Injuries are apart of the NFL season and the Chicago Bears already have their fair share as they have lost both their two best wide receivers in Cameron Meredith and Kevin White.
With Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers, the team’s number one wide receiver may be Markus Wheaton who has been sidelined with several injuries so far this year, but may be just what the offense needs.
Wheaton came over in the offseason as a free agent from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even with his high potential, the Steelers chose to let Wheaton go after only playing in just three games in 2016.
His biggest years came in 2014 and 2015 as he put up big play numbers and was seen as the Steelers deep threat along side pro-bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown.
In 2015, Wheaton averaged 17.3 yards per catch and had a career game against one of the NFL’s best defenses in the Seattle Seahawks. With a defense featuring pro-bowl players in the secondary such as cornerback Richard Sherman, safeties Earl Thomas III and Kam Chancellor, Wheaton caught nine passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
Markus Wheaton has essentially been the Steelers biggest disappointment this year. He is a free agent in 2017… do you re-sign or let walk? pic.twitter.com/6Gs7BI1Jrb
— The Steel Crew (@TheSteelCrew) December 16, 2016
On Sunday, If Wheaton is cleared to play, the Bears will need is potential explosiveness badly in the passing game as he will provide a deep threat they have not had so far to start this season. Having his ability to stretch the field for the vertical passing game will help all facets of the passing game.
Against the Falcons, Bears quarterback Mike Glennon only attempted one deep pass of 25-plus yards, which was an incomplete pass to running back Tarik Cohen who was flexed out in the slot.
Wide receivers Kendall Wright, Deonte Thompson, and Josh Bellamy are all considered to be better slot wide receivers than traditional wide receivers.
Wheaton, even though he has somewhat of a small frame standing 5’11, 189 pounds, is still able to get separation on the outside and fight for contested balls. Bellamy and Thompson have proven that they can make the big play downfield, but they need someone to offset the coverage for them to get free.
In Sunday’s game against the Falcons, the longest catch by a Bears wide receiver was Kendall Wright who caught a pass on a short slant over the middle. Furthermore, the Bears longest pass play of the game was a 22-yard catch by tight end Dion Simms.
The Bears don’t need Wheaton to be the savior at the position, but he can help free up underneath routes for the wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends. His biggest attribution would be to help prevent the Buccaneers defense from stacking the line of scrimmage and having eight men in the box on defense.
Wheaton could help free up space for underneath routes for their quicker slot receivers and most importantly Tarik Cohen who will be a big target in the passing game this week and probably will see heavy coverage from the opposing defense.
The Bears offense will need to provide some sort of threat via the passing game on Sunday if they plan to win, and if Wheaton is healthy, he will provide a more credible threat.
Offensively, the Bears don’t need to have an air raid offense to win, they just need to play complementary football to help their above average defense. With a superb offensive line, the Bears can run the ball, but with no passing game, they become one dimensional and easier to game plan against. Wheaton can help the offense become more balanced, and with a balanced offense, the team as a whole will be better as well.