Coming into the 2011 season, Travelle Wharton had spent the final weeks first inactive due to an injured toe suffered in the loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 14, 2010, and then on injury reserve from week 13 to the end. How would he fare in the 2011 season? We will take a look at his 2011 stats....after the jump.
Travelle Wharton started all 16 games for the 2011 season, making 15 starts at left guard and one at left tackle. He was one of only three offensive linemen who started every game this season. He made contributions to the Panthers offense that was ranked 7 of 32 and also set team records with 6,237 total yards and 345 first downs as well as tying for fifth in the NFL in scoring with 406 points. His run blocking helped the Panthers become the third best rushing team in the NFL with an average of 150.5 yards per game. His lane-making ways helped the Carolina Panthers gain at least 100 yards rushing in a team-record 14 consecutive games and lead the NFL with a team record 5.41 yards per carry while creating a new team record of 139 rushing first downs
2011 Season Highlights:
December 4, 2011 @ Tampa Bay: Travelle Wharton's run blocking allowed the Carolina Panthers to run for 163 yards and gain a season-high four rushing touchdowns.
December 11, 2011 Vs. Atlanta: Travelle Wharton was switched over to left tackle in place of Jordan Gross, who was injured.
Vs. Tampa Bay (12/24): Opened up running lanes helping the triple threat running offense of the Carolina Panthers to amass 270 rushing yards, equaling the 2nd-highest total in franchise history, with an incredible average of 8.7 yards per carry and 3 touchdowns on the ground.
We've got his career games and starts after the jump...
Travelle Whartons' Career:
There are three major points that stick out to me, excluding the fact that Travelle is a homegrown talent having played for the Carolina Panthers since being drafted in the third round, 94th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft. The first is his immediate impact. After being inactive the first five games, he started game six at Left Guard for the Cardiac Cats after Tutan Reyes suffered an injured left ankle and has been a starter for us ever since.
The second fact that stands out is his consistency. Excluding the 2006 season, an anomaly in which he tore his ACL and MCL in the first game, a loss against division rival Atlanta Falcons, he averages at least 13 games a season. While other players on the offensive line (Jeff Otah comes to mind immediately) have missed several games a season on a constant basis, Travelle Wharton has played in 99 out of 128 of the games since being drafted, approximately 78 percent.
This lends itself to the third point, stability. The best way to measure an offensive lineman is by seeing what happens when they're not there. In 2010, one of the worst seasons for the Panthers franchise, Wharton played 9 out of 16 games. With him being injured among other players, the offensive line fell apart, and the result was the worst offensive output of the NFL in 2010 and the first draft pick for the 2011 season.
It's very tough to find highlights for a non-skill player, so instead, take a look at these team highlights for the Carolina Panthers in the 2011 season. While admiring Smitty's speed, D-Will's bursts, Stew's power running, Lafell's "LaClutchness" and Cam Newton's phenomenal throws and runs, keep an eye out for big 70.
Carolina Panthers 2011 Highlights (via blackpantheRB34)
Most of the time, he's either holding up a block to allow for a big passing play, or setting up a running lane for Cam Newton or Jonathan Stewart to power through to gash the defense. Around 1:15, you can see number 70 impede Julius Peppers as Cam Newton passed it down field for a monster gain. Remember that ridiculous monster run Cam had against the Redskins? Look once, and you'll just be impressed at his ability. Look again around 4:06 and you'll see Travelle pushing away a defender from a possible sack from the back hat would have ended that ridiculously awesome 25 yard run.
How about Brandon Lafell's great first TD catch against Green Bay? Number 70 was blocking one defender while impeding another defenders path at 5:00. Remember D-Will's TD run against the Texans? Travelle had broken through to the secondary creating a monster hole that Wiliams ran through at 6:10. And who can forget the number 2 play of the 2011 season, the "Chudrooski" or as I like to call it "The Annexation of Carolina?" At the end of the video, you see 70 rush straight ahead allowing Richie Brockel to make it to the endzone unimpeded.
In conclusion, Travelle Wharton has been an unrecognized hero for the Carolina Panthers since 2004. While he may not be named to Pro Bowls due to not being the most recognized by name offensive guard in the NFC, when you see a monster play for Carolina, more often than not number 70 has his man in check allowing for the aerial assault or has broken through to the secondary allowing for a gash on the ground. Although Carolina is close to 10 million above the cap, I do not foresee Travelle Wharton being a casualty. His solid play and stability he brings to the line is worthy of the 5.4 million dollars he received this season as well as the 6 year, $35 million contract he signed in 2008.