Carolina Panthers star gets confidence boost ahead of latest huge test

Chuba Hubbard must prove himself all over again in 2024.
Chuba Hubbard
Chuba Hubbard / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Overcoming adversity is nothing new for Chuba Hubbard. There was immediate ridicule upon his arrival to the Carolina Panthers after Matt Rhule revealed his wife played a leading hand in his decision to draft the running back. Since then, he's plowed through several challenging obstacles to carve out a successful role for himself.

Things didn't look especially promising for Hubbard after his indifferent rookie campaign. Even when he formed a productive tandem alongside D'Onta Foreman in 2022 once Christian McCaffrey was traded to the San Francisco 49ers, something prevented the Panthers from propelling him into the No. 1 spot.

After free-agent signing Miles Sanders fluffed his lines, Hubbard seized the moment. The former fourth-round selection went over 1,000 all-purpose yards and firmly became the top dog. And yet, another new regime gave the player another potential mountain to climb this offseason.

Carolina Panthers presented another obstacle for Chuba Hubbard to overcome

The Panthers want to run the football heavily under new head coach Dave Canales. Carolina traded up to acquire Jonathon Brooks at No. 46 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft. They also signed free-agent Rashaad Penny once the college selection process concluded. If Hubbard wants similar involvement next time around, he'll need to prove his worth all over again.

One could make a strong case for Hubbard being in a stronger position now than at any stage during his NFL journey to date. This was a sentiment echoed by Tom Blair from, who named the Oklahoma State product as Carolina's most underappreciated player for the second straight year.

"[Chuba] Hubbard made my colleague Cynthia Frelund's list of underappreciated players last year, but I'm going with him here again because of what he did after that -- and because, for the second straight offseason, the Panthers have invested in competition for Hubbard. In 2023, Carolina signed Miles Sanders to a fat new contract, only for Hubbard to end up carrying the ground game (238 carries, 902 rushing yards, five rushing TDs) in his third pro season. He also became the second Panthers running back to top 1,000 scrimmage yards in a season since Christian McCaffrey did it in 2019. This year, they drafted Jonathon Brooks in the second round -- but the rookie is coming off a torn ACL. At the least, Hubbard can serve as a reliable option while new coach Dave Canales attempts to straighten out the rest of the offense around Bryce Young."

Tom Blair,

Hubbard gained a lot of confidence last season. He should also know that complacency must not creep into his game with others chomping at the bit to take his place. This bears more significance considering it's also a contract year, so the stakes couldn't be much higher.

The Panthers didn't make a convincing move for Brooks to leave him on the sidelines. Once the dual threat is fully healed from a torn ACL, he'll be featured prominently. Whether this comes at the expense of Hubbard will depend on how the veteran performs over the early stages of 2024.

Running backs are more expendable than most. That's a big reason why Hubbard's outstanding contribution over the last two seasons has gone relatively overlooked. It's also a reason why the Panthers got themselves a younger, cheaper contingency plan if they decide to move in a different direction next spring.

The Canadian native will be up for the challenge, make no mistake about that. Hubbard knows how to ignore the outside noise and focus fully on the task at hand. That should stand him in great stead as he looks to firmly cement his importance to the Panthers' plans long-term.

Whether he can do enough to convince Dan Morgan and Brandt Tilis he's worthy of a big financial commitment is another matter.