For as many challenges that cornerback Adonis Alexander has had to face in his short tenure with the Redskins, the Virginia Tech product always chooses to look at the positives.
The supplemental draft pick missed the team's OTAs and minicamp, so his introduction to the Redskins occurred in Richmond, Va., with his head buried in the playbook. After catching up with schemes, coaches and teammates during the frist week of training camp, he sustained a hamstring injury, limiting his time on the field to rehab drills. As a direct result, Alexander missed the Redskins' first two preseason games.
"It really should have helped me pick up more of a mental part of the game, you know learning things while I'm not out there doing it," Alexander said. "I just took a whole bunch of mental reps, and that helped me be able to slow things down in the playbook so I could learn it a lot better. I just pulled the good out of it instead of looking at all the bad."
It's been easier since Alexander returned to practice Sunday and expects to play in the team's final two preseason games, beginning Friday against the Broncos. For Alexander, it will mean fulfilling a dream he's had for a long time. For the Redskins, it means looking forward to seeing another rookie make an impact and vouch for a roster spot.
"That's the guy I'm really excited to see," head coach Jay Gruden said. "He's been down with a hamstring, he practiced [Sunday] for the first time, got an interception, so I'm excited to see him. So it's a big-big game for him, a big two games for Adonis, so he will get plenty of reps if he's able."
Gruden acknowledged earlier in camp that the road through training camp would be challenging for Alexander considering the team expects players to remember and retain information learned from the spring. "He'll catch up, he's a bright kid and [defensive backs] Coach Torrian Gray had him before at Virginia Tech so, he has a great way of communicating with him and we'll get him up to speed but he is slightly behind," Gruden said.
The Redskins liked Alexander for his size – he stands at 6-foot-3, 197 pounds, nearly like a safety -- and for his athleticism, and during the first week of camp he didn't seem to miss a beat lining up with wide receivers.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' preparing for their Preseason Week 3 game against the Denver Broncos Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
A lot of the confidence he credits to Gray, his former mentor at Virginia Tech who has eased his transition into the NFL greatly.
"He's as helpful as can be. I can go to him about anything and not be nervous or shy," Alexander said. "I spent my first times playing real football with him as my coach, so I can go to him comfortably and ask him what I need to ask him and he'll help me out."
So far, that's primarily been about film study.
"When I wasn't out there he was just making sure that I knew everything, asking me 'do you know this, do you know that?" Just making sure I stayed on top of everything," Alexander said.
He hasn't thought too much about what it will be like to run out of the tunnel on Friday night, alongside former Hokies teammates in Greg Stroman and Tim Settle, in front of Redskins fans under the lights, but he has high expectations.
"I just want to make every play that I'm supposed to make," he said. "Do all of my assignments right, all of the stuff that we went over, just make sure that I do everything correct so they know that I've been paying attention and that they know 'he hasn't just been sitting out'. Just make sure I do everything right."