Akeem Dent misses Falcons’ practice Thursday

Linebacker Akeem Dent was limited in practice Thursday. He suffered a sprained ankle against the Patriots on Sept. 29 and missed the Jets game on Oct. 7.

Over the first four games, Dent had 31 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one pass breakup. He opened the season strong with 12 tackles at New Orleans.

Running back Steven Jackson (hamstring), left tackle Sam Baker (left knee), tight end Chase Coffman (knee) and wide receiver Roddy White (hamstring/ankle) also did not practice.

The Falcons originally thought Jackson injury was a short-term.

“Steven is working hard to get back out on the field,” coach Mike Smith said. “As soon as he gets cleared by the doctors, we’ll get him back out here. It’s a hamstring that’s been tough to come back from.”

Weatherspoon update: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who was placed on the injured reserve-designated for return Sept. 17 with a foot injury, is progressing in his recovery.

The team did not reveal if he broke his foot or if was a bad sprain, but he’s off crutches now and is still in a boot. He suffered the injury against the Rams on Sept. 15.

“It’s a six-week break, and then he can get on the field, then it’s basically an eight-week situation (to determine if he can play),” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said on his weekly radio spot on 790 the Zone. “He’s moving around well.”

The Falcons hope to still be in contention for the postseason when Weatherspoon returns.

“Spoon’s a very big part of this team,” Dimitroff said. “We need him back as soon as possible. We hope that in the interim we continue to play hard and win games so that when he comes back, he’s ready to hit full stride and affect this team as we know he can.”

Samuel on defense: When confronted with situations of third-and-8 or longer, the defense has been getting scorched. Teams have converted of 10 of 22 such situations (45.4 percent).

“You just got to understand the situation of the game,” Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel said. “We have to make sure that we take the proper drops and angles. We have to make sure that we make the play.

Samuel has battled a thigh injury, but appears to be fully recovered.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Samuel said. “I’m moving around good.”

Samuel on the Bucs: Samuel and his secondary mates will have a big task with Tampa Bay's big receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.

“When it comes (time) to put your hands on them, you put your hands on them and try to re-route them a little bit,” Samuel said. “When the ball is in the air, you have to be the first man up to defend the ball. (They) will definitely be a challenge.”

Samuel has been impressed with Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Mike Glennon.

“He looks good,” Samuel said. “He looks like he’s coming along with the offense. He’s making some good passes.”