How can Carolina Panthers running back Chuba Hubbard avoid the dreaded sophomore slump when competitive action begins in 2022?
It’s evident that a lot of hard work lies ahead for Chuba Hubbard. The running back saw far more reps than originally expected after Christian McCaffrey once again dealt with some troubling injury problems, leaving the Carolina Panthers without their talisman and relying on an inexperienced fourth-round rookie who had to grow up fast.
Hubbard did flash some capabilities despite Carolina’s offensive line doing him no favors whatsoever. Expecting the Oklahoma State product to put up McCaffrey-type numbers right away was unrealistic, but there were times when the player did look like someone that could become a long-term starter at the position.
Even though Hubbard rushed for 612 yards and five touchdowns from 172 carries, there were some clear signs that much more will be needed moving forward. The player has some problems in pass protection, he struggles to produce additional yards after initial contact, and his influence in the passing game is also not up to the required standard.
This was the steepest of learning curves for Hubbard. But the simple fact of the matter is that the Panthers didn’t have any other choice once McCaffrey went to the sidelines.
Thankfully, McCaffrey looks fit once again this offseason and will be counted upon heavily to steer Carolina back in the right direction. However, putting too much on the All-Pro wouldn’t be wise, so Hubbard could still see some work in the backfield despite the free-agent signing of D’Onta Foreman.
If nothing else, this will take some heat off Hubbard and allow the player to develop at his own pace. An opportunity he was not afforded during the previous campaign.
Chuba Hubbard and the Carolina Panthers must get back down to basics this offseason
Getting back down to basics will be key for Hubbard in pursuit of avoiding the sophomore slump many experience once teams get a good amount of film on them as rookies. Improving technique, strength, and overall football IQ is going to be important, which should lay some better foundations long-term.
Of course, this might change if Foreman struggles to make a smooth transition and McCaffrey’s health problems persist. Something that Hubbard should be a little more prepared for this time around.
Much was made about head coach Matt Rhule going on the recommendation of his wife to bring Hubbard to the franchise. There is some talent that can hopefully become something more over time, but fine-tuning problem areas this season and into the future is the only way he’ll carve out a pivotal role for himself.
It’s far too soon to be giving up on Hubbard just yet. And one could argue he was the top-performing Panthers rookie from a class that flattered to deceive and also suffered an early blow when Jaycee Horn went down with a broken foot.
Things will not be easy for Hubbard over the preparation period. So it’s vital he demonstrates the right attitude to development and makes the most out of whatever opportunities come his way.
If he can do this, then avoiding problems when carries arrive in 2022 is something Hubbard could be capable of. Providing everything goes according to plan, of course.