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Matt Rhule: Royce Freeman, Chuba Hubbard just have to be starting NFL running backs

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The Panthers don’t know how long they’ll be without running back Christian McCaffrey as a result of the hamstring injury he suffered on Thursday night, but they do know who will be filling in while he’s out of action.

Royce Freeman and fourth-round pick Chuba Hubbard took over in the backfield after McCaffrey left the game in the second quarter. Hubbard got stuffed on a fourth down a short time later and the Panthers were only up one at halftime, but things began to open up for them in the second half.

Head coach Matt Rhule said both players stepped up and he made it clear what he’s looking for from the duo while McCaffrey is out of action.

“Yeah, I think they just have to be starting NFL running backs, and Royce has done that before,” Rhule said in his postgame press conference. “I told Chuba at halftime, ‘That’s why we drafted you, man.’ I thought Chuba was outstanding. At the end of the half, we didn’t give him a ton of chances, but I thought he got in there at the end and made some key runs. When we can line up in four-minute offense and run and get the first down on two plays, especially versus that stout defense, that’s a credit to the offensive line, credit to the tight ends and full backs. I thought those backs hit it, and the minute Royce got in he made that nice run, cut the ball back on a dual play, which that’s a veteran-run. That’s a guy that’s played a bunch and saw it. Those guys stepped up for us.”

Hubbard had two carries for 26 yards to set up the team’s final touchdown and two carries for 12 yards to help run out the clock on Carolina’s final possession. The coming weeks should bring more opportunities for the rookie to show that he’s able to be what Rhule is looking for in the offense.