Steve Wilks

Lynch confident Wilks still has ‘what it takes' to lead 49ers' defense

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The 49ers have plenty to think after entering the bye week on a shocking losing streak, and one glaring issue over their three straight losses has been an underperforming defensive unit coached by first-year San Francisco coordinator Steve Wilks.

Despite the defense's recent struggles -- and increased scrutiny aimed at Wilks -- 49ers general manager John Lynch remains confident in the team's offseason hire.

"I keep saying it -- we have a ton of belief. There's a reason we picked Steve Wilks," Lynch told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on "The TK Show" podcast. "I think he's got what it takes. We obviously all have to show that. I know the players believe in Steve, and you can hear that in a lot of their comments and the way they feel, and that it's on them.

"It's incumbent upon them to play better so that everyone feels a little better."

Lynch told Kawakami the 49ers' defense has refocused on finding its identity during the bye week. Following San Francisco's third consecutive loss at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8, 49ers defenders put the onus on themselves to improve and refused to place any of the blame on Wilks.

Wilks is the first outside hire for defensive coordinator under coach Kyle Shanahan and Lynch, and the GM admitted their previous DC, DeMeco Ryans, was hard to replace after coming up through the 49ers' system and achieving sustained success just like Robert Saleh before him.

But even Ryans and Saleh went through their struggles with the 49ers, and San Francisco hired Wilks, formerly of the Carolina Panthers, because of his longevity in the NFL.

"He was very knowledgeable on the entirety of defense because he's been a coordinator for a long time, and he's been around the league for a long time" Lynch told Kawakami of the 17-year NFL coaching veteran. "Although [the secondary] is his expertise and we were excited about him putting his imprint on that, now it's just truly tying it all together.

"And you know, I really do believe that will come."

With a Week 10 matchup in Jacksonville against the Jaguars looming, the 49ers, at 5-3, need to get back on track. An adjustment from Wilks will play a major part in that, and it's clear Lynch has faith his DC will deliver.

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