Steve Wilks is looking to add to the 49ers’ past success in 2023

May 12, 2023, 2:02 PM | Updated: May 15, 2023, 9:58 am

Head coach Steve Wilks of the Carolina Panthers looks on during the second half of the game against...

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Steve Wilks of the Carolina Panthers looks on during the second half of the game against the Denver Broncos at Bank of America Stadium on November 27, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Although he’s only been in the Bay Area for a few months, 49ers’ defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has been impressed with his new team.

Wilks spoke to the media for the first time as a member of the 49ers Friday, breaking down what he is looking for from his unit in 2023. After the Red & Gold ranked at the top of the league defensively in 2022, Wilks understands that they don’t have to change much to repeat in 2023. But while the philosophy will stay the same, he’ll look to only improve on the current scheme with his own style and flair.

“I think you have to embrace the success that they’ve had here. I think it is a foundation that we all agree we wanted to keep,” Steve Wilks said to the media Friday. “I think it is an opportunity as we go through the process, which we already have, to try to tweak things a little bit. I still think there’s room for improvement. If you talk to the players, they would tell you the same, so when it’s not broke, you don’t really want to try to fix it.”

One of the reasons for the vote of continuity across regimes is the work ethic set by the players each day.

The 49ers began phase one of the offseason program in April, slowly working the roster back up to game-ready levels by the end of training camp in August. What’s stood out to Wilks leading into OTAs at the end of May is the standard that is set at practice, with every player giving their all from the jump.

And that all starts with reigning defensive player of the year Nick Bosa.

“The work ethic that [Bosa] has, most importantly, is just across the board. The standard is set here. These guys work extremely hard and I’m so impressed of just watching those guys work even in phase one. I would just watch the individual period every day and just see how they work at all three levels of the defense and Bosa is a leader of that. He exemplifies that each and every day,” Wilks explained.

The North Carolina native has also seen that work ethic carry over into struggling defensive line prospects Javon Kinlaw and Drake Jackson.

Both Jackson and Kinalw are coming off a 2022 season full of inconstant play. The former struggled to stay in the rotation in his rookie season, while the latter struggled to stay healthy with lingering knee problems. Despite what has happened in the past, Steve Wilks is excited by what he’s seen from both players, especially Kinlaw.

“Kinlaw has just been tremendous since I’ve been here,” Wilks exclaimed about the South Carolina alum. “The day that I came in on my interview, he was here working out. He has not missed a day of offseason training, so I’m excited to see exactly where he’s going to be.”

Wilks is in a similar mindset with Jackson, looking for the second-year USC alum to become more consistent on the field in 2023. Tasked with putting on more muscle in the offseason, Jackson has done that, and the results thus far have shown up under defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.

“The same thing with Drake [Jackson]. Drake has been here all spring working out, doing the things that he needs to do to improve his game. He’s gained a lot of weight, he’s in there with Kocurek and I’m just excited to see exactly what he’s going to do and how he’s going to progress in his second year,” Steve Wilks added.

Equipped with elite-level talent and prospects, the veteran coach hopes to have another successful playoff run with the 49ers. After missing out on the head coach position with the Panthers, Wilks is happy to find his footing in the Bay.

Don’t get it twisted though, as leading roles in the NFL will likely emerge for him in the coming years, just like they did for former DC DeMeco Ryans. But for now, the 53-year-old coordinator is in the moment, concentrated on bringing a championship defense to the 49ers Faithful.

“I think that’s the key to everything that you do. You can have the talent and the skill set, but you need players, you need an organization that’s committed. You need a coach, a head coach and a GM that’s aligned with one another. And when the opportunity came when I got the phone call, this was a perfect fit for me,” Steve Wilks stated.

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Steve Wilks is looking to add to the 49ers’ past success in 2023