Steve Wilks

Arik Armstead sees benefit of Steve Wilks moving to 49ers' sideline

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SANTA CLARA — The decision has been made for 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks to leave the comforts of the coaches' booth to the at-times-chaotic environment of the sideline.

Wilks has said he believes calling a game from the box is more convenient. But coach Kyle Shanahan advised Wilks that perhaps more can be gained from being close to the players during the course of a game.

Defensive tackle Arik Armstead, one of the 49ers’ captains, has seen the benefits from his experiences with former 49ers defensive coordinators Robert Saleh and DeMeco Ryans.

“I think in the past, me personally and I’ve seen other people communicating with Saleh and DeMeco,” Armstead said on 49ers Talk. “That has been helpful at times.”

Wilks has a history of coaching the secondary, so Armstead understands why Wilks might have wanted an overhead view of the field.

“I know coach Wilks comes from the back end, defensive backs, and I’m sure it’s great for him to be able to see the full picture on the back end, coverage-wise and stuff like that,” Armstead said.

The plan calls for Wilks to be on the sideline for the 49ers’ Week 10 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

And Armstead believes this is an opportunity for the players to have more input during the flow of the game.

“I think it would be great to see how it goes, so we could have more communication and talk to the leader of our defense,” Armstead said. “Even up front and at all levels of the defense, we can have better lines of communication. I can communicate what I’m seeing from the O-line and things that can be helpful.”

Wilks, in his first season as 49ers defensive coordinator, has come under scrutiny as the 49ers went into the bye week on a three-game losing streak.

In back-to-back games against Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow, the 49ers’ defense allowed 63 completions on 80 pass attempts (79 percent) for 661 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.

Moreover, the 49ers registered only three sacks in those two games and were not great against the run, either.

Armstead said he believes it will take a little time to get things back to where they’ve been in the past. And he pointed out that there were calls for Saleh’s head, too, after his first couple of seasons as defensive coordinator. Eventually, he and Ryans parlayed their successes with the 49ers into head-coaching jobs with the New York Jets and Houston Texans, respectively.

“If you look back at the history, people weren’t too hot on Saleh, people weren’t too hot on DeMeco when he first started,” Armstead said. “And you look at where we got, we’ve been a top-five defense ever since 2019, and we’re still that now.

“Our goal is to be No. 1, and we’re going to put the work in to get there. It takes a little bit of time sometimes, but you have to continue to grind, believe in each other and figure out ways to better yourself.”

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