Its hard not to argue against what you've said but the fall-off in stats is not as dramatic as you suggest:
1st downs - 250 (2019) and 278 (2018)
Rush yards - 2,439 ('19) and 2,508 ('18)
Passing - 2,551 and 2,966
Yards/Play - 5.8 and 6.3
Yards/Game - 415.8 and 456.2
Interestingly AM's personal stats are:
Rush Yards - 626 and 847
Pass Yards - 1956 and 2617
What does that all mean to me?
1. Without AM rushing yardage .. the team collectively rushed for more yards in 2019 versus 2018 ... despite losing DO.
2. Passing yardage was down (14%) overall while AM's passing yardage was down (25%) ... meaning more yardage from the backups year-over-year.
Everything you said above is probably true but 2019 had Wandale Robinson ... with no comparable in 2018.
Let me also ask this ... were AM's passing stats down because of the WR/TE performance or were the WR/TE receiving stats down because of AM's performance? JD Speilman actually had less catches but more yards in 2019. TE's had more catches in '19 - 32 overall vs 25 in '18.
It all starts with the QB in my mind and AM simply had a poor year overall - maybe due to injury, maybe due to O-Line. But that position is supposed to be (IMO) a position that makes everyone around him better. He needs to raise everyone's level of performance. Yes, the O-line could've been better and the play calling could've been better and the WR/TE's could've been better but all those things are moot if the QB play isn't at least the same if not better. If he's limited due to injury then play the backup until he's 100% healthy!
Great points, but a couple of numbers you shared make me uncomfortable. First is 1st Downs. Dropping over 10% is pretty scary. The reasons I usually consider for fewer firsts are more explosive plays, long gains, quick scores, which is a good thing, or the dreaded drive killers, penalties, poor 3rd conversions, sacks, etc. If we accept the idea that our fewer 1sts weren't because of our amazingly explosive offense, we fall back to the other notion that we had 30 fewer chances to continue a drive, eat up the clock, rest our defense, and have a chance to score. Even over the course of a season, 30 (OK, 28), is a pretty big number.
I'd also argue that we had very close to a Wandale in 2018, only he was called a Mo. Mo started the year with more of a 'DuckR' feel, but when Bell went into the crapper, and before Ziggy grabbed the bit, Washington (like Wandale this year) started to play more as a traditional running back, which contributed (like Wandale) to his having more injuries and being less effective as the year progressed.
You point out that we got more production from our backups, though you don't really take into consideration the talent difference in our backups this year as opposed to last. Bunch is a great kid, and kudos to his effort, but Vedral is a ton better, and LM, while not brimming with experience, is truly explosive. Even if we were only seeing backups in mop up roles, I'd expect for more production this year than last based purely on talent.
As long as we are going to be in the dark about the health of players, I'm going to have to assume there were more injuries to Vedral than publicly stated. LM, I understand the notion of wanting to keep the redshirt, and it's hard to assume he had an expansive understanding of the playbook, but when you couple that with the fact he was injured in his only extensive playing time, and you have yourself a tough decision as to who gives the team the best opportunity to win.