The San Francisco 49ers are making a move with their defensive coordinator.
Steve Wilks will go from the booth to the field this week when the Niners return from their bye week in hopes of providing a spark to a defense that struggled during a three-game losing streak.
“We’re going to put him on the field this week,” coach Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday. “Something we’ve talked about for a little bit. I think there’s pluses to it and minuses to it, but we’ll see what we like about this week.”
After a fast start to the season defensively in their first season with Wilks as coordinator, the 49ers (5-3) struggled in recent weeks, leading to the decision for Wilks to move down to the field for Sunday’s game at Jacksonville.
San Francisco ranked first in points allowed (13.6 per game), second in passer rating allowed (70.9) and third in yards per play allowed (4.43) during a five-game winning streak to open the season.
Those numbers took a big drop during the three-game losing streak with the Niners ranking 24th in points allowed (24 per game), 25th in passer rating allowed (98.7) and 30th in yards per play allowed (5.99).
Those struggles led to the decision to mix things up and put Wilks on the field where his successful predecessors DeMeco Ryans and Robert Saleh operated the past six seasons.
That will allow Wilks to communicate the playcalls and other information directly to linebacker Fred Warner instead of having linebackers coach Johnny Holland take the call from Wilks and relay it to Warner.
“That’s fresh news to me,” Warner said. “But I think it’ll be a flawless transition honestly. Whether it will be him giving the calls or staying with Johnny, having him down there connected with us on the field is going to be great.
“I think more so than anything, I think he just wanted to be down there as our leader of the group, just to be down there and make adjustments on the fly when need be. Just being down there with us, looking us in our eye when he’s down there and little benefit to that.”
Wilks said in the spring he prefers working from the press box because he can get overly excited when he’s on the field.
Shanahan spent most of his time as an offensive coordinator on the field but did spend one year in the box. He said there are pluses and minuses to both but figured a change was best right now.
“Just because of some of the stuff you do in the box, all the advantages to it, which are great, but I kind of want him to be down and be near our players a little bit,” Shanahan said. “They’ve had that more just with the linebacker communication in the past. I want him to be down there so he can talk to guys a little bit more.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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