San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks told the media Thursday afternoon that he “couldn’t be more proud” of his defense and how they performed in Week 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Wilks was asked three questions about coaching from the sideline. He explained what he can get out of being around the players in-game:
How did it feel being down on the field to the game?
“It was fine. I enjoyed the interaction with the players. I think, in that regard, it was good to be able to look in their eyes and communicate and create some clarity in my thoughts moving to the next series.”
Is that the main reason you guys gave up three points and forced four takeaways?
“Believe me, that wasn’t nowhere near the reason why. We got good players and me being down on the sideline had nothing to do with it. I was just really excited once again how they responded. I’m not living in the past. I felt like we were a little tired and we needed that Bye, and you could see when we came back on that Monday that they were fresh with their legs. The attitude was completely different. We played to our standard this past week, and we got to be consistent moving forward.”
All the years you’ve been doing this, how many years have you actually spent upstairs versus on the sideline and what is the advantage of being on the sideline?
“Again, I was in the box in Carolina. I was on the field in Cleveland. I think the advantage is just that direct communication with the players. Where I thought our communication was great with the coaches, but being able to talk to each position group and hear their thoughts, tell them my thoughts, it just projects how I think the next series as far as calling in the game.”
It’ll be tough for Wilks to go back to the coaching booth after last Sunday’s results.
I’d take it a step further and say something as simple as Javon Hargrave seeing his defensive coordinator use his hands to make the circle — that’s the beginning of Hargrave’s sack dance — as he’s coming off the field to celebrate goes a long way. So, not only communication, but Wilks’ energy is another trait the defense needs to feed off.
As for the trio of cornerbacks, Wilks explained what he liked from Ambry Thomas, which made it sound why Thomas will be on the field for the foreseeable future:
Can you talk about CB Ambry Thomas and what can you do differently with him on the field as opposed to CB Isaiah Oliver?
“I like Ambry. I thought Ambry did some great things in preseason. And also, just to speak on Oliver, Oliver, I thought has helped us win a lot of football games early on. He’s going to continue to help us win games. This league is all about, each week is matchups and different things. So I felt that [CB] Demo [Deommodore Lenoir] played well inside. Ambry just brings a different element when he can play outside. I love his man-to-man technique. I think he’s quick in and out of his breaks and he’s physical. He steps up and he tackles, and I love the way he took the ball away in plus territory when those guys had three points, we took points off the board.”
There’s no doubt that Thomas’s change of direction was a noticeable difference. Also, when you’re a “plus” athlete like Thomas is, you can afford to be more patient since you have the recovery speed in case you get beat. That’s not the case for a player like Oliver or Lenoir.
The 49ers will need another competitive performance from Thomas against Tampa Bay in Week 11. He’ll likely be targeted early and often against Mike Evans. Here’s how Wilks described Evans, who he faced several times from his time in Carolina:
“Probably one of the best in the league. He can run every route on the route tree. He can run by you.
It is tough, big body guy. You try to sit here, and you press him, he’s going to muscle you at the line of scrimmage, you play off, very deceptive speed, he’s going to run by you. So again, we got to mix things up, from a standpoint of man-zone, getting our hands on these receivers and just try really trying to be physical.”