After playing his entire San Francisco 49ers career under either defensive coordinator Robert Saleh or DeMeco Ryans, who served as an assistant under the current New York Jets coach, Dre Greenlaw will be playing under an outside coach in former Carolina Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks.
Though Wilks is expected to build upon the defensive foundation Kyle Shanahan has established in San Francisco since arriving in 2017, with the team retaining almost their entire defensive staff following Ryans’ departure, in the opinion of Greenlaw in an appearance on KNBR’s “Papa & Lund” show, there’s one area where he expects to see change moving forward: blitzing frequency.
“I do hope so,” Greenlaw said about blitzing more via 49ers WebZone. “I talked to him as well, and just based off what we’ve been doing, there’s going to be a lot of ways that he’s going to be able to just match us up on running backs. And whether he’s calling it, whether we’re hug-rushing the running back, or whatever it is that he’s calling, but he’s definitely going to be sending us a lot more.
“So that should be fun. So hopefully, we can get some more sacks this year, for sure.”
After blitzing just 23 times in 2022, according to Pro Football Reference, picking up two hurries, two pressures, and no sacks, Greenlaw is hoping to land his first-ever multi-sack season, which has eluded him as a pro thus far. Considering the Panthers’ top two inside linebackers in 2022, Shaq Thompson and Frankie Luvu, combined for 92 blitzes under Wilks, Greenlaw’s perspective may stand on strong footing.
Greenlaw Expects the San Francisco 49ers’ D to Remain Elite
Asked how he feels about Wilks as a defensive coordinator, Greenlaw asserted that he loves the style the 53-year-old brings to the table and expects great things moving forward.
“It’s not like he wants to change a lot of things,” Greenlaw said. “He loves the way that we play, the will of the way that we play, and the scheme that we had last year. I think it’s going to be awesome for him to just mix his own [style] in there and make us more aggressive in different situations, and that’s just going to be fun to add to the pot.
“So, it’s been a great change so far. As far as just him, just being himself, being a great leader that he is. It’s going to be fun to work with him.”
Considering the 49ers had the top defense in the NFL in points scored, yards allowed, and points allowed per drive, building on the Saleh/Ryans system with Wilks’ unique flourishes should be very fun to watch indeed.
Dre Greenlaw Reveals a Minor Offseason Thumb Surgery
Elsewhere in his appearance on the “Papa & Lund” show, Greenlaw revealed that he had minor surgery on his thumb, which he suffered during the 2022 NFL season.
“Yeah, nothing major,” Greenlaw said. “Just a little clean up in the thumb. [It] was giving me some problems, just whenever I was punching at the ball or whenever I had to use my hands on O-linemen. [My] finger was just really jammed up, so I just had to get it cleaned up and fixed.
“It’s going really well right now, so I’m just waiting, I guess. Now, I think they’re going to keep me out of OTAs for the most part, just because you don’t want any setbacks right now. But it’s going really well.”
With Greenlaw’s spot in the 49ers’ starting lineup basically locked up, giving younger players like Dee Winters, who John Lynch compared to his starting weakside linebacker during the draft process, a chance to play more meaningful snaps alongside Fred Warner could prove very valuable for his transition from TCU to the NFL.