THE LATE Al Davis was obsessed with speed. Always took the wide receiver or defensive back with the fastest 40 time, regardless of production, intelligence, hands or length of rap sheet.

His fondness for guys who could fly was why the Raiders inexplicably selected Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh pick in the 2009 draft, a curious decision that ultimately allowed Jeremy Maclin to fall to the Eagles 12 picks later.

When it comes to wide receivers, Chip Kelly cares more about size than speed. It's kind of a part of that whole big-people-beat-up-little-people thing.

Kelly is of the opinion that wide receivers rarely get separation on defensive backs. He feels that most pass plays end up being battles for 50-50 balls. And those battles are usually going to be won by the bigger, stronger guy.

Which is a big part of the reason itty-bitty DeSean Jackson no longer is employed by the Eagles and 6-3, 212-pound Jordan Matthews is.

Matthews was a member of one of the best wide-receiver draft classes in recent history this spring. Twelve wideouts were taken in the first two rounds, and most of them, including Matthews, are having exceptional rookie seasons.

Eight of the 12 already have 20 or more catches. Nine of the 12 already have at least two touchdown catches.

Matthews was the seventh wideout taken, gobbled up by Kelly and the Eagles in the second round with the 42nd overall pick.

Kelly had a plan for Matthews the second he drafted him. Wanted to put him in the slot and take advantage of size mismatches against nickel corners, who typically aren't as big as the corners on the outside.

Matthews hasn't disappointed Kelly. Through eight games, he has 32 catches for 313 yards and three touchdowns, including one last week in the Eagles' 31-21 win over Houston.

Kelly's rapidly growing trust in the former Vanderbilt star is evident by the fact that the Eagles have been going to more three-wide-receiver sets of late. In the last three games, 71.8 percent of their plays have been out of three-wide-receiver sets, up from 55.7 percent in the first five games.

"I feel I haven't even touched the surface of how good I can be in this offense, how good I can be in the slot," Matthews said. "When I look back at the film of the first eight games, I'm like, I know who that guy is. But these next eight games are going to be a lot better [than the first eight]. I plan to keep moving forward, keep getting better. That's really my goal for the rest of the season."

Kelly took a shine to Matthews the minute he sat down with him last March at his Pro Day in Nashville. He'd already had seen his film, but was blown away by his intelligence and maturity.

"I went down there and had a chance to spend a lot of time with him," Kelly said. "I was around Jordan a lot. There's a maturity to him that I didn't think - sometimes the transition from a physical standpoint isn't as difficult. But what is it mentally and how do they handle that transition?

"That's what struck me very much about Jordan. How mature he was as a young man. I didn't think anything was ever going to be too big for him."

So far, nothing has been. He has played like anything but a rookie. He's second on the team to Jeremy Maclin in receptions and touchdown catches. Has 19 receiving first downs and 11 third-down receptions.

Just two other rookie wideouts - the Panthers' Kelvin Benjamin and the Bills' Sammy Watkins - have more catches than Matthews. Just three - Benjamin, Watkins and Mike Evans - have more touchdowns.

"The best teacher is experience," Matthews said. "As a rookie, sometimes you might only get three, four opportunities. That gives you a lot of anxiety. You feel like if you make a mistake, that's it for me.

"But coach Kelly is the exact opposite of that. He wants me to go out there and be calm, be confident. He says if something bad happens, don't worry about it. Move on to the next play and forget about it.

"When I make a mistake, it seems like he's trying to find a way to get me back in there and get me the ball and get me implemented in the next play. That makes me realize that, if he has this much trust in me and has my back, I gotta go out and have his."

Matthews has impressed the hell out of his teammates, both on the field and in the meeting rooms.

"He's been able to come up big," Maclin said. "He's made some big-time NFL catches. Catches that are hard to make. Look at the one he made Sunday. He was able to get his feet in-bounds and keep control of the football. You look at the one [touchdown catch] against Washington. That was a big-time NFL catch.

"He's going to continue to get better. But the one thing that he's got going for him right now is his work ethic. As long as he continues to work like that, the sky's the limit for him."

Catching on

Twelve wide receivers were selected in the first two rounds of the draft last May. Most of them, including the Eagles' Jordan Matthews, have managed to make an immediate impact. Eight of the 12 already have 20 or more receptions. Nine of the 12 already have two or more touchdown catches.

A breakdown of the 12:

Name, TEAM: Round/Pick Rec. Yds. TD

Sammy Watkins, BUF: 1/4 38 590 5

Mike Evans, TB: 1/7 32 460 4

Odell Beckham, NYG: 1/12 16 262 3

Brandin Cooks, NO: 1/20 43 410 2

Kelvin Benjamin, CAR: 1/28 40 589 5

Marqise Lee, JAX: 2/39 12 128 0

Jordan Matthews, PHI: 2/42 32 313 3

Paul Richardson, SEA: 2/45 10 72 0

Davante Adams, GB: 2/53 24 263 2

Cody Latimer, DEN: 2/56 0 0 0

Allen Robinson, JAX: 2/61 43 488 2

Jarvis Landry, MIA: 2/63 30 301 2

Killing 'em with tempo

The tempo-happy Eagles are averaging a play every 22.9 seconds this season, which is easily the fastest pace in the league. The Browns, who are second, are averaging a play every 26.1 seconds.

Last year, the Eagles also had the league's fastest pace, averaging a play every 24.0 seconds.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly and his players make no secret of the fact that they feel tempo gives them a distinct advantage over opposing defenses, tiring them out and limiting the things they can do.

"It's not really about the tempo; it's abut the shape they're in," center Jason Kelce said. "The [opposing] coaches do a good job of getting them to understand how fast it's going to happen and the calls and everything. But to do that under a condition when you're that fatigued, it's very hard for a defense to replicate that in one week of practice.

"Unless you do that every single day, I mean we live and breathe it throughout the offseason, training camp, everything. For them to try and replicate that in one week is a little far-fetched."

The Eagles ran 79 offensive plays against the Texans, 88 the week before against Arizona.

"You have to prepare against it all the time; a week won't do it," left guard Evan Mathis said. "If you're trying to go tempo [in practice] for a week or you're running a bunch of gassers to try and get in shape, you're doing more harm than good.

"Your lungs aren't going to be where you want them to be just by preparing one week. I'm sure there are plenty of teams out there who do practice fast, play fast and go against that tempo a good bit. But for a team that doesn't, to think you're just going to be able to do it after a week [of preparation], it's probably not going to have the results you want it to."

The five fastest- and slowest-paced NFL offenses through the first 9 weeks:

FASTEST

Seconds

Per Play

1. Eagles. . . 22.9

2. Browns. . . 26.1

3. Patriots. . . 26.2

t4. Jets. . . 26.7

t4. Raiders. . . 26.7

SLOWEST

28. Lions. . . 29.7

29. Cowboys. . . 29.9

30. Chiefs. . . 30.2

31. Chargers. . . 30.4

32. 49ers. . . 30.5

Figuring the Eagles

* The Eagles' minus-10 turnover differential is the second worst in the league, ahead of only the 1-8 Jets, who are minus-15. In the previous six seasons, 45 teams have finished with a minus-8 turnover differential or worse. Just four of those 45 managed to make the playoffs - the '12 Colts (-12), the '11 Broncos (-12) and Steelers (-13) and the '10 Seahawks (-9). The combined record of those 45 teams: 253-466-1. The Eagles are one of five teams with a turnover differential of minus-8 or worse this season. The combined record of the other four: 5-30.

* LeSean McCoy gained 18 yards on four carries in the red zone against Houston. In the Eagles' first seven games, he had just 30 yards on 20 red-zone carries.

* The Eagles have sent five or more rushers after the quarterback on just 112 of 324 pass plays (34.5 percent). Eight of their 23 sacks and three of their four interceptions have come when they have rushed five or more defenders. Fourteen of their sacks have come with a four-man rush.

* They have been very effective with a four-man rush the last two games. Their opponent passer rating against Arizona and Houston when they rushed four was 69.0. In their first six games, their opponent passer rating with a four-man rush was 96.0.

Draft scouting report

An NFC scout breaks down two more of the top prospects in the 2015 draft. Today he talks about Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Nebraska defensive end/outside linebacker Randy Gregory, both of whom are expected to be first-round picks. Ekpre-Olomu is a senior, Gregory an underclassman.

IFO EKPRE-OLOMU

Hgt.: 5-10 1/2. Wgt.: 195

Scout: "He's smart, instinctive. I'll be curious to see how fast he runs. Has man-cover ability. Can play zone. Good tackler. The only question mark will be his timed speed. He's quick, but it remains to be seen how he'll do in a situation where he has to catch up to a fast receiver. He's not a tall, tall guy. But he's big enough, sturdy enough. He'll play. It's just a matter of how high he'll get drafted."

RANDY GREGORY

Hgt.: 6-6. Wgt.: 250

Scout: "He's quick. Plays with good leverage. Can bend the corner. Can turn the edge. Has a burst to the quarterback. He's an above-average run-defender. I wouldn't call him a great run-defender. He's 250-252, but he doesn't get knocked back. He plays with a good motor. He'll chase and make plays down the field. He is borderline elite as a pass-rusher. They stand him up, they have him put his hand down, they move him around. He'll rush from the middle. He'll stunt. He's versatile. He can play in a 3-4 and do some dropping. But I think he's probably better-suited for a 4-3."

This and that

* In the last three games, the Eagles have operated predominantly with "11" personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers). One hundred seventy-one of their 238 offensive plays against the Giants, Cardinals and Texans, or 71.8 percent, have been with 11 personnel. In the first five games, they used 11 just 55.7 percent of the time.

The lone tight end in most of their three-wide-receiver sets the last three games has been Brent Celek rather than Zach Ertz. Celek, a better blocker than Ertz, has played 75.1 percent of the snaps in the last three games, while Ertz has played just 40.7. Last year, when he ran away with the league rushing title, nearly three-quarters of LeSean McCoy's rushing yards came out of three-wide-receiver sets. In the last three games, he's averaging 5.6 yards per carry with 11 personnel on the field, compared to just 3.8 in the first five games.

Opposing defenses have tended to stay in their base look against the Eagles' 11 personnel when Celek is the lone tight end, and switch to nickel when it's Ertz, who is a more difficult matchup for a linebacker or safety. Jeremy Maclin has made opposing defenses pay for staying in base against three-wide-receiver sets, though. He has 18 receptions for 345 yards and four touchdowns in the last two games. Fifteen of those 18 catches, 324 of those 345 yards and three of those four TDs have come out of three-wide receiver formations. Chip Kelly said the decision to use so much 11 personnel the last three games "is based on what the defense is doing and how they try to defend sets and what are they going to put in the game and what would we rather get matched up against. We're flexible in terms of can we be in 11 or 12 [1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs] or 10 [1 RB, no TE, 4 WRs] or even 13 [3 TEs]. It's just a matter of what gives us the best advantage."

* Panthers rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has five touchdown catches. All of them have come on high throws and fades that he's been able to get to because of his size, 6-5 and 240 pounds. "They've been smart with him," said former wide receiver and longtime Eagles radio analyst Mike Quick. "Tight coverage, they're going to throw the ball up and let him make a play on it. He's been good at high-pointing the football and making plays. That's what these guys have to be concerned with. Sight coverage, reaching behind the guy's back or going up high and taking the ball from him. He's not real fast. He's not a great route-runner. They don't ask him to run great routes. But those balls where, 'OK, we're going to fight for the ball,' he wins those."

2-minute drill

FROM THE LIP

* "Swagger is a true belief. I think guys that talk a lot sometimes are trying to talk themselves into it. You watch for that. But our guys, I don't see any cockiness in our football team. I see a true belief that we're going to win every week." — Cardinals coach Bruce Arians on his 7-1 team

* "Going to play quarterback for the Jets, it's kind of like, you know when they used to take the pretty young virgins up to the edge of the volcano and then just throw them in? That's kind of what it's like when you play quarterback for the Jets. It just feels bad." — Former NFL QB Drew Bledsoe

* "Do I give them the business about it? Is that what you're asking? Yeah, I try not to let that slide. They're good about it though." — Chiefs coach Andy Reid on the fact that none of the team's wide receivers have a TD catch yet

* "I'm anticipating him playing. I have no reason to think that he won't. Anytime he can play, we want him to play. We're a better team, to be trite, with him playing. There's no such thing as holding him out and foregoing the potential chance that we win." — Cowboys owner Jerry Jones when asked whether injured QB Tony Romo will play Sunday vs. Jacksonville

BY THE NUMBERS

* The Cardinals are 5-0 against NFC opponents, the only team in the NFC that hasn't lost a conference game.

* The 49ers haven't had a rushing touchdown in their last five games.

* In the last six seasons, 14 teams have started 4-4 or worse and still managed to make the playoffs, including the 2013 Eagles (3-5). Seven of those teams won at least one playoff game.

* The average passer rating in the league this season is 91.2. Last year, it was 86.0.

* Three teams — the Browns, Texans and Redskins — already have matched or surpassed their win totals from last season.

* The Patriots are 7-2. It's the eighth time in franchise history they've been 7-2 or better after nine games, and the sixth time in the last 12 years.

* Three of the six leaders in touchdown receptions are tight ends — the Broncos' Julius Thomas, who is first with 10; the Chargers' Antonio Gates, who is second with nine; and the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski, who is tied for fourth with eight.