3 pleasant surprises from the Carolina Panthers 2023 season

It wasn't all bad for the Carolina Panthers in 2023.

Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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What were some pleasant surprises to emerge from an otherwise disastrous two-win season for the Carolina Panthers in 2023?

Before everyone can look forward with a hopeful sense of positivity, we must first examine the wreckage. This was one of the worst seasons in Carolina Panthers franchise history. The team won just two games after boldly claiming they were ready to contend. It was a complete disaster from start to finish.

The Panthers are amid another head coach and general manager search. At least the hires are being done together - something the franchise hasn't implemented since 2002. Whoever takes on these jobs has a significant amount of hard work ahead.

There were very few positives to take from the 2023 season. It was disjointed. The grand plans lacked motivation or any conviction. There were too many people in the ear of rookie quarterback Bryce Young at a critical early stage of his development.

It wasn't all bad, however. With this in mind, here are three pleasant surprises from the Panthers' 2023 season.

Carolina Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard's emergence

When the Carolina Panthers signed Miles Sanders to a long-term contract in free agency, all signs pointed to Chuba Hubbard becoming a backup option once again. The former fourth-round selection made encouraging strides after Christian McCaffrey was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in 2022. That wasn't enough to get the No. 1 position outright once D'Onta Foreman left.

Sanders' early struggles and subsequent injury complications thrust Hubbard into the limelight. He was not going to waste his big chance, performing exceptionally well in difficult circumstances and making his presence felt as a key cog in the offensive strategy.

Hubbard rushed for 902 yards and five touchdowns. The Oklahoma State product gained 1,135 all-purpose yards while Sanders couldn't get the job done. Considering how bleak things looked before the campaign, this was an incredibly positive turn of events.