Robert Griffin III has wasted no time turning around the Washington Redskins offense. A unit that ranked 25th and 26th in points in 2010 and 2011, is now the fourth highest scoring group in the NFL.
Much of that is due to the top-ranked running game and that's where Griffin has had his biggest impact. The Redskins currently average 5.2 yards per carry and 175.5 rushing yards a game.
Griffin's threat as a runner is the key to their success. The ex-Baylor star's ability to make plays with his feet is keeping defenses guessing. That hesitation is creating bigger running lanes for others to exploit.
Whenever a quarterback is as talented a runner as Griffin, the defense has to account for him running on every play. That means they are unable to key just the running back and have to look to Griffin first.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has taken advantage of this and has included plenty of mis-direction in the running game. The Redskins are outwitting defenses by using elements of the option offense.
These plays are designed to force the defense into deciding who has the ball at the hand off. Griffin will often execute a delayed fake handoff to his running back and as the defense goes with the back, Griffin will take off in the opposite direction.
This zone option play favours the zone-blocking scheme made famous by head coach Mike Shanahan. It suits what Washington's offensive linemen do best.
Other times Griffin will follow through with the handoff and fake like he still has the ball and draw defenders away with a false run. This often splits the middle of the defense, giving the back plenty of yards between the tackles.
The key to these plays is that the defense has to watch Griffin first. They can never ignore the possibility that he has the ball and will attack them on the ground.
The problem facing defensive coordinators is compounded by the emergence of sixth-round rookie running back Alfred Morris. The former Florida Atlantic ace has quickly taken to Shanahan's zone-running system.
His power inside often occupies the middle of a defense, creating avenues of escape for Griffin on the edges. Any time Griffin and Morris are together in the backfield, defenses have a tough choice to make about who to key.
Griffin enables the Redskins to manipulate those choices via play fakes and flase actions. The defense cannot risk splitting the front so they have to decide which potential ball-carrier to attack first.
Guess wrong and they are exposed to a free runner attacking an undermaned section of the front. Defenses focusing most of their attention on the Redskins run is creating big plays in the deep passing game.
Griffin has already shown he is a master of the play-action game. The more the Redskins have success on the ground, the better the play-action passing game will work.
While he will ultimately be judged on his proficiency as a passer, Griffin's influence on the running game is already making the Redskins' offense feared.