Adonis Alexander missed all of NFL offseason workouts prior to training camp, but he felt comfortable when he signed with the Redskins.
That's because Washington's Supplemental Draft pick had the luxury of teaming up with a familiar face in the same defensive backfield: rookie cornerback Greg Stroman.
With the two playing on opposite ends of Virginia Tech's famous "DBU" defensive backfield, the satisfaction of playing alongside the sixth-round NFL Draft pick has allowed Alexander to catch up to speed in the Redskins' defensive system and make his case for a roster spot in training camp.
"They have more of a better chemistry because they play the same position," former Virginia Tech and current Redskins teammate Tim Settle said. "They switched out there secondary wise at Tech. They had a good chemistry because they knew what they had to do. Both of them knew what each other had to do as far as their assignment and technique...I'm sure that Adonis is asking Greg a lot of questions and I know Greg is helping him so Adonis can catch up and be up to par with everybody else."
Stroman first encountered Alexander when he took a visit to Virginia Tech during the sixth-round pick's freshman season. While the 6-foot-3 corner got to witness spring practice and was intrigued by the fact that the school prided itself on being the best defensive backfield in the country, he was more impressed with the group welcoming him with open arms.
Once Alexander committed, he was an immediate contributor thanks to the help of the 5-foot-11 corner. Whenever the Independence High School graduate had a question regarding the defense, Stroman was the one to answer. That easy to communicate style made life miserable for opposing offenses, with Virginia Tech giving up the 21st fewest passing yards in the nation during the duo's final year.
The willingness of Stroman to talk about anything has allowed Alexander to grow as a cornerback and make improvements regarding technique and guarding wide receivers.
"I can definitely talk to him about whatever," Alexander said. "We always had chemistry, for real. It's just like college. If I don't know something, I go to him. He doesn't know something, he can come to me. Now we in a situation where he knows more than me, so I just go to him."
The Washington Redskins conducted their fifth day of training camp practice Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
When Alexander was selected by the Redskins in the NFL's Supplemental Draft, he had a quick turnaround to learn the system after missing rookie minicamp and OTAs. To help him catch up, the 6-foot-3 cornerback's partner in his college secondary took the initiative of giving him as much of a chance to make the team as the defensive players who participated in offseason workouts.
Stroman, who is Alexander's roommate in Richmond, emphasized the importance of understanding the expectations of a rookie while being willing to learn from everything and everyone on the team. His guidance has kept Alexander focused on and off the field, showing his teammates and coaches that he is just as dedicated to executing the system as the rookies who had the two-month advantage.
"He knows the rookie's role, what we need to be doing because you can't do the same stuff as a veteran," Alexander said. "He knows exactly what the rookies got to do. We need to be there early, be in the playbook every day, every night. He's teaching me how to be a pro, for real."
Alexander is already seeing the benefit of listening to Stroman, being thrown into action in the team's secondary during practice. With his ability to learn the system so quickly, the Charlotte, N.C., native was promoted to the second-team defense as a corner. Thanks to his contributions in the defensive backfield, the Redskins' second-team defense had success limiting catches in the passing game during Tuesday's workout.
Seeing how the bond the two had in college is transferring over to the pro game, Alexander is continuing to feed off Stroman's knowledge to give himself the opportunity to team up with him in the defensive backfield for a second time.
"I just feel like Adonis is just a guy that wants to do well," Stroman said. "You can see that. He wants to learn, he wants to focus on his technique and just learn how to be the best he can be. I think he has freakish size and speed for his size, so he definitely knows how to use that and that's been the easiest transition for him."