Steve Wilks

Wilks voices confidence in veteran 49ers DBs Verrett, Ryan

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The 49ers' secondary has evolved over the course of the 2023 NFL campaign, with two in-season additions slated to have a major role on the back end of San Francisco's defense as the team makes a push toward the playoffs.

While speaking to reporters on Thursday, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks praised veteran safety Logan Ryan, who signed with the team earlier this month following a barrage of injuries on the back end of the 49ers' defense.

"Logan has done a great job," Wilks told reporters. "I was excited when we got him. I knew at some point in time that he was going to do a great job in stepping in for us. His leadership there, and I talked to Fred [Warner] about this coming off the field yesterday, and I was like, 'Did you feel and see Logan?' He's like, 'Yeah, man, he talks.' And that's the great sign of a safety. His ability to communicate, particularly when you've got a new guy in there, and he's stepping up and doing those things. So, I like his presence. He has skin on the wall, as I call it. He's been around the league for a while, played in a couple Super Bowls, so he understands the magnitude of where we are at this time of the year."

When asked about Ryan's willingness to contribute on special teams, Wilks revealed that the two-time Super Bowl champion seamlessly fits the selfless culture the 49ers have cultivated.

"Team player. Committed," Wilks shared. "Then also understanding it is the standard here. We always talk about many parts, one body of work. Nobody's bigger than the actual cause. So, guys come in and they adapt to how we do things, and that's what he's done. So, again, I like him a lot as a player and as a person."

During Monday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, cornerback Jason Verrett played all five of his snaps in the slot. Wilks revealed why he opted to go with the veteran over a handful of younger players who have been on the team all season, hinting that Verrett could see an increased workload as the season progresses.

"Consistency with all our guys," Wilks said. "A lot, too, goes into special teams, in regards to him being up and not being up. We wanted to give Verrett an opportunity and a chance to be able to get his feet wet, try to get back into the flow of things and seeing if he can be one of those guys that I think that can help us down the stretch here as we progress toward the playoffs."

Wilks also revealed that he was encouraged by what he saw from Verrett's limited sample size in Monday's game against the Ravens.

"I thought he worked within the defense," Wilks explained. I thought his technique was good. On that one particular play, I felt like we teach chest to chest, particularly when you get in the end zone, you can't turn away from the receiver, and that's what he did and he lost him in that split second when the ball was being thrown. So, definitely something that's correctable and coachable."

When asked if he views Verrett as a slot corner moving forward, Wilks confirmed that is the plan for the Pro Bowl cornerback.

"Right now, yes," Wilks revealed. "Just for the mere fact, again, I feel very confident in Luter, and you mentioned [Samuel Womack] as well. So, I feel like we have some players out there that we can stack a little bit. To me, it's always that ability, if something happens with [Deommodore Lenoir] and then [Isaiah] Oliver, who's that third guy."

While San Francisco's defensive identity typically ties to the front four, the work the 49ers'secondary has done this season has been noteworthy. The 49ers rank 5th in the NFL in net passing yards allowed per attempt, with their ball-hawking secondary leading the league in interceptions with 19.

San Francisco's secondary should see plenty of action in Sunday's matchup with the Washington Commanders' offense that leads the NFL with 580 passing attempts this season.

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