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Steve Wilks names 4 defensive standouts from the win over the Broncos

A pair of rookies made the list, as did a couple of defensive linemen.

Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and the Niners staff have just over a week to decide which defenders who are currently in a positional battle have done enough during training camp and the preseason to make the final (initial) 53-man roster.

He hasn’t had the services of Nick Bosa yet, and Wilks doesn’t intend to ask about when he’ll have the services of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year: “Out of my pay grade. Not in my pay grade, so I don’t bring it up.”

Wilks gets paid to evaluate talent and put the players in the best possible position for them to succeed and excel in his scheme. During the regular season, teams usually play anywhere from 18-20 players on defense. That number ramps up in the preseason, as you’re playing your second and third-string. Against the Broncos, the 49ers used 33 different defenders.

So, Wilks has plenty of standouts to choose from. Here’s who stood out to the Niners new defensive coordinator against Denver on Saturday night:

“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.”

Brown saved the day toward the end of the half. Brown is a heedy player in zone coverage, specifically when he’s playing over the intermediate portion of the field. Pair Brown’s instincts with his hustle, and it’ll be difficult to keep the rookie off the field.

Fans will love hearing another rookie in Jalen Graham being called out. I noticed during Week 1 of the preseason that Marcelino McCrary-Ball had to get Graham lined up on a couple of occasions. So, it’s refreshing that he resolved those issues so quickly. That tells you the seventh rounder is taking to coaching.

Graham did miss a tackle, but it’s tough to ignore his physicality, which fits right into the 49ers culture.

Javon Hargrave had an early win, as did Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell. Adding in McGill and Davidson is another feather in the cap for defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who could seemingly get production out of anybody.