Markus Wheaton is in an Unfamiliar Position
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Markus Wheaton is skilled enough to help the Philadelphia Eagles but the odds are against you ever finding that out.
A hamstring injury has put the veteran receiver at the mercy of two of the more famous cliches around the NFL -- you can't make the club in the tub and the best ability is availability.
Wheaton was out of sight for about three weeks dealing with his injury and now he's out of the mind of a coaching staff which will likely have five or six receivers at its disposal when the organizations cuts to 53 on Sept. 1.
Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Shelton Gibson and Mack Hollins are likely locked in although Jeffery's health remains a concern as the WR1 remains on the PUP list 11 days before the season-opener. Assuming Jeffery is on the initial roster, something that is expected, Wheaton, 27, is battling a host of players for a spot that may or may not exist.
That's a far cry for what the former third-round pick in Pittsburgh is used to. Wheaton was once a big part of an electric offense in the Steel City, hauling in 53 passes for 644 yards in his sophomore campaign in 2014 before follwoing that up with a 44-749-5 year.
Shoulder issues have derailed Wheaton ever since but he's never really been in roster peril before and typically wouldn't even play in a fourth preseason game. Now, it's his life raft.
"I've had injuries obviously but not being in the situation I'm in here," Wheaton admitted at his locker on Sunday. "I was established. Here, there's isn't the same kind of security in the situation I'm in, so we'll see how it goes."
Eagles coach Doug Pederson was in a salty mood Sunday after the latest ugly preseason loss and wasn't pulling any punches when discussing Wheaton and fellow veteran receiver Kamar Aiken, who has also been injured.
"Well, they need to be out there," the coach said. "... Markus should work back a little bit into practice this week, and we'll see where he is each day and evaluate him each day. I'm hopeful that he'll get a chance to play in this game."
Wheaton was in fact back on the practice field Sunday but a team-friendly one-year contract with only $90,000 of guaranteed money will make it easy for the Eagles to walk away this weekend unless he can change their mind against the Jets.
"I try not to think that far into it," Wheaton said of the competition. "I just have to go out there and show them what I can do. If they like me, they'll keep me. If not, they'll let me go."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen