It’s been almost exactly one year since Howie Roseman wrote the three pillars of last offseason on a piece of paper.
For those who don’t remember, the Eagles’ general manager said the team would prioritize health, love for the game, and speed over everything else when making decisions last summer.
The Eagles stayed consistent in the hunt to add speed after last year and for good reason, they finished 2019 ranked 22nd in team speed by Next Gen Stats in 2019 and were tied for 27th in the league with six passing plays of 40 yards or more. Roseman cited the lack of burners on both sides of the ball as the main reason for the team’s draft, which featured several players with impressive 40-yard dash times and even better player-tracking data.
But how did the shift in priorities pay off in the 2020 season?
They jumped from 22nd to 13th in max ball carrier speed, which Next Gen Stats measures as an overall gauge of team speed. Three of the top five teams in the metric made the playoffs this season and the two fastest teams in 2019 were the 49ers and the Chiefs, who faced off in the Super Bowl. The team also made strides in explosive plays, tying for the 12th-most passing plays over 40 yards this season.
Although they climbed up the ranks, the Eagles’ receiving corps didn’t make the leap in speed that you’d expect with the addition of Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, and John Hightower.
No Eagles wideout topped the highest speed from the Eagles’ 2019 receiving corps, which was led by DeSean Jackson’s 21.4 mph in the 2019 season opener. Boston Scott gets the crown for fastest Eagle in 2020, maxing out at 21.05 mph against the Cowboys in Week 8, but 21 teams had a ball carrier reach a higher speed than that this season.
Even though Reagor was taken in the first round and considered a speed merchant, his rookie season didn’t feature the impressive player-tracking data the Eagles cited last April. Reagor was reportedly clocked at 22.6 mph during his final season at TCU, but his fastest speed measured by Next Gen Stats this year was 20.76. It’s worth pointing out college programs and Next Gen sometimes use different tracking systems, which can lead to different results, but the margin between the two is likely more than that.
Reagor’s top speed, achieved on an end-around against the Green Bay Packers in Week 13, ranked ninth among all times recorded by rookie receivers. Devin Duvernay, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Chase Claypool, and interestingly enough, Watkins, all outranked Reagor. Watkins, the team’s sixth-round rookie receiver out of Southern Miss, reached 20.8 mph in Week 16 on a 43-yard catch against the Cowboys.
“I feel like I’m pretty fast,” Reagor said during the season. “I’m a fast player, and it’s going to translate the more I learn and the longer I’m here. It’s going to all come together.”
It wouldn’t be fair to ignore the fact that Reagor dealt with multiple injuries this season. He missed part of training camp with a shoulder injury and was sidelined for five weeks with a torn thumb ligament. Both injuries were fluky, and both cost him a chance to get comfortable in the Eagles’ offense.
As far as Hurts, we’ve got all the information we’re going to get on the second-round rookie quarterback until next season.
To the layman’s eye, Hurts’ stretch at the end of the season was streaky, but promising. The stats largely back that up, although there are serious questions about his long-term viability as a passer. Most scouting reports on Hurts going into the draft suggested he’d need an offense catered toward his strengths as a runner and to compensate for his struggles in the passing game.
Hurts’ completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) was the second-worst in the NFL during the last four weeks of the season behind only Nick Mullens. The stat, measured by Next Gen Stats and rbsdm.com measures how many passes a quarterback completes based on the context of the play and is generally a solid measurement to evaluate passing ability. Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, and Josh Allen led the league in CPOE this season.
The much more promising sign for Hurts is his expected points added per play, which measures how valuable each play is to scoring points. Partly because of Hurts’ running ability, he fared much better in this category, ranking 24th out of 35 quarterbacks during the final four weeks of the season.
According to the graders at Pro Football Focus, Richard Rodgers was the Eagles’ best offensive player this season. For an offense that was stagnant for nearly the whole season, the third-string tight end winning the offensive MVP award is somewhat fitting.
Rodgers was productive in a limited role, catching 24 of his 28 targets for 345 yards and two touchdowns for his 88.6 grade. His 2.65 yards per route run was better than Travis Kelce, although the small sample size is obviously a big part of the reason why.