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While it wasn't always perfect for the first year football player Hayden Smith of the Jets, the tight end has come a long way in just a year.

Hayden Smith

“It’s not even close,” Smith told Brian Costello of the New York Post on coming back for a second season.  “The main thing is not having to learn about the game of football and actually being able to concentrate on learning the offense. It takes a lot off your plate. It definitely allows things to be a lot slower and come to you a lot quicker.”

"It was overwhelming at times," said the former professional rugby player from Australia. "You had to try to break down the most important bits and relate that and become comfortable with that. Most of that really has sunk in now. I’m in a much more comfortable spot.”

Granted, it is Smith's second offense in as many seasons.  Last year Smith was charged with learning Tony Sparano's system, this year it is Marty Morhinweg's West Coast system that thrived in Philadelphia for years.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Smith said of getting to know Morhinweg's system. “Whether it’s me being more comfortable with football in general or Marty’s offense, I’ve found it a light year’s difference to my experience last year. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I really enjoy the offense itself as do all the guys.”

While he enjoys it all the more, Hayden Smith knows that he's got to remained focused and executing as best as he can to make the squad again in 2013.

“I’ve got to approach it the same way I did last year and that was just to get better every day,” he said. “I need to continue to get better than I am today tomorrow and give myself the best chance really to compete for a position. There’s obviously opportunity there. It’s just a matter of what you do with that opportunity.”

With Keller gone, there's an opening for some of the tight ends who are on the roster.  I know the Jets were serious about adding a player through free agency or through the draft, but I like the upside that the Jets have in guys like Josh Baker and Hayden Smith and unless the Jets sign a player who is an undoubted starter or pickup a similar player right at cutdowns, there will be another opportunity for Smith in 2013.

Since Smith is still eligible for the practice squad, he might be made to start the season there and then chip in on the 53 man roster as the roster shifts over the course of the season.  Hayden Smith showed promise in his first year, but there's still plenty of room for growth.  He's an excellent athlete and he's a willing blocker, and his speed will improve with his knowing where he needs to be on the field and not having to think about it.  The Jets will be closely evaluating the tight end spot during spring practices, and Hayden Smith could be a key piece to their plans this summer.

Tags: NYJets , Brian Bassett
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