The 49ers’ tackling problem has been an ongoing topic through the first four games of the season. And their upcoming opponent is having the same kinds of discussions, too.
“That’s a concern for us, for sure,” Arizona Cardinals first-year coach Steve Wilks told NBC Sports Bay Area via phone Wednesday.
The Cardinals have missed 33 tackles while going 0-4 to start the season, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, the 49ers have been worst in the NFL with 51 missed tackles. The teams will meet Sunday at Levi's Stadium.
Wilks pointed to the reduced time that teams are allowed to work together during their offseason programs and the limited time allowed in pads during training camp and the regular season. The former Carolina Panthers defensive coach said he has emphasized fundamentals, techniques and the importance of teamwork in shoring up his team’s tackling issues.
“When you’re in position to make a tackle, take one more step,” Wilks said. “That’s where guys start lunging and reaching. Take one more step, and get your head across the bow, shoot, wrap and roll.”
Wilks said his team will face a challenge this week in facing the 49ers’ running back tandem of Matt Breida and Alfred Morris. Breida averaged 7.6 yards per carry in the first four games, and Morris carries a 3.8-yard average.
“With this running back group they have with Breida and Morris, these guys didn’t miss a beat with (Jerick) McKinnon being out,” Wilks said. “We got to do a great job stopping the run, and we have to tackle well this week.”
The Los Angeles Chargers stacked the line of scrimmage Sunday, making it more difficult for the 49ers to get any kind of run game going. Wilks features an aggressive style of defense that crowds the line of scrimmage and presses the issue with a variety of blitzes.
Wilks said he highlighted early in a meeting that 49ers ncoach Kyle Shanahan still can run his offense the way he wants with C.J. Beathard taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo, who underwent season-ending surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee Wednesday.
“I don’t think Kyle is going to try to shimmy down any of what he’s trying to do,” Wilks said. “I told the guys this morning when we were sitting here for the introduction, (Garoppolo) gets hurt, and this guy [Beathard] comes in and throws a touchdown the next play.” (The touchdown against Kansas City was nullified by a penalty.)
“(Beathard) is athletic,” Wilks added. “He can move arund in the pocket and buy time. He can get the ball down the field. This guy is wired the right way. He’s been around football his entire life.
“I’m sure Kyle is telling him to slide, but that’s where his toughness comes in. He’s not afraid to lower his shoulder and try to get what he can get.”