Good morning, Eagles fans. Happy Super Bowl Week. Enjoy the next few days while you can. After this, the football drought begins in earnest. Hopefully you’ve sorted out whether you’ll be rooting for Andy Reid to finally win the big one and have started planning which foods will be at your Super Bowl parties. I suggest buffalo chicken dip.

The Chiefs and 49ers have something in common that might stand out for those of you who spent the season primarily watching the Eagles offense. More on that later.

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EJ Smith (earlybirds@inquirer.com)

DeSean Jackson catches a touchdown against Washington's Josh Norman in the season opener.
Yong Kim / File Photograph
DeSean Jackson catches a touchdown against Washington's Josh Norman in the season opener.

The value of speed

The Eagles’ outlook at wide receiver going into 2019 assumed two things: Nelson Agholor being one of the fastest receivers in the NFL, and DeSean Jackson staying healthy.

Regardless of whether that was a sound plan or not, it backfired mightily. With Agholor battling regression and injury and Jackson missing almost the entire season, the Eagles fielded one of the slowest offenses in the NFL.

When Eagles general manager Howie Roseman met with reporters earlier this month, he acknowledged the importance of speed and detailed what went wrong in 2019.

“When we looked at last year and where we were and adding DeSean, we get all of this [data] … Nelson is one of the top-10 fastest receivers in the league,” Roseman said. “We felt adding DeSean and [having] Nelly, and Miles, who is an explosive player, and our tight ends are an explosive group, when we looked at it, we felt we had some speed on the field. Now, obviously that didn’t work out in the exact way we were hoping.”

Since Roseman last spoke, the importance of adding speed became even more apparent. According to NextGenStats, the Super Bowl will feature the two fastest teams in the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs were the highest-ranked team in “average max speed by offensive ballcarriers” at 13.36 mph. The San Francisco 49ers ranked second at 13.35 mph.

The Eagles ranked 22nd in the NFL at 12.85 mph, which was below the league average.

Kansas City gets its elite speed through its wide receiver corps, with Tyreke Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Mecole Hardman. The Chiefs took Hardman in the second round of last year’s draft, one pick before the Eagles took J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Hardman ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash and has accounted for two of the 10 fastest speeds reached by a runner in 2019, according to NGS.

San Francisco goes about it differently, using a lot of heavy formations with fullbacks and multiple tight ends. With less speed at receiver, the 49ers draw on their running backs for the team’s explosiveness. San Francisco running back Matt Breida recorded the fastest speed reached by a runner in 2019, reaching 22.3 mph in Week 5 for an 83-yard touchdown. Breida’s backfield mate, Raheem Mostert, ran a 4.32 40-yard dash in 2014 before going undrafted.

When the Eagles have their first chance in the NFL draft this April, don’t be surprised to see them prioritize speed at the receiver position first.

“You’re always looking to get faster, and you’re always looking to get more explosive,” Roseman said. “I think that’s always been something that’s been fun for us to try to do. … It’s something that has always been important to us in building a team.”

Former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel was hired to be the Eagles defensive backs coach.
David Goldman / AP File
Former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel was hired to be the Eagles defensive backs coach.

What you need to know about the Eagles

From the mailbag

Which Eagle from the last three years has built the best Hall of Fame case? — Art Vandelay (@Art_Vanderlay4) via Twitter.

Great question, Art. There are a few players that come to mind, but I think Jason Kelce has done the most to build his case. In 2016, Kelce was a Pro Bowler and one of the best centers in the NFL, and he spent the last three seasons making three consecutive All-Pro teams. Three All-Pro teams in a row should give him a very strong case. Since 2000, three centers have been called to Canton, Ohio. All three were selected to the All-Pro team at least three times. Kevin Mawae, a part of last year’s class, got the honor three times.

He’s tied for third-most All-Pro selections among active NFL players and has been a Pro Bowler three times. If he doesn’t retire early, I think he’ll have the track record and the accolades necessary to make him a Hall of Famer.