Falcons Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones, who’s been out since the first game of the season, tested his broken right foot Wednesday.
Jones had both feet taped and did very little at the team’s walk-through. He worked off to the side with the training staff during the open portion of practice.
Cornerback Robert Alford (ankle) and kicker Matt Bryant (hamstring) did not practice, according to the team’s official injury report.
Cornerback Justin Bethel (back), center Alex Mack (back), wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (hip) and defensive tackle Deadrin Senat (neck/shoulder) were all limited in practice.
Long snapper Josh Harris (hand) fully participated in practice.
Jones suffered a broken foot in the season-opening loss to the Eagles on Sept. 6 and was placed on injured reserve.
He has missed six games and per the new rule that was adopted at the NFL’s 2018 annual meeting, Jones must sit out eight games and not eight weeks of the season after being placed on injured reserve.
The NFL has had “injured reserve with a designation to return” since 2012. In 2017, the rule was expanded to include two players who could return. The Falcons have also designated running back Devonta Freeman (sports hernia/core) to return later this season.
A player can practice after six weeks, but that starts a 21-day clock before he can be activated. The Falcons apparently are getting closer to starting Jones’ 21-day period.
Jones, who led the Falcons in tackles last season with 138, would immediately boost a unit that is yielding 419.4 yards per game and allowing offenses to convert on 54 percent of their third downs.
Jones responsibilities have been split between second-year linebacker Duke Riley, veteran De’Vondre Campbell and rookie Foye Oluokun.
Jones was named to the Pro Bowl following the 2017 season and has played in 32 games since joining the Falcons as a second-round draft pick in 2016. He has totaled 253 tackles, including 14 for loss, seven interceptions, 23 passes defensed and one forced fumble. His seven interceptions are the most by a linebacker in the NFL since 2016.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn believes that the re-worked defense, which is also missing strong safety Keanu Neal (knee surgery) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles surgery), turned the corner in the 23-20 win over the Giants before the bye.
“We are improving in the red zone and on third downs,” Quinn said. “Defensively, after some of the injuries that we had, we got bruised a little bit. Now, we’ve got ourselves back up off the mat and are making some improvements.”
Quinn pointed to the red zone stops and a goal-line stand against the Giants as progress. The Falcons also became the first defense to hold Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley to under 100 total yards this season.
“Those are the things I’ve been looking for,” Quinn said. “Some of them won’t show up on the stat sheet. Improving on our tackling. We can increase our ability to take the ball away. (The Giants game) was our first game in the minus from a turnover margin. We don’t want to have too many of those (games).”
Practice squad: The Falcons waived cornerback Deante Burton from the practice squad and signed cornerback Taveze Calhoun.
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