Darius Tahir (@dariustahir) has some news for you, Jesse Palmer.
It may be shooting at a stationary target here, but I happened to catch Jesse Palmer in full pontification mode briefly Sunday night when he declared something along the lines of "Stanford can’t cover anyone" on defense. Now, again, Palmer’s the easiest of easy targets – the only targets easier to joke about are douchebags, bros, hipsters and douchebag hipster bros – but what he said is a common-enough feeling that it’s basically fair to go after.
The truth is that not only can Stanford cover people, but it is, in fact, pretty good about covering people! You won’t necessarily confuse the defensive backfield this year with the 2011 LSU Tigers, but the group is performing well, especially since they are starting a true freshman (in his first year starting) at corner, a true sophomore (in his first year starting) at strong safety, a redshirt sophomore (who missed all of last year to an ACL injury, and is also in his first year starting) at free safety, and, as the relative old man of the group, a redshirt junior…who’s also basically in his first year starting. (And don’t forget nickel corner Usua Amanam, who’s a redshirt junior….in his first year starting, and also is only in his second year as a defensive back.)
Statistically, they are quite good. The oft-repeated claim is that they give up a ton of yards through the air, but that’s a very faulty statistic – they aren’t getting yards running, so they are passing instead. Opponents pass against Stanford 42.6 times per game, which is the most in the country. Shockingly, they’re getting a lot of yards doing it!
So look instead at yards per attempt, in which Stanford ranks 25th in the country, at 6.2 yards per attempt. (that’s before you deal with the NCAA’s idiotic policy to count sacks in the rushing statistics. As Stanford is #1 in the country in sacks, it’s pretty clear opponents aren’t doing terribly well when they decide to pass.)
Stanford’s 11 picks ranks 28th in the country, and its 54 passes broken up is 2nd in the country.
In other words, opposing quarterbacks find it hard to complete passes against Stanford. When they do manage to complete passes, QBs only average 10 yards per completion, which means opponents generally stay stopped. (That’s fifth in the nation, by the way.)
Nor is Stanford feasting against an easy schedule. They’ve played against some top-flight QBs – Barkley, Scott, Price among others – and some really good wideouts/receivers – Marqise Lee, Robert Woods, Tyler Eifert, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson…
So, basically, yes, you can sleep well at night: you’ve always thought Jesse Palmer’s a dolt and that’s still true. (Unfortunately, proving Jesse Palmer wrong means nothing to Chip Kelly, who only wants to hear you scream. And odds are, like any great horror movie villain, he will make you scream on Saturday night.)
(All stats from cfbstats.com except where linked.)