12.29.21

the eagles: underhyped, overhyped, solidly middling

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:25 pm by Administrator

the eagles have had a fascinating season—possibly the most intriguing season of any team in the NFL this year. over their first 8 games, they were lambasted by pundits and philadelphia fans alike. over their last 7 games, they’ve been hailed as an ascendant team with superior coaches and a superstar in the making at quarterback. i’ve sat back laughing through all of it, as the pendulum of public opinion has swung so widely from one direction to the other.

in my opinion, it was entirely predictable that the eagles would look sloppy, falter against strong competition, and yet still make playoffs. i called it all in my preseason predictions from august 4th. but i’ll spend another entry reviewing my preseason projections for the eagles. today, i want to start with a 1st round mock and use it to explain where i think the team is at right now.

2022 Mock Draft: 1st Round

1. Jacksonville: Kayvon Thibodeaux
2. Detroit: Aidan Hutchinson
3. Houston: Evan Neal
4. NY Jets: Derek Stingley
5. NYG: Ikem Ekwonu
6. NYJ (from Seattle): Garrett Wilson
7. Carolina: Charles Cross
8. NYG (from Chicago): George Karlaftis
9. Washington: Matt Corral
10. Atlanta: Chris Olave
11. Denver: Kenny Pickett
12. Minnesota: Kyle Hamilton
13. New Orleans: Jameson Williams
14. Cleveland: Treylon Burks
15. Philadelphia (from Miami): David Ojabo
16. Pittsburgh: Malik Willis
17. Las Vegas: Tyler Linderbaum
18. LA Chargers: Ahmad Gardner
19. Miami (from San Francisco): DeMarvin Leal
20. Philadelphia (from Indy): Kaiir Elam
21. New England: Trent McDuffie
22. Tennessee: Andrew Booth, Jr.
23. Arizona: Drake Jackson
24. Dallas: Jordan Davis
25. Philadelphia: Sam Howell
26. Buffalo: Roger McCreary
27. Cincinnati: Kenyon Green
28. Tampa Bay: Kingsley Enagbare
29. Baltimore: Daxton Hill
30. Green Bay: Devin Lloyd
31. Kansas City: Trevor Penning
32. Detroit (from LA): Drake London

i have the eagles focusing on two premiere defensive positions at picks 15 and 20, which also happen to be positions of imminent need and the 2022 draft’s two strongest position classes. even with tarron jackson and milton williams showing signs of growth this year, there is a major hole opposite of josh sweat that i’m not sure we can count on even brandon graham to fill next year. defensive end is the eagles’ number one need going into the 2022 draft, and ojabo by all accounts has possibly the 3rd highest upside of any prospect in this class. at pick 20, we take our future #1 cornerback in kaiir elam. roseman would have to be out of his mind not to take a corner in the 1st round this year, given the quality of defensive backs in this class. he’s quietly amassed a coterie of 2nd tier cornerback castaways in gowan, scott, and vincent, but there isn’t clearly a startable outside corner on our squad right now outside of slay and nelson. the 1st round corners in this class are excellent and will go off the board quickly, so the eagles cannot afford to wait until round 2 and see what falls to them.

because the eagles are going to win their wild card playoff game, their own pick will land at 25 this year. the selection of a quarterback at pick 25 will be even more unsettling to the fan base than it would have been at pick 19 (had the eagles lost their wild card game) because of hurts’ heroic efforts in that playoff win. but here’s the thing: even if we’re not looking for a qb at pick 25, a qb will very likely be not only the best available player but also the best choice for the franchise. at pick 25, the eagles will likely choose between a wide receiver (london who projects as a possession receiver, dotson who replicates devonta smith’s skill set), a linebacker (lloyd and dean may still be on the board), a safety (hill and brisker will both get a lot of attention here), and a quarterback (howell, strong, and ridder). there are merits to each of those four possibilities, but for the eagles sam howell is the best pick right there.

if the eagles take howell with their last pick of the 1st round, it reflects a few things about their approach. first, it demonstrates that the eagles weren’t necessarily looking to replace hurts in this draft; they just saw value in the player at pick 25, just as they saw value in hurts at pick 53 a couple of years ago. second, it says that they’re not all-in on hurts over the long term, which is only sensible given the steady but limited growth that he’s evidenced this year. and third, it says that the eagles aren’t going to trade away valuable resources for an imperfect franchise qb. in theory, i think that all three aspects of this draft choice make total sense.

toward the beginning of this season, sirianni and hurts were both taking a lot of unwarranted criticism for the team’s struggles coming out of the gate. more recently, both guys have been lauded for being cornerstones of a new era in eagles history. the truth about our quarterback and the coaching staff definitely lies somewhere in the middle. sirianni has proven capable of leveraging the team’s strengths against weaker competition; but he has struggled to execute a consistent offense, and the eagles’ passing offense has been basic, predictable, and inefficient throughout the season. for his part, jalen hurts has maximized his skill set and proven amenable to coaching. but he has also proven that the ceiling on his potential in the NFL is very real; he continues to struggle to see the field and to demonstrate anticipation and accuracy on many routine throws.

i like jalen hurts and i distinctly prefer him to carson wentz, but i would advise philadelphia’s front office to be mindful of every reasonable opportunity to upgrade at the position. with hurts at the helm, we may very well be too mediocre of a team (for better and for worse) to land a top-5 draft pick in the next two or three draft classes, which means that finding a signal caller to replace hurts in 2023 is probably not a straightforward proposition. taking a qb at the end of round one this year doesn’t mean we can’t give jalen hurts one more season to win a long-term commitment from the eagles; but it does give us the option that we need if he never gets better than what he is right now.

i believe that sam howell projects better as a franchise NFL quarterback than hurts. while he did not have a great 2021 season, he didn’t do anything to negate the traits that at one point established him as the top overall QB prospect in this class. he can take command from the pocket, he sees the field well, and he can place balls anywhere on the field. his struggles in 2021 working with a legitimately bad tarheel offense mean that he can be had at a discount in the ‘22 draft, as far as i’m concerned. if howell drops to 25, i would certainly take him over drake london, nakobe dean, or daxton hill.

i’d go as far as to say that there’s value to be had at qb even if howell is not the one to fall to 25, though i figure him to be the most likely top-5 prospect not to be taken in the top 20. whether it’s pickett, corral, willis, or strong, any of these four offer decisive advantages over jalen hurts in key attribute areas. once we’ve addressed defensive end and cornerback with our first two picks of the 1st round, we should look strictly at value when we weigh the use of our third pick of the round, and i really believe that in any analysis a quarterback is going to end up being the sensible choice

12.21.21

things i remember about jesus

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:50 pm by Administrator

recently, i’ve had some tender remembrances. perhaps these have been triggered by observations of my son, who is fifteen and entering a time in life that was extraordinarily poignant for me. like him, i was an avid learner with a philosophical mind, and like him, i worried about my future. unlike him though, i had a very specific place where i took all my fears and anxieties. that place was a construct, built from stories i’d heard, sensations i’d experienced, and a persona that i had assembled at the nexus of uncountable imaginings. that place, in retrospect, was jesus.

i often think about the religious beliefs i once held as primitive, self-contradicting, and wildly untenable, but i am sometimes able to admit to myself that these beliefs served a great purpose for me at specific times in my life. when i was very young, jesus was to me a great champion: a superhero who was carrying me to safety. later as i grew and began to struggle with the biblical concept of justice, i came to understand jesus as the conflicted and even constrained protagonist of a complex story. he was someone who could empathize with me, as a well-meaning but ultimately limited person. as i emerged into adulthood and witnessed much human suffering, i came to understand jesus as a person that was profoundly misunderstood, even by the biblical authors, a person as regretful as he was knowing, a tragic god and a sorrowful friend. in the final stage of my journey as a christian, this was the jesus that i loved. this was the jesus who pushed me out of christianity as i once knew it, and who pushed me into the thing that i found beyond.

there are many things about the biblical story of jesus that i never understood. for example, what kind of god baits his creations into disobeying him and then punishes them for their disobedience with mortality? what kind of god sanctions the genocidal destruction of men, women, children, and even livestock, in support of tribal conquest? what kind of a god actually cares about every stipulation in leviticus? what kind of a god satisfies his wrath against wrongdoers by putting to death someone who did no wrong? none of these things make any sense. they did not make sense when i earnestly tried to believe, and they make no sense now. the jesus of the bible is a terribly violent, conflicted, and mentally ill man, and there’s really no solution for the many troubles of his own making. that jesus is emotionally unhealthy.

i concocted elaborate explanations and narratives in order to reconcile the jesus i knew to the jesus that was commonly depicted. for all these questions above, i had creative answers. ultimately, the answers pointed to one central idea: that jesus in fact was neither omnipotent nor omniscient. he was human. it took me many years to finally arrive at this conclusion, but when i received it for what it was, i had peace with jesus at last. jesus was no god, any more than any of us can claim to be gods. or he was just as divine as any of us could claim to be, in our capacity for conscious awareness and love. in the profoundness of his humanity and his compassion, he was a great companion for me, a true friend. when he pushed me out of the church and into the seemingly bare space of emptiness beyond, i could sense his great care for me, and i remember it now with great fondness. i think that this is the jesus i ought to remember: jesus who was the buddha, who was the memory of humanity, who was the projection of what is most essential in us all.

i am done with trying to convince the heathens to take on my beliefs for their eternal salvation. but i look at my son, and a part of me wonders where he takes his deepest fears and anxieties, when he wrestles with his own mortality and the uncertainty of what follows. i went to a place called jesus, and it was a safe place for me, a cocoon that protected me over many years of yearning and suffering. i wonder if he has found a place of his own design as well, a place with a different name and a different lore, a place where he can be what he is and loved for that

12.15.21

ruminations about what is happening to us

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:11 pm by Administrator

back on september 8, i had this to say about covid, in the context of a post discussing my expectation that the pandemic would have a prolonged, difficult, and transformative course for our society:

i’ve recently laid out my base case scenario regarding covid. while the vaccine is mitigating disease severity and saving lives, it cannot guarantee us herd immunity. most concerningly, fully vaccinated persons are getting infected and shedding virus at levels equivalent to those seen in unvaccinated persons. this means that viral evolution is happening in vaccinated hosts, on a populational level. and that means that our current vaccines are certain to have diminishing efficacy against currently evolving variants

here we are three months later, faced with omicron and the specter of a wintertime surge.

now, perhaps it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. i’ve been dialoguing with a friend of mine from residency who’s an ID prof up in washington, and he told me back in september that he wasn’t expecting radical new variants in the near future. he was expecting a moderate surge in delta infections through the winter (mostly in the unvaccinated) before a new and gentler phase of the pandemic next spring generally contained by herd immunity. my disagreement with his view was mostly based on my naturally pessimistic tendencies, although in retrospect i should give myself credit for more than a hunch. the fact is that this coronavirus is highly mutagenic and has a massive reservoir of susceptible hosts to support sustained transmission (and innumerable cycles of viral evolution). i’m fulling expecting that by the time we have developed a vaccine for omicron (by next June or so), omicron will already have been replaced by at least one or two other significantly different variants.

i’ve previously postulated that successive variants will be more transmissible, and by virtue of their increased replication capacity, they should be deadlier as well. people are already hailing omicron as a milder form of the infection, but that’s based on nothing more than weak anecdotal data. we will only be able to judge how deadly omicron is once we have a populational data set big enough to support a reasonable estimate of the case fatality rate. i’m betting that omicron is no less deadly than delta, because why should it be any less deadly? the mitigating factor could be baseline immunity, but we can only speculate at this point if/how prior infection or vaccination modulates severity of clinical disease.

to me, the illusion of progress and safety that we buy into as we require vaccine cards and masking in public places is mind-boggling. people are crowding into bars and restaurants again; they’re packing into planes at full capacity; they’re resuming life as usual. that would not be an issue to me if we had collectively decided to live with the disease and to submit to inevitable infection and reinfection. but the american public wants to believe that they can have the best of both worlds: safety from the infection and unconstrained access to one another. we are still not at a phase of the pandemic where we can have both. what we will have instead, in the context of the many lies we tell ourselves, is another massive surge in covid infections.

in some ways, this coming winter may be more traumatic to us because we are less prepared than we were a year ago for illness, isolation, and inconvenience. of course there will be no regional lock-downs this time around, as the measure would be fatal to any political leader that tried to enact it, and as local lock-downs would undoubtedly be futile without synchronized nationwide restrictions in effect. there will just be finger-pointing, generalized anger, and more rancor in the political arena, as people continue to either defend or blame the unvaccinated. let’s face it: in the coming omicron wave, it really won’t matter very much who’s vaccinated or not. omicron doesn’t discriminate much, if at all.

i predicted a year ago that the ruling party would suffer quite badly in the midterms. with a republican wave sure to reverse the democratic majorities in congress, i think we’re looking at an american political situation in 2022 in which populist sentiment on both the right and the left is primarily directed against an isolated and totally ineffective president. we could be looking at a situation in 2024 in which independent voters not only multiply but also become impossible to characterize as a bloc. this will be an interesting moment in our political history: a moment when it actually becomes advantageous for a presidential candidate to not only challenge the hegemony of the traditional parties but also actively undermine them. i personally believe that only when the moderate-leaning democratic party is dismantled will an underlying class-oriented narrative emerge in american politics, paving the way for a genuinely socialist platform. whether that is right or wrong to us as individuals, collectivist socialism does seem inevitable for the united states, a nation state idea that has never been more tenuous and flawed than it is now