Falcons' Deion Jones makes a connection with Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher

ATLANTA -- Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones couldn't help but notice the flattering words Pro Football Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher used to describe his game.

Instead of just marveling over Urlacher's high praise, Jones decided to express his appreciation. He reached out to Urlacher personally via social media.

"I reached out to him, and we just kind of exchanged numbers and got to talking a little bit," Jones said. "Just growing up watching him play, it was kind of dope what he said. ... I just thanked him for what he said. It meant a lot coming from him."

In November, before Jones returned from early-season foot surgery, Urlacher called Jones a "bad m-----f-----" and a "star" who is the fastest middle linebacker in the game and can cover anybody.

Urlacher didn't expect to hear from Jones but appreciated connecting with the 24-year-old, who played in the 2018 Pro Bowl.

"It makes me feel good because I've been out of the game for a while," Urlacher said. "It's nice of guys to actually want to even pick my brain a little bit. I don't think I really gave him too much advice. I just said, 'I'm a big fan of yours and whatever you ever need, just give me a holler.' He's such a nice kid."

Jones led the Falcons in tackles during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, posting 106 and 138 tackles, respectively. He had 53 tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble, a sack and six passes defensed last season despite missing 10 games after breaking his foot.

Urlacher, who has established a bond with Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner over the years and made a connection with Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch at the Pro Bowl, said his advice to Jones or any young linebacker is rather simple.

"The key is just to keep getting better," Urlacher said. "You can't help staying healthy or not, but you can find ways to get better. Yes, it's hard when you get to a certain level to find those ways, but you always have stuff you can improve on."

For Jones, listed as 222 pounds, the Falcons would like to see him gain some more weight without compromising his blazing speed. Jones is the central figure of the defense because of his coverage skills and ability to cover up mistakes by others with his speed. He can put a hit on a runner, too, despite being smaller than the other linebackers surrounding him.

The Falcons hope to make significant strides on defense with coach Dan Quinn taking over as the defensive coordinator after firing Marquand Manuel. The defense already experienced a minor facelift with starting cornerback Robert Alford and defensive end Brooks Reed being released. Signing defensive tackle Grady Jarrett to a long-term extension is the team's main priority, and the Falcons expect to have Pro Bowl strong safety Keanu Neal (ACL) and free safety Ricardo Allen (Achilles) back in 2019 from their season-ending injuries.

So, what is Jones looking forward to the most?

"Just to get back on track, getting back to the ball we've been playing," Jones said. "Get back with my boys and playing -- that's it."