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Steve Wilks Q&A

Posted Jan 13, 2017

New defensive coordinator talks about taking over play-calling responsibilities and his unique stamp on the defense.

On the benefits of already knowing the players so well: “I think it’s a huge plus. It’s about relationships. One of the things I would say is that it’s easy to develop a player when you’re taking time to develop the person. I understand the dynamics of that (defensive) room. I not only know the DBs, I know the linebackers, I know the D-line because I interact with those guys on a personal level. You know when certain guys are feeling a certain way and you know how to go over and communicate to them and get those guys ready to perform. I have an advantage there because I have been in-house and I know the personnel.”

On transition to play-calling: “In preseason, I called plays the last game against Pittsburgh. We did that every year, and there were times in practice too where Sean (McDermott) would tell me ahead of time, ‘OK, you’re going to call it today.’ So I’ve had that experience at this level, and of course on the college level as a coordinator.

“You prepare yourself throughout the season and now too as far as going back, watching cut-ups and seeing certain things that have happened in the past and formulating calls. Everything is situational football, so whether it’s third down, two-minute or red zone, you’ve already studied it – same thing with personnel.”

On where he’ll be on game day: “My first year, I’m going to do it from up top. I know a lot of guys do it from the field, but I want to be up there so I can see things and get ready for the next call, away from the sideline with all the emotion and hoopla. I’ll be focused and locked in.

“You miss the aspect of being able to look into the guys’ eyes and see exactly how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking, but that’s where trust in your coaches and communication between the booth and the sideline comes in. So on the whole, being up in the booth is more conducive for me.”

On what his stamp on the defense will be: “Something that’s part of my nature, part of my demeanor is that we’re going to be aggressive. I’m talking about being aggressive in everything we do – from the meetings and how we learn material to our walkthroughs and of course on the field. My biggest thing is that I want the offense reacting to us rather than us always reacting to them. We’re going to be really aggressive, trying to set the tone.”

On lessons from Rivera and McDermott: “They’re really detailed, even before they get to game day. Making sure that you’ve gone over every scenario and are being proactive to foresee the adjustments. Those guys did a great job of that, and that’s something we continue to do.

“Also, with the great coaches, it’s not about what I know or what I can do. It’s about what your players can do and also about what the offense is trying to do to you.”

On Panthers' defensive pride: “There’s great pride here, and even though I wasn’t in the forefront, I feel like I played a major part in it. Some of the things Sean and I always talked about was the identity of our defense, including some of the things I brought in from San Diego and that Ron believed in. As far as identity, your physicality isn’t really based off your front seven. It’s based off your corners tackling. He bought into that. At this level, teams are saying, ‘My running back is better than your corner,’ so they crack the safety and try to get the running back one-on-one (against a corner). But something as a DB coach I look for coming out of the draft – guys know that if they’re going to be in that room, they’re going to tackle. The flip side of that is demanding that the defensive line turn and run to the ball. That’s the identity of our defense. We pride ourselves on running to the football. We pride ourselves on taking the ball away.”