Smith knew he was playing from behind then, and he certainly knows it now as he works in the team's Organized Team Activities at the NovaCare Complex, moving at a speed and with a confidence that he just did not have last season.
"Last year, I kind of had no idea. My head was spinning. Now it's slowing down and I understand what Coach is looking for," said Smith. "I joined the team late in the year and figured things out week to week.
"Now, I'm learning the foundation of the offense. I am way, way ahead of where I was last year, plus I'm fully healthy and I'm ready to go."
Smith made his mark on special teams last season, leading the team with 8 tackles in the six games played. He hustled his way into coordinator Dave Fipp's core group and enters 2014 as one of the leaders of a special teams unit that has been addressed heavily in the offseason with the addition of players like
So it's a fresh slate for Smith, healthy after a rib injury shelved him for most of the season while he was a member of the Buffalo Bills. Once Buffalo released Smith on November 9, Smith signed on with the Eagles a few days later and felt his way around in the relative dark.
"At the time, you think you're playing fast. But then I look at the film from so far this year and compare it to last year and it's like night and day. I'm healthy and I have an understanding of the offense and it's going to keep building every day," said Smith. "No doubt there's a difference. It's a whole new situation for me."
Smith played for five seasons with the Jets and became one of the league's most versatile players. He was a rotational player in New York's wide receiver rotation, was a weapon taking direct snaps and running with the football and even was called upon to throw a pass or two (he has 10 career passing attempts). With all of that, Smith was a staple for New York on special teams and then he continued in that role with Buffalo for two seasons.
A nasty rib injury KO'd Smith for most of last season, a time during which he had to exercise patience and understand that his physical conditioning would never reach peak levels during the year.
"It was tough for me but I made it through and I'm blessed to be here," said Smith. "I love what's going on here. Everything is so fast, truly. The meetings, the play on the field. You need to think quickly and be able to process information. On the field it's that much more so. You have to get used to it and play fast, fast football.
"I really enjoyed last year getting some exposure to what the Eagles were building. It was a challenge for me. I put in a lot of work trying to catch up. Now, I finally feel like myself and I'm excited about doing whatever they need me to do to help the team win."
The Eagles have rebuilt the wide receiver depth chart.
And so is Smith, hoping to prove that his versatility and toughness and leadership on special teams can pay off for a big season.
"Everything is in place here. The energy is amazing, and the environment is one that is very inviting," said Smith. "Every day, it's just fun to be here putting in the work."