Mark Potash: Answering the Bears’ biggest questions before the 2018 season

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Bears coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Mitch Trubisky at training camp. | Brian O’Mahoney/For the Sun-Times

The Bears feel like a different franchise.

After an offseason in which they (deep breath) replaced head coach John Fox with Matt Nagy; signed three starting pass-catchers; drafted a starting inside linebacker, then dug in for a 29-day standoff with him; played five preseason games; and finally, traded for Khalil Mack and paid him the most money of any defender, ever, it’s finally game week.

How will the Bears fare? Sun-Times’ Bears reporter Mark Potash weighs in:

The Bears’ trade for Khalil Mack proved …

That Ryan Pace might be better than people think. The Bears GM was ranked 26th and last among established NFL general managers by and 29th by The Sporting News. A lot of things still have to go right for Pace to move up, but the bold trade for Mack is one of those acquisitions that can make all your others moves look a little bit better.

Khalil Mack will be worth it if …

He takes the Bears’ defense to an elite level. It’s not enough for Mack to play his position well. Ndamukong Suh, the most recent impact defensive player in his prime to change teams prior to the Mack trade, was an effective player with the Dolphins, but had little impact on the defense as a whole, became cap-inefficient and was cut in March. That said, Mack is in a prime situation to lift the Bears’ to new heights under Vic Fangio.

Matt Nagy’s biggest impact will be …

Giving the Bears’ offense a chance to reach its potential. He’s not a magician. You still need talented players to make his offense work. But Nagy looks like a coach who will get the most out of what he’s got. It’s unlikely Tarik Cohen will play just seven snaps in any game this season.

Mitch Trubisky’s passer rating will be …

92.3 — completing 299-of-447 pass attempts (66.7 percent) for 3,200 yards (7.2 yards per attempt), 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. But with a better chance to match Jared Goff’s second-year numbers (3,804 yards, 28-7, 100.5) than Ryan Tannehill’s (3,913 yards, 24-17, 81.7).

Roquan Smith will start …

In Week 2 against the Seahawks at Soldier Field. Once Smith proves he can go full speed, Matt Nagy won’t hesitate to let him loose. We’ve seen so little of Smith so far, it’s hard to predict his impact. But he’s in the right place at the right time.

Biggest upgrade from 2017…

Matt Nagy for John Fox. Among other factors, just having an offensive-minded head coach who can nurture Mitch Trubisky, with a proven defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio is a better coaching dynamic than what the Bears had under Fox.

Biggest downgrade from 2017…

Replacing 32-year-old, four-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton with Eric Kush is a downgrade the Bears can live with. Kush proved in 2016 he can handle a starting role. And if rookie guard/center James Daniels develops quickly, the loss of Sitton is unlikely to be lamented for very long.

Projected record:

8-8. Bears have a chance to be a surprise playoff contender, but likely need the Lions and either the Packers or Vikings to cooperate for that scenario to ensue.

Read our other writers’ takes entering Week 1

• Patrick Finley answers the Bears’ biggest questions

• Adam Jahns answers the Bears’ biggest questions

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