JUST WHAT DOCTOR ORDERED
Injury- plagued Wheaton could return vs. Pack to give Bears a deep threat
Markus Wheaton has been so bludgeoned by injuries that his own offensive coordinator has to go back two years just to see what the Bears have in their receiver.
“We’re trying to figure out still where exactly he is, what exactly he’s good at,” Dowell Loggains said Wednesday. “We have to rely a lot on the 2015 tape when you evaluate him.”
Since that season, Wheaton has totaled five catches and four serious injuries. He played three games with the Steelers last year before suffering a shoulder injury for which he’d later need labrum surgery.
On July 30, he had appendix surgery in Bourbonnais. Less than three weeks later, he had an operation on his left pinkie, which he broke while trying to catch a ball in his first full practice after returning. On Oct. 12, after making one catch all season — on the last play of the loss against the Vikings — he pulled his groin during practice.
Wheaton could return Sunday against the Packers. He was limited in practice Wednesday but said he was trending toward his first game in more than a month. “Hopefully I’ll be able to go,” he said. But will he be better? After signing a two- year, $ 11 million contract, Wheaton was targeted nine times this season. Only one game, though, was with rookie Mitch Trubisky at the helm.
“He runs really good routes, he’s got good ball skills, he gets open and he’s fast,” Trubisky y said. “So we could use his speed to open up things in the offense.”
That’s an understatetement. The first time the he Bears played the Packkers, their rivals ran cover- 1 — man coverage, funneled inside — and dared the Bears’ receivers to blow past them. Other teams have played eight- and even nineman fronts against the e Bears’ run- first offense.
The only way to get them to stop is for receivers to make dynamic plays.
“We gotta build confidence in them upstairs to continue to attack,” Wheaton said. “And that comes here on the practice field every day, in the meeting room, watching film.”
The Bears are optimistic that Wheaton and former Charger Dontrelle Inman, for whom the team traded a conditional seventh- round pick two weeks ago, will be able to gain the separation from cornerbacks that their predecessors couldn’t.
Both, though, need to grow comfortable with Trubisky — and vice versa.
“There is a timing element with the quarterback that has to be worked on, and it’s hard to do that until you’re healthy and ready to go,” Loggains said. “So we’re going to live through a little bit of growing pains with those two guys. But we’re excited about them because they’re both veteran guys, and they should be able to get in there and help. And as they get more exposures, we’ll get more exposures on them, as well.
“And Mitchell will start to feel more comfortable with them that way.”
The Bears’ passing attack can still go deep, Wheaton said.
“It’s something we’re excited about,” he said. “We haven’t lost faith in it. We have good guys, we have a great quarterback and we’ll get it going.”
As for the two- year- old film, Wheaton hopes he has improved since the season in which he caught 44 passes for a career- high 749 yards. Now it’s his job to prove it. “I hope nobody’s the same as they were in 2015,” he said. “I think I’m a better player than I was then, and I’m sure if you ask anybody in the locker loc room, they’ll say the th same thing.
“I think that, like I said, it’s about proving to them out here on the practice field that tha I am a better player. And I need them to have confidence conf in me, just like I have hav confidence in myself.” self.”
Bears wide receiver Markus Wheaton, who has caught only one pass this season, might be back Sunday against the Packers.
| BUTCH DILL/ AP