LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The best advice for Markus Wheaton fantasy owners is to proceed with caution.
Barring another unexpected setback, Wheaton should make his 2017 debut on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wheaton’s return, in theory, is an important development for Chicago’s offense, a unit that has almost no explosive passing plays through two weeks. Wheaton's biggest strength is his ability to stretch the field. Wheaton set career-highs in receiving yards (749), touchdowns (five) and yards per catch (17.0) as a member of the Steelers in 2015. He played in just three games last season due to a shoulder injury, but the Bears still signed him to a two-year deal, with $6 million guaranteed in 2017.
"Yeah, it’ll be hopefully great to get Markus back," Bears quarterback Mike Glennon said on Wednesday. "He brings another speed element. We already have kind of fast guys on the outside with Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson. We’re kind of growing into a speed offense with Tarik Cohen and those receivers. So I think it can really stretch the defense and we can run by guys, we can throw it deep. So it definitely adds another dimension. It’ll be great having Markus back."
Here’s the problem: Glennon barely passed the ball to Wheaton in training camp, because Wheaton wasn’t practicing. The fifth-year receiver missed almost the entire summer due to an appendicitis and then later a broken pinkie finger that required surgery.
And, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains pointed out, when Wheaton did actually dress for practice in Bourbonnais he worked more with Chicago’s backup quarterbacks since Cameron Meredith and Kevin White -- both since placed on injured reserve -- were ahead of Wheaton on the depth chart.
“It’s going to be interesting, because Glennon didn’t have much time with him in OTAs and in training camp. When he was up, he was going with Mitchell [Trubisky] more because of Kevin and Cam,” Loggains said. “We’ve got to get those guys on the same page quickly. He’s a guy that’s played in the NFL and had production. That’s a big thing for us right now.”
The lack of chemistry between quarterback and receiver is dangerous -- especially since the Steelers' defense allows the third fewest yards per play (3.89) and ranks fifth versus the pass (163.0 yards per game).
But Glennon doesn’t have a ton of other options at receiver.
“I got some work in [with Glennon],” Wheaton said. “Is it where we want it to be? Probably not. But we’ll work on it.”
Not what fantasy owners want to hear.