GREEN BAY – If the music isn't too loud during training camp, it's pretty common to hear Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas hollering back and forth across the field when the Packers' No. 1 defense is lining up for an 11-on-11 snap.
It's part of the routine the starting perimeter cornerbacks have developed, letting each other know what they're seeing from the offense, and what they're anticipating is coming at them.
The constant communication between the duo didn't come naturally or automatically, though. There was a process to get the Packers' secondary stars to this point, particularly since they weren't playing together regularly until the start of the 2022 season.
"It really took a little while," Douglas admitted.
Added Alexander: "We were able to combine our different viewpoints."
To understand what that means, a brief review of their relationship as teammates is necessary.
Back in Week 4 of 2021, Alexander seriously injured his shoulder tackling Pittsburgh running back Najee Harris. Three days later, the Packers signed Douglas off of Arizona's practice squad, and less than two weeks after that, Douglas was in the lineup, essentially as Alexander's replacement.
Initially, the two engaged in just "general conversation" about the defense, according to Alexander. But as he watched Douglas record a last-second, game-sealing interception against the Cardinals in late October, followed by pick-sixes in back-to-back games after Thanksgiving, plus two more INTs on Christmas against Cleveland, their interactions took on a different tone.
"From Rasul, the way he stepped up that year, and played, he gained all my respect, so I couldn't wait to play with him," Alexander said. "I couldn't wait to be on the field with him.
"He had five interceptions. I never had five in my whole entire career, so I'm like, 'Damn, how'd you get five?' I'm asking him like, 'Yo, what'd you see? What'd you see on this play? How'd you know this was about to happen?'"
As Alexander began working to return for the 2021 playoffs, and then again to prepare for the 2022 season, the two started comparing notes when they reviewed film, and they learned something crucial about each other.
Here's how they explain it.
Douglas: "Me and him were studying each other without telling each other. We just started talking over film."
Alexander: "Through that we gained a relationship, because he was able to tell me like, 'All right, in this formation, they like to do these (routes), and in this other formation, they're running a crosser or an over.' And that's something I never took into consideration."
Douglas: "I'd give him a play and then I'd send him 10 other times (the opponent) did the exact thing from the same formation.
"He watches film different. Ja, he's a man-to-man guy so he's just watching whoever he's going to be guarding. If it's Justin Jefferson, all he wants on that tape is Justin Jefferson. He's not watching (Adam) Thielen or nobody else. For me, I'm watching the broad of the formation and everybody, and not just one person. I'd display my notes to him and he'll tell me what he's seeing. We kept doing that, and then communication got better."
Alexander: "We're able to combine them. Now I'm looking at formations, now he's studying the receiver more. So we're able to play off each other, and that's how you become better as a secondary."
Last season, as the off-field work grew more mutually beneficial, the on-field banter cranked up as well, particularly when Douglas was playing slot corner and often lining up right next to Alexander.
"When he was playing nickel, that's probably the most times we got to talk," Alexander said.
Added Douglas: "We had no choice but to talk every play. If I saw something, I'd say, 'Yo, my guy got this, your guy got this,' so (we) know how to play it. From there on out, we just communicate every time."
The slot wasn't Douglas' best spot, but as the season wore on and he moved back to his customary boundary corner position, both players benefited from the rapport they'd built.
Beginning in Week 8, after combining for just one interception to that point, Alexander and Douglas each picked off four passes for a total of eight INTs between them over the last 10 games. That gave Alexander a career-high five on the season, matching Douglas' total from 2021. Moreover, they each had four interceptions in the fourth quarter, tying for the league lead in that category.
"It's just talking to each other, telling each other what we've been seeing all game," Douglas said of their fourth-quarter thievery. "I think that's why I like playing with Ja."
Consider the feeling mutual.
"I feel like what makes 'Sul very talented is his keen instinct for the ball, and keen instinct for understanding formations," Alexander said. "That's what he has helped me with."
As the two embark on 2023, they're working with Keisean Nixon as the slot corner, with a lot of competition for spots behind them. Former first-round pick Eric Stokes also is expected to return from injury at some point.
The two veteran starters have been impressed with the athletic and speedy Nixon, whom Douglas calls "savvy" with "that dog mindset," and they're pushing him to contribute to the pre-snap chatter as much as they do.
"He'll communicate and then stop," Douglas said. "It's like, 'Bro, say your whole sentence. Don't just say half of it and then stop and don't finish the rest.' You can never communicate too much. Just keep talking. We're getting him on that page."
But Nixon can be forgiven if it's tough to get a word in edge-wise with Alexander and Douglas now hollering back and forth so much. It may have taken a while to get there, but there's no turning back now.
"We've both got those alpha genes but, in a game, it's all feel," Douglas said. "If he's feeling some type of way, we're going to play it that way. If I'm feeling something, we're going to play it that way.
"If we see something, we just say it."