5 pivotal matchups to watch during Panthers at Cowboys in Week 4

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Chuba Hubbard
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Chuba Hubbard /
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Carolina Panthers
(Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports) Chuba Hubbard /

Chuba Hubbard vs. Micah Parsons

After Christian McCaffrey went down in the first half of Week 3, the Carolina Panthers turned to rookie Chuba Hubbard to pick up that load, with mixed results.

The fourth-round pick started off very slowly, unable to pick up any yards or make a fairly poor run defense miss. There is room for debate as to whether that was because of Hubbard or a coaching staff who had to come up with a new game plan on the fly. But, whoever was at fault, it didn’t look good.

After a couple of shaky possessions, things started to click and Hubbard came away with 52 rushing yards on limited opportunities.

Hubbard is not a scat back by any means, he uses his size and strength to run through defenders rather than around them and that will take some getting used to from a team perspective as it’s the opposite of what McCaffrey brings.

Once the player and the team figured that out Hubbard began to gash the Texans for big gains up the middle, using his bruising style to its full potential. This has to be at least a little encouraging for a fanbase that saw its postseason hopes flash before their eyes when No. 22 went into that blue tent.

Things won’t be that easy for the rookie against the Cowboys.

After what can only be described as a disaster of historical proportions for the Cowboys on defense last season, new coordinator Dan Quinn has this squad humming and doing just enough to keep the team in games, and in some ways doing even more.

A large part of this success is rookie Micah Parsons, a pick that surprised some given how stacked the Cowboys linebacker room has been.

Oh, how wrong they were.

Parsons has taken over the defense and flies around the field, always keeping himself right in the middle of the play. The first-round pick can do it all, cover, stop the run, rush the quarterback. Even when lined up out of position after the injury to DeMarcus Lawrence he has proven capable of changing the game.

With a talent like that leading a ridiculously deep room, Hubbard may find it hard to find the space to make anything happen because getting past the line won’t be the usual guarantee of a long run. This is shown in the fact that the Cowboys have only given up 211 rushing yards through three weeks.

And this is all without saying anything of a resurgent Jaylon Smith finally coming into his own as well as above-average play from Leighton Vander Esch and converted safety, Keanu Neal.

This Cowboys defense has certainly changed from the leaking faucet that it was last season where the run is concerned. Hubbard will find it tough treading if Quinn’s unit can keep up this pace.