Rookie Wide Receiver Jordan Matthews looks to haul in a pass during the Philadelphia Eagles first public training camp practice on Monday at Lincoln Financial Field. (CHRIS SHIPLEY, SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL / July 27, 2014)

— On the field and off, NFL rookies are finding adjustments from their college days increasingly easier to make, thanks to the way teams have set up their operations and the year-round programs that are in place in all 32 cities. So expectations are not tempered as much as they used to be.

Here in Philadelphia, all the Eagles rookies in training camp are expected to be able to step in and start, if necessary, on opening day, even if only one, wide receiver Jordan Matthews, has a realistic chance at this point to be on the field for the first offensive or defensive snap.

Sure, some are slower than others to process the vast amounts of information they must absorb to be able to function effectively, but the mechanism is in place for learning as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

In fact, most actually believe they can become much better players than they ever were in college because they can dedicate as much free time as they want to their craft without being limited by classes, term papers, exams and the like.

On top of that, they have a lot more money in their pockets than they ever did, which may not be the best situation for some but generally affords the peace of mind to just settle in and become the best players they can be.

Some, such as this year's top two draft choices, linebacker Marcus Smith and wide receiver Jordan Matthews, already have found a place to live away from the hotel the team makes available to all first-year players.

Smith and Matthews actually went in on a place together. But even they return to the hotel sometimes because of how convenient the team has made the whole process.

"We're able to just go home and chill out and study plays and do what we've got to do," Smith said. "But the hotel actually has a lot of things for us. Sometimes we actually go back to get foot massages and do recovery stuff in the cold tub.

"But yeah, we don't feel like there's anything holding us back from playing our best."

Cornerback Jaylen Watkins also has moved out of the hotel into his own place and is more than satisfied with how the days have been structured by coach Chip Kelly so that all potential distractions have been minimized or eliminated.

"The biggest adjustment for me is, you know, [not] being a leader in the meeting room [like] back at Florida. I'm learning from those guys how to be a better leader because we have two Super Bowl rings in our room [owned by safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Cary Williams] and you definitely want to listen to whatever they've got to say.

"So that's probably the biggest difference for me, having them being so vocal. It's like going back to being a freshman all over again, but it's a good process."

For Watkins and some other players who have never ventured north of the Mason-Dixon line until now, severe weather will be a new experience. The first snow he actually ever encountered was at the scouting combine in Indianapolis last winter.

"And it wasn't really snow," he said. "It was on the ground and melting. So technically I've never seen snow come down yet."

Snow-covered gridirons aside, Watkins believes he's already prepared for any regular-season eventuality.

"Obviously there will be some more adjustments coaches will bring in for game prep for different teams," Watkins said, "but as far as the base concept of our defense, I've got it down."

Defensive end Taylor Hart is still at the hotel and in no rush to move out.

"They take care of us great here," he said, "so it's nothing new. I mean, we were in a hotel all throughout the OTAs, so it's nice that they take care of us."

As with Watkins, moving from the top of the food chain to the bottom has been the only real adjustment for Hart.

"It's your job now, your career," he said, "but you were top dog at college, and now you're at the bottom. So it's a little different."

Fortunately for the organization, the team this year will not be in a position where it will have to lean hard on any rookies right away, unless some key players are lost to injury.

But if that happens, they'll at least know they've done everything they could to plug in a finished product.

nick.fierro@mcall.com

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