Atlanta Falcons: Stephen Nicolas

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith said he has options at linebacker. It will be interesting to see what those are if Akeem Dent doesn't return to the lineup Sunday.

Dent
Dent, who missed the last game with an ankle injury, was back at practice this week but is listed as questionable for Sunday's NFC South clash against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He started at middle linebacker when healthy.

Omar Gaither started at middle linebacker in the last game alongside outside linebackers Joplo Bartu and Stephen Nicholas. Paul Worrilow, who surpassed Nicholas in the starting lineup in Week 4, seems to have recovered from the knee injury that bumped him back out of the starting lineup during the last game.

"We've got some guys that have now played in our sub package -- a number of guys -- Akeem being one of them, Stephen, and our two rookies [Bartu and Worrilow]," Smith said. "So we'll have some flexibility in our sub package.

"Omar has not played in any of our sub, but he's played in our base. So it gives us flexibility in terms of how we're going to put that together."

The Falcons have gone with a different linebacker trio in every game, not counting Week 2 when defensive coordinator Mike Nolan started the game with an extra defensive back in the nickel package.

Outside linebacker/defensive end Kroy Biermann, who started Week 1, suffered a season-ending Achilles' tendon tear in that opener. Fellow starting outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was placed on short-term injured reserve with a foot injury and is eligible to return. Weatherspoon tweeted Friday that he is targeting Nov. 17 at Tampa Bay for his return.

Injuries, of course, have taken a toll on the 1-4 Falcons. Wide receiver Julio Jones is done for the season after foot surgery. Fellow offensive starters Roddy White (hamstring), Steven Jackson (hamstring) and Sam Baker (knee) are all sidelined.

Here is the full injury report for the Falcons-Buccaneers game:

FALCONS – Out: WR Roddy White (knee, hamstring), RB Steven Jackson (hamstring), LT Sam Baker (knee), TE Chase Coffman (knee); Questionable: LB Akeem Dent (ankle); Probable: RB Jason Snelling (concussion).

BUCCANEERS – Out: G Carl Nicks (foot), RB Jeff Demps (groin); Questionable: WR Mike Williams (hamstring), DE Da'Quan Bowers (toe), CB Michael Adams (knee); Probable: G Davin Joseph (knee); C Jeremy Zuttah (groin).
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel, who missed last week’s game with a thigh injury, was on the field with a helmet and gloves during the open period of practice.

Samuel
Samuel did light sprints before joining the defensive backs for the start of individual drills. He did not practice Thursday.

While Samuel showed signs of progress, running back Steven Jackson remained without a helmet as he continues to recover from a Week 2 hamstring injury. Jackson completed a few stretching exercises then observed as the running backs went through drills.

Jackson is not expected to play Monday night, but coach Mike Smith refused to rule him out just yet.

Linebacker Paul Worrilow, who started against the Patriots but exited with a knee injury, had a helmet on for the start of the special-teams portion of practice. Worrilow had his left knee heavily taped.

Stephen Nicholas, Omar Gaither and Joplo Bartu are expected to form the starting linebacker combination against the Jets.

Receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White were on the field in full practice gear. White wore a red compression sock on his left leg as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain. Jones has been either held out or limited throughout the season in what has been labeled as a knee issue.

Update: Here is how Friday's injury report shaped up:

Did not participate: Jackson (hamstring)
Limited participation: Jonathan Babineaux (foot), Julio Jones (knee), Asante Samuel (thigh)*, Roddy White (ankle), Paul Worrilow (knee)*.
Full participation: Drew Davis (ankle)

*Indicates a change in status from the previous day.

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