Travelle Wharton entered training camp last year as the starting left guard on the team's depth chart. By the third play from scrimmage during the team's first preseason game, Wharton suffered a season-ending knee injury. Second-year guard Clint Boling, who struggled with three starts in 2011 as a rookie, took over and quickly dominated his position. At one point by mid-season, Boling was ranked as the No. 10 guard in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus' grading system.
Unfortunately, the domination faded and struggles ensued towards the end of the season. He struggled against Dallas and Philadelphia, allowing three quarterback sacks and failed to record a positive grade in the final six games of the season (including the Bengals Wild Card loss to the Houston Texans).
The progress made from year one to last year was substantial for Boling, who is entering his third season after being selected in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL draft. An impact pass blocker and serviceable run blocker, Boling began to establish himself as a possible foundation piece on the offensive line, but needs to continue making the progress that he made last year. Otherwise he'll be average and easily replaceable.
Boling will be competing against Wharton as the starting left guard, assuming that Wharton's knee is fully rehabilitated by training camp. But in our estimation, this is Boling's job to lose and if he sustains consistency with progress, the Bengals could have one of the better interior offensive lines in the NFL.