There are no cornerbacks for Jordan Matthews to prepare for this spring. The new Eagles receiver has a more cumbersome workload.
"Right now, essentially my opponent is myself and trying to get to the point where I'm actually very confident in the offense," Matthews said Friday at the team's rookie minicamp. "I'm in the playbook more, trying to learn that, and then I'll watch film of practice, trying to correct my mistakes."
Matthews has developed a reputation for his meticulous preparation. Before the Senior Bowl, the Eagles' second-round pick called executive director Phil Savage for the cornerbacks' names so he could watch extra film.
He blew the Eagles away during his predraft meetings with his understanding of football, even studying four Eagles games to become familiar with Chip Kelly's system.
Matthews arrived in Philadelphia this week and was on the field Friday for the start of the three-day minicamp. It's going to take more than a weekend to grasp what's required for him to play slot receiver this season, but the Eagles have big expectations.
"I'm still learning," Matthews said. "I'm an empty vessel."
The Eagles moved up in the second round to draft Matthews. He was the seventh wide receiver selected, and the Eagles jumped other teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, that might have been interested.
Matthews said he's too invested in adjusting to the Eagles to worry about the six receivers picked ahead of him. But he was not shy about discussing how competitive he is. If his actions back up his words, Matthews' drive could become well known around the NovaCare Complex.
"I want to be the first guy up, the first guy in the building, the last to leave," Matthews said. "I like to compete in everything I do. I'm going to try to eat healthier than you. I'm going to try to practice harder than you. I'm going to try to stretch longer."
The Eagles are starting Matthews as Jason Avant's replacement in the slot. At a position where other teams go small, the Eagles think they can go big. At 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, Matthews is one of the Eagles' biggest receivers.
Matthews called himself a "technician." So was Avant. Matthews has more speed than Avant – he ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine – and is taller. But Avant had strong hands and a strong grasp of how to negotiate traffic. The Eagles' decision-makers believe Matthews can do the same, but the former SEC star will need to learn how to do it in the Eagles' offense.
"I feel like I'm very polished in the screen game," Matthews said. "I'm able to take balls and get upfield quickly. I feel like once I'm able to pick up speed, it's extremely hard to catch me. I can definitely get a little more wiggle."
Matthews wants to put an end to DeSean Jackson comparisons, though. He heard questions about it on draft night, when he became the Eagles' first acquisition at wide receiver since the team released Jackson.
He fits into the Eagles' top three receivers with Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, but he is not Jackson, and he does not want the onus of replacing the Pro Bowl receiver.
"I'm a totally different player than DeSean Jackson," Matthews said. "I don't even know where those comparisons would come from."
Matthews insisted that he learns from every player he sees. One is Josh Huff, the team's third-round pick from Oregon. Matthews watched Oregon film when he was at Vanderbilt, so he knows Huff as a player.
Huff knows Kelly's offense and said he can help other players understand the system.
With Jackson and Avant gone, both rookies will have roles in Kelly's revamped offense. Adjusting to the offense comes first, though. Friday was a start.
"There's not much pressure for a guy when you got LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Riley Cooper, and Jeremy Maclin and Nick Foles," Matthews said. "I just got to go in there and do my job."
Extra points. The Eagles released wide receiver Arrelious Benn on Friday. Benn was slated to earn $1.1 million in base salary next season, and the Eagles could bring him back at a lower salary. Benn missed last season after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in training camp. The Eagles acquired him and a 2013 seventh-round draft pick from the Buccaneers for a sixth-round pick.