After Carolina Panthers (3-0) coach Matt Rhule was coerced by his wife to pick running back Chuba Hubbard in the fourth round of this past April’s NFL draft, the fans will get a good look at their new acquisition as he’s expected to get his first NFL start against the Dallas Cowboys (2-1) with Christian McCaffrey out for the next few weeks with a hamstring injury.
Although quarterback Sam Darnold said that playing without McCaffrey is “not ideal,” he’s confident the rookie will be productive if he doesn’t try to do too much.
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Meanwhile, Royce Freeman will also play running back and the team could promote Rodney Smith and/or Spencer Brown from the practice squad, too.
“He doesn’t have to do anything special,” Darnold further added, according to AP inputs. “He just has to do his job every day. That is what we ask of everyone. And we aren’t going to ask him to do anything more just because Christian is out.”
Last Thursday, Hubbard enjoyed a significant playing time after McCaffrey pulled up while running a sweep play in the first quarter of the team’s 24-9 win over the Houston Texans.
Although the 22-year-old struggled initially, he seemed to get his footing — literally — in the second half.
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Rather than slipping and falling as he had been doing in some of his previous carries, Hubbard started hitting holes hard and finished with a respectable 52 yards on 17 carries. Freeman, who is considered a better pass-blocker, carried five times for 17 yards.
But it was Darnold who ran for two touchdowns while rookie Tommy Tremble scored the other on a tight end sweep.
Hubbard has shown the ability to put up some big games while playing at Oklahoma State, including a 171-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Rhule-coached Baylor Bears in 2019.
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That was the one that caught his wife’s eye.
That was part of his best season, where Hubbard ran for 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns and caught 23 passes for 198 yards as a sophomore. The 22-year-old Hubbard finished his college career with 3,459 yards rushing in three seasons and 33 touchdowns.
“He’s doing a great job in the run game and being able to find the hole,” Darnold said.
With inputs from the Associated Press