up, the coverage will look better.
The question is: are you happy with Steve Wilks after four games?
Are you happy with Steve Wilks after four games?
This poll is closed