Tialavea moved from tight end to tackle

Add former tight end D.J. Tialavea to the group battling for a backup tackle position with the Falcons.

Tialavea was one of the 13 players to catch a touchdown pass last season. Yet he moved to tackle and traded in his No. 86 jersey for No. 74 on Thursday.

“It was something that he and I discussed previously,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He really wants to give it a shot, and I thought the earlier the better.”

Tialavea is 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds. He originally signed with Dallas after the 2014 draft out of Utah State.

Kevin Graf, Will Freeman, Daniel Brunskill and Andreas Knappe, all undrafted players with no NFL game experience, also are competing for the backup swing tackle spot behind left tackle Jake Matthews and right tackle Ryan Schraeder.

“Those guys are all battling it out,” Falcons offensive line coach Chris Morgan said. “That competition is hot, too. We’ve got to sort it out.”

Morgan didn’t seem overly worried that none of the backup tackle candidates have NFL experience. Last season’s backup swing tackle Tom Compton was not re-signed. He signed with the Bears as a free agent.

“The guys are doing a good job of developing,” Morgan said. “We’ll see how it goes on the move. We have to keep getting better every day.”

Graf, 6-6 and 309 pounds, played at USC. He is the veteran of the group. He went undrafted in 2014 and has spent time with the Eagles (2014-15) and Colts (2016).

Freeman, Brunskill and Knappe were undrafted free agents signed after the 2017 draft.

Freeman, 6-6 and 275 pounds, played at Southern Miss. He was selected to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll in 2013. Freeman also saw action on offense and defense for Southern Miss.

Brunskill, 6-5, 260 pounds, played at San Diego State. He made the switch from tight end to left tackle before his senior season, earning second-team All-Mountain West honors in his lone year at the position. He played in played in 54 consecutive games, which tied him for the most in school history.

Brunskill was a Burlsworth Trophy nominee – the award given to the top college walk-on – which Falcons wide receiver Justin Hardy won in 2014.

Knappe, 6-8 and 325 pounds, played at Connecticut. He started all 12 games at right tackle in 2016. He’s from Denmark and helped Connecticut reach the 100-yard mark rushing six times last season. Knappe played in 36 games during his career with the Huskies.

Morgan said the players are highly competitive.

“That’s no different than that other battle (at right guard) and all of the position battles,” Morgan said. “We’ll move some guys around. We’ve got to see how the guys look when the pads are on in the run game and in (pass) protection.

“(What will they do) when they get a guy bull rush, a guy running down the middle of them and can they show that they can anchor.”

If neither of the four step forward, the Falcons will likely search for a veteran with experience when teams make their final cuts.