ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith has changed his team, his home and the perception that he couldn't ever be a dangerous downfield passer. However, one obvious thing that hasn't been altered over this past year is his attitude. Sure, he's well known for his humility and his penchant for delivering bland quotes. Just don't make the mistake of thinking that he's come this far in his NFL career without a little bit of edge.
"I feel like I have something to prove because of all that," said the 34-year-old Smith, who signed a four-year, $94 million extension with Washington. "To play like that and be on to a new opportunity -- you want to prove that you're worth it."
To be clear, Smith isn't dwelling on the past. He loves everything about Washington -- the town, the team and his new teammates -- and he's grateful for the five seasons he spent with the Chiefs. Smith knew full well that Kansas City was prepared to make Patrick Mahomes, the 10th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, its franchise quarterback as soon as possible. As far as Smith was concerned, the best way he could help Mahomes develop was by making the most of his own opportunities.
Smith did what he had to do last season. Often derided as a cautious game manager, he set career highs in passing yards (4,042) and touchdown throws (26) and finished as the highest-rated passer in the league (with a rating of 104.7). Now the challenge is for him to keep playing at that same level for a Redskins team that has been riddled with drama at the quarterback position and has missed the postseason in each of the last two seasons. When the team couldn't reach a long-term contract with former starter Kirk Cousins (who eventually signed with Minnesota as a free agent), Smith became the best option as his successor.
The Redskins clearly want the same things Smith gave the Chiefs: consistency, reliability and a calming presence that would do wonders for a franchise that has wallowed in dysfunction for far too long.
"What I like is his unselfish demeanor," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "His desire to work, learn and take criticism. He's even-keeled, and the guys all like him. For a quarterback, my two most important qualities are being mentally tough and having poise. That's how he's been able to last  years in this league."
Smith makes the Redskins a dangerous team for the same reasons he helped the Chiefs reach the postseason in four of his five seasons in Kansas City: He knows how to win. Even though his weapons won't be as accomplished as they were with the Chiefs, he will have plenty of options in Washington. Smith loves throwing to tight ends, and the Redskins have two athletic targets (Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, who played with Smith in San Francisco). There is a shifty slot receiver to utilize (Jamison Crowder), a couple of young wideouts with big-play potential (Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson Jr.) and a sturdy offensive line to protect the quarterback.
Yes, the Redskins suffered a huge blow when rookie running back Derrius Guicesustained a torn ACL in his left knee during the team's first preseason game. That just means Smith will have to rely on his mobility a little more, as the team leans on recently signed 12th-year veteran Adrian Peterson and a committee of others to pick up the slack in the backfield. In fact, Smith's biggest challenge hasn't been dealing with personnel losses. It's been learning how to be the new kid on the block.
"When I went to [Kansas City], that was a whole regime change," said Smith, who was traded to the Chiefsfrom San Francisco in 2013, when coach Andy Reid and then-general manager John Dorsey took over in Kansas City. "Everybody (on the coaching staff and in the front office) was new. Here, things have been in place, so I have to be able to get up to speed with everybody else. I'm the one playing catch-up. But I'm obviously in a much different place than I was six years ago. I'm more prepared."
Smith has made a point of being as authentic as he possibly can around his teammates. It doesn't matter if he's grinding on the practice field, fooling around in the locker room or relaxing in a cold tub. He wants his teammates to see that he isn't trying to lead them with big talk and bravado. He's trying to do it by letting them see that he's one of them.
That can go a long way on a team that has spent years trying to stabilize the quarterback position. Within the last decade, the Redskins have watched Donovan McNabb's collapse, Robert Griffin III's implosion and the long-running soap opera that was the failed contract negotiation between Cousins and the franchise. If you're a Redskins fan, it's nice to know your quarterback's major focus today revolves around just getting settled. That welcome circumstance -- along with Smith's versatility -- should suggest better fortunes for this team once the regular season begins.
Said offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh: "When we were evaluating Alex after the season was over -- and we knew Kirk wouldn't be back -- we watched all of his games. We knew what he was capable of. We saw a lot of the things [the Chiefs] did with him in the run game, what kind of concepts they used in the pass game, quarterback runs, reads. We thought there were a few more things we could do with this offense, with him in there running it."
Smith has been thinking along the same lines. He spent last season preparing himself for the end of his time in Kansas City, as well as the challenge that would come with starting a new chapter in his life. The man who arrived in Washington knew he'd shown people a new dimension of his game. The man who will be under center this fall understands there's plenty more left for him to reveal.