Steve Wilks

Wilks foresees 49ers' star-studded D-line taking another leap

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SANTA CLARA — The 49ers' defense is ranked near the top of the NFL in most defensive metrics but is tied for 15th with eight quarterback sacks through three weeks.

While the focus this week is on the Arizona Cardinals, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks still is excited about the long-term future of his group, knowing they are capable of much more. 

“The potential that this unit has, not just up front at the D-line but as a unit, the sky is the limit,” Wilks said on Thursday.

After the club’s Week 3 win over the New York Giants, Nick Bosa shared that as a group, the defensive front had their best game yet in terms of winning rushes and pressuring the quarterback. Per PFF, the unit racked up 23 pressures facing against the Giants. Through three contests, they boast the top pass rush grade in the league (91.0).

Wilks agrees with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but believes the group still has so much more room to improve. The defensive coach is certain that while the talent level in Santa Clara is unquestionable, there is another element that separates them from the rest of the league.

“I’ve never been around an elite group like this before,” Wilks said. “And it’s not just so much the talent, it’s how we work. These guys grind every day. Walk through, they are locked in and focused. Everything is about details.

“That’s the difference that this locker room has. I’ve been doing it for a long time. There’s a lot of talent around the league but nobody is a stickler for the details as we are here.” 

On Sunday, the 49ers will face an Arizona Cardinals team that racked up 222 yards rushing in Week 3 -- 55 of those recorded by quarterback Josh Dobbs. Wilks was adamant the club is not taking its next contest lightly, knowing that their divisional opponent's 1-2 record does not matter.

“After watching their tape, impressed with every facet of their offense,” Wilks said. “When it comes to running the football, they do it well. A lot of respect for [James] Conner. Respected him when he was with the Steelers and he’s still running the ball hard.”

Wilks and his group has their work cut out in order to stop the Cardinals on the ground and force opportunities for Bosa and company to show more of their ability to puss rush.

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