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Rex Ryan: Mark Sanchez to start preseason opener in Detroit

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez during training camp. (Aug.

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez during training camp. (Aug. 5, 2013) Credit: Hans Pennink

CORTLAND – Mark Sanchez gets the nod over Geno Smith. At least for the first preseason game.

Jets coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday afternoon that Sanchez – the fifth-year incumbent -- will start Friday’s game in Detroit over the rookie.

“It's been an even competition,” Ryan told reporters. “We've been rotating and things like that. And, certainly, (Mark's) the incumbent. But again, the compettion starts off. We’ll see how it goes from here.

"It seemed like the natural thing to do."

Throughout training camp, both quarterbacks have been splitting first-team reps every two days. Based on that schedule, it appeared Smith could be in line for the preseason start after Sanchez worked with the first-team offense on Monday and Tuesday. Ryan even hinted yesterday that the coaching staff “may change that up. (Tuesday) we may go with Geno or whatever.” But instead, Ryan plans to have Smith work with the ones Wednesday and start Sanchez following their Thursday off day.

“We’re going to put our ones out and we’ll play it," the coach said. "The preseason doesn’t end after this first preseason game. We’ll take it through as much as possible. We said this is going to be equal competition – and it is going to be a competition and that’s exactly what it’s going to be.”

Ryan did make it clear that both quarterbacks will get playing time with the starters on Friday – and as a result, there's a chance he'll have to play his first-team offense longer than he typically would for a preseason opener.

Sanchez had an impressive practice Tuesday, finishing 4-for-6 with no sacks. Smith, meanwhile, went 2-for-5 and threw his first team-drill interception during training camp. He also was sacked.

The announcement comes just a day after Ryan said Jets fans are free to boo Sanchez – and the rest of his players – if they choose.

“Fans have the right to do anything they want,'' the coach said Monday, when asked for his thoughts on the booing of Sanchez during the Green and White scrimmage on Saturday.

He also cautioned Jets fans to “move forward” from Sanchez’s disappointing performance over the past two seasons (52 total turnovers in 2011 and 2012). But, he added: “I would never say 'you've got to do something' to our fan base. No way. Because they're the paying customer. That's why we're all here. And they have a right to boo any time they want.”

New York Sports