SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Steve Wilks has ‘moved on’ from Steelers ahead of Week 2 vs. Rams

Sep 14, 2023, 6:49 PM | Updated: Sep 15, 2023, 9:26 am

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks of the San Francisco 49ers talks to the defense in the locker roo...

Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers may have dominated Week 1 of the 2023 season, but according to Steve Wilks, that’s a thing of the past.

The new defensive coordinator for the Red & Gold started off his weekly press conference with opening remarks, stating that while the performance in Pittsburgh was a great start, they’ve turned the page to Week 2’s opponent: The Los Angeles Rams.

“I know some of you guys are going to have questions about that. To be quite honest, I’ve moved on because nothing last week is going to be able to help us this week,” Steve Wilks said to the media Thursday.

Now fully locked in on Week 2, Wilks is looking to have his defense lock down the Rams’ surprising offense from Week 1. And that starts with quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Stafford still has some juice left at age 35, throwing for 334 yards en route to a win over the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams also have young, speedy wideouts that cause fits for opposing defenses. But in order to stop them, you first have to stop Stafford.

“Well, I think it all starts with Stafford,” Wilks stated. “Of course [Cooper] Kupp is out, but as you mentioned, they have capable receivers that can get the job done. And they did a great job last week, as you mentioned, controlling, running the football more than they have shown in the past. I think he did an excellent job as far as putting the ball where it needed to be…So, it’s not so much about really trying to defend certain guys, it’s more about the quarterback and what we can do with him.”

On paper, the 49ers are heavy favorites to walk out of SoFi Stadium with the win Sunday. But, the visitors have to be careful, especially with head coach Sean McVay still at the helm.

The Rams are crafty on offense, using a lot of motion and misdirection to keep the secondary at bay. Wilks is prepared for the “window dressing” though, seeing it as an advantage for his unit to hide their coverages as well.

“I don’t think it’s so much of a challenge. I think it’s maybe more of a benefit from them to the point to where you’re exactly right. They’re trying to avoid contact. So, they put guys in positions so they can get free releases, but from the standpoint of us, we can change things around based off our coverage and even our alignment. So, I don’t think it’s a big advantage,” Steve Wilks explained.

It also helps that the defensive line got to the quarterback, doing so consistently in Week 1.

While the 49ers have A-listers in the trenches, it was second-year standout Drake Jackson who led the charge with three sacks. The defensive end struggled to stay on the field last season, being listed as inactive in the postseason.

Now in year two, the USC product has evolved, just now showing the hard work he put in over the summer.

“I was very impressed and you guys know from day one back in the spring, I’ve been talking about him and his commitment to the offseason in the weight room,” Wilks said. “He’s gotten bigger. He has gotten stronger. He stayed around here the whole time. So that first game was just really the fruits of his labor.”

San Francisco does have the cream of the crop at middle linebacker, with Fred Warner commanding Wilks’ unit to perfection.

“He does a great job with his film study. He can anticipate and know exactly what’s coming,” Syve Wilks said about Warner. “So, I definitely give him all the credit. He’s definitely a smart guy and as I said before, he communicates, calls things out pre-snap, which really affects and helps everybody around him.”

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