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Steve Wilks details his coaching style and goals for the 49ers defense in 2023

Wilks wants his defense to generate more turnovers and also allow fewer explosive plays

Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The 49ers stout defense added the clear number-one free-agent target in Javon Hargrave to improve the overall unit. The other addition was Steve Wilks, who took over for DeMeco Ryans as defensive coordinator. Wilks is known as a defensive back specialist, and following yesterday’s mini-camp session, Wilks detailed his coaching style and goals for 2023:

I’ve seen you on the practice field, you’re communicating with your DBs almost after every play? Is that kind of the way you’re coaching kind of through the back end, or is that just kind of we’re just seeing it today?

“I coach through the backend because that’s really my expertise, so I see certain things back there and I try to make coaching points on the run just to try to get those guys to self-correct themselves because there’s times, of course, during the game, you can’t get to them, so you just want them to be able to think about what’s just happened and then hit the reset button and get ready for the next play.”

You sort of told us last week that when you two talked prior to you taking the job, that it was pretty apparent to him really that you guys saw things in a very similar way. What do you mean by that?

“I think you go against these guys, you see them on tape, you got the crossover film and those kinds of things, and sometimes you really don’t understand the teaching behind it. Okay, the wide nines and those kinds of things, what we may be doing up front, but once I was able to get here and understand how detailed he coaches everything, it fits into my philosophy and the things that I believe in, so we’re on the same page. As a defensive guy and running things from the back to the front. I emphasize every meeting, pointing out things up front just to let those guys understand and know that it’s not just lip service. Everything we do starts up front and I want those guys to understand that.”

You probably watched last year’s defense with Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans, how is the backend? Do you think anything is going to look different to us this year?

“Well, number one, one of our goals we talked about trying to lead the league in the least explosive plays. I think we gave up too many last year, so hopefully you don’t see that, the fastest and quickest way to win a game is through the air. As great as those guys may be playing up front, we have to make sure we secure things on the backend. We don’t want to give up explosive plays, that’s number one. And two, we have to make more plays on the football, interceptions, and then find a way to get in the end zone with those.”

It is fair to expect the 49ers’ secondary unit to improve under Wilks’ supervision. During last season, the 49ers gave up some big plays through the air and Wilks is determined to limit those plays. This is good news for the younger members of the secondary and the overall defense.