It happened oh, so fast.
Ryan Tannehill survived his first quarter as an NFL quarterback without any major blunders. He even had the Dolphins leading the Texans, on the road.
And then? Disaster.
Whoops: An interception to Johnathan Joseph. Ugh: Another pick, caused by a J.J. Watt deflection. Ugh, again: Watt swats Tannehill’s very next pass, resulting in a third interception. Game over: Daniel Thomas fumbles, allowing Houston to go up three scores.
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And it all happened in just seven minutes of game time.
A year later, the Dolphins return to the scene of Tannehill’s ugliest quarter of football as a pro. Miami visits Houston on Saturday (8 p.m.) in its third of five preseason games, providing the Dolphins yet another chance — albeit unofficially — to measure up against one of the league’s best teams.
And it’ll give Tannehill a chance to show how far he’s come in the past 11 months.
“Obviously I want a better showing,” Tannehill said this week. “How can you not when you have a bad game? But this is a new year.”
Yes it is — with its own concerns. The Dolphins’ first-string offense hasn’t been impressive yet, managing just one score in seven possessions.
On their two opening drives this summer, the Dolphins lost a fumble and went three-and-out — and that was against the Cowboys and Jaguars, who had the league’s 19th- and 30th-ranked defenses, respectively, in 2012.
What’s going to happen against the Texans, who were seventh in yards (323.3) and ninth in points (20.7)?
“We clearly have to execute better,” said coach Joe Philbin, who has repeatedly stressed starting fast to his team.
Added center Mike Pouncey: “We felt like we did a good job of running the football [against the Texans last year]. We’re going to go on with the same mindset, and hopefully go out and perform the same way. We just can’t turn over the football like we did last year against them.”
Other story lines to watch:
• How the interior line holds up against Houston’s excellent front seven. Josh Samuda is expected to start at right guard again after struggling last week. John Jerry, Nate Garner and Lance Louis, all hurt, are not expected to play.
• If Tannehill and Mike Wallace can finally connect in a game. Tannehill barely looked Wallace’s way last week against Jacksonville, but the two found a rhythm in practice in recent days.
• How the Dolphins’ run defense holds up against Houston’s ground attack. The group — thought to be a strength of the team — has been gashed for 296 yards in two games this preseason. Neither Randy Starks (knee) nor Dion Jordan (shoulder) will play.
• Which receivers will step up and grab the No. 4 and 5 jobs? Rishard Matthews is expected back after missing the first two games with an undisclosed injury. Marvin McNutt, Chad Bumphis and Keenan Davis have all had their moments this summer, but also battled inconsistency.
• How Caleb Sturgis will handle his business after being named the team’s full-time kicker this week.
• If reserve quarterback Aaron Corp looks better in a game than he did in practice this week. Corp struggled when taking snaps in place of Pat Devlin, who’s likely out with an undisclosed injury.
• If second-round pick Jamar Taylor sees the field for the first time this preseason. There’s a good chance the rookie corner gets a few snaps after missing the first two games with the lingering pain from sports hernia surgery in the spring.
Both the starting offense and defense will get their most work of the preseason Saturday. Philbin said the first-stringers will play at least the first quarter, and possibly more.
Every snap the stars are out there will be a chance to compare themselves to a playoff team from a year ago.
“On paper, you can probably look and say we’ve probably made some improvements, but I’m one of those guys where the proof’s in the pudding,” said defensive end Cam Wake. “Until you actually make something happen, it hasn’t happened yet.”
On Wednesday, the Dolphins decided on their specialists for 2013. On Thursday, they ensured all three will be under contract through 2016.
Long snapper John Denney, who was entering the final year of his contract, has signed a three-year contract extension, the team announced Friday morning. The deal is worth about $1.2 million per season.
Denney, the 6-5, 255-pounder, enters his ninth season in the NFL, all with the Dolphins. In his career, he has played in 128 consecutive games, which places second all-time in Dolphin history.
Denney has amassed 34 special teams tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery over his career. He originally joined the Dolphins as a undrafted free agent following the 2005 NFL Draft.
Earlier in the week, Caleb Sturgis was named the team’s kicker. Sturgis, Denney and Brandon Fields all have four years left on their respective deals.