The Cincinnati Bengals had a lot to be proud of after the 2011 season concluded, and fans had plenty to be excited about. One of the few positions of worry, though, was along the offensive line, and specifically the guard positions. The Bengals want to be a run-first team, but the running backs often struggled to find holes, and were limited to just 3.9 yards per carry as a team, good for a tie for 26th in the league. There also a number of other issues, including drive-killing penalties and breakdowns in pass protection. These mistakes often turned a 2nd and 5 into a 3rd and 12, or, in the case of the penalties, negated a first down play, and forced a punt instead. Fans were left feeling livid quite a few times by the gaffes that continued to haunt the team.
The object of fan disdain, more often than not, was left guard Nate Livings. He seemed to struggle for the entire year, and he graded out poorly after the season. It was definitely time for a replacement, and the team seemed ready to move on as well. This was confirmed when they allowed him to go to the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent. Now, with the scapegoat out of the way, it became a question of finding a new left guard. The Bengals answered the question a week later by signing former Carolina Panthers guard Travelle Wharton.
Wharton was drafted out of the University of South Carolina in the 3rd round by the Panthers in 2004. He started 11 games in his first year, and with the exception of injury, he held the starter’s job for his entire tenure with the team. In 2011, he started 16 games, but was released after the year ended for salary cap reasons. Wharton graded pretty well as a run-blocker, but not so much in the passing game. However, it could be argued that having a scrambling QB like Cam Newton may have affected his grade. In previous years, he graded out much better as a pass blocker.