The Eagles' first-team defense enters the season on a strong note after limiting the Cleveland Browns to three points last week, and now they can add what defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz compared to a "caged-up lion" with defensive end Brandon Graham joining the lineup. What remains unclear is how soon Graham can resemble the difference-maker he was last season.
Graham, who had offseason ankle surgery, was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list last week. He did not play in the third preseason game. Graham estimated Monday that he's operating at 80 percent of his full strength.
"A lot of it's just going to depend on him," Schwartz said of Graham's Week 1 contributions. "We were able to get him back on the practice field. He was like a caged-up lion or something. He just had so much energy out there [Sunday]. But how he responds coming back on a day, coming back on two days, what the trainers think, what the doctors think, and then with us, how we think he can perform, all of that will go into what it looks like: whether he's going to play; whether he's not; the number of plays; all that will be determined over the course of the next  days."
The Eagles return most of their starting defense from last season. The jobs with the most competition this summer have been slot cornerback and weak-side linebacker. Schwartz was not ready to announce who won those roles. He said he's "about 85 percent firm" on what his roster will be in Week 1. It appeared from last week's game against Cleveland that Sidney Jones will be the slot cornerback and Kamu Grugier-Hill the weak-side linebacker. Of course, the Eagles also need a different strong-side linebacker for Week 1 because Nigel Bradham is suspended.
"I think that we're also set [so] that we can employ different matchups depending on how a game's going to be, what the matchups look like and how we think a game is going to play out," Schwartz said. "But no matter what we think, the proof is going to be in the pudding and it's going to be up to the players to perform well. Just because they come out of somewhere at the end of training camp, doesn't mean that's set in stone for 16 games. This is a performance business and everyone has to perform."
Running back Jay Ajayi remained absent at practice. Ajayi has been out since Aug. 19. Coach Doug Pederson said last week that Ajayi has a lower-body injury and is resting. Ajayi would not play in Thursday's preseason finale even if healthy.
The Eagles also practiced without wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins; tight ends Richard Rodgers and Joshua Perkins; defensive tackle Tim Jernigan; and safety Chris Maragos.
The Eagles signed safety Deshawntee Gallon, a Georgia Southern product who spent time with the Arizona Cardinals last summer. They waived wide receiver Anthony Mahoungou, who has not recorded a catch during the preseason and was not expected to make the 53-man roster.
Les Bowen contributed to this report.