Ravens Pro Bowlers Have High Praise for Rookie Tight End

Ravens TE Isaiah Likely

Getty Ravens TE Isaiah Likely in pregame warmups before a preseason game on August 27, 2022.

The Baltimore Ravens‘ talent and depth at the wide receiver position behind second-year breakout candidate Rashod Bateman have been questioned and much maligned since the team traded Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown to the Arizona Cardinals. However, coming off a sensational preseason, rookie Isaiah Likely has proved without a doubt that the tight end position which has already been the strength and focal point of their passing game is even stronger with him in the fold.

He wasn’t the team’s first pick or even the first tight end they selected in the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft. Nevertheless, the former Coastal Carolina Chanticleer looks like one of, if not the biggest steal in this year’s class.

Likely sat out the third and final week of the preseason not because he was dealing with soft tissue or any minor injury but rather due to the fact that he had already shown enough of what he could do on the field in the first two games that playing him wasn’t worth the risk of injury. The Ravens learned from their lesson a year ago when they played starting running back J.K. Dobbins, who many had dubbed a likely break-out candidate, in the last week of the preseason and wound up losing him for the entire season to a torn ACL.

Despite only playing in just the first half of two exhibition games, Likely finished as the team leader in both receptions and receiving yards with 12 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens had been searching and sorely missing another pass-catching threat at the position to complement and take some of the attention away from 2021 First Team All-Pro Mark Andrews since they traded away Hayden Hurst following the 2019 season.

After having a front row seat to watching Likely tear it up in both training camp and the preseason crowd, Andrews believes he has “got that ‘it’ factor to him”.

“He’s going to be big for our offense, so I’m excited about him,” Andrews said in a press conference on August 30, 2022. He’s going to continue to grow, but his game is already very, very high. He doesn’t play like a rookie. It’s going to be great to have him in there, playing with him and making plays.”

When Andrews broke out in his second season in the league and earned his first career Pro Bowl nod, he wasn’t facing nearly as many double and sometimes triple teams as he has over the past two seasons. Hurst’s ability to be a dangerous threat in the passing game at the position over the middle and downfield prevented opposing defenses from keying in on Andrews as much and made the offense as a whole so unpredictable on any given down.

“He is a guy that’s going to require attention, he’s going to make plays, and for me, that’s big — being able to find spots, get open, and have some other guys take attention,” Andrews said. “There’s him, but we have a really great receiving corps, so don’t sleep on those guys. Those guys are going to do their thing, and I’m excited about this offense, to be honest with you. We have everything going on — our line, tight ends, running backs, receivers, quarterbacks, obviously. This is going to be a fun, fun year, and I’m excited about it.”

Likely is already a fan favorite and well known around Baltimore and Andrews believes that he is “going to shock the world” with the way he can impact a game and make plays.

Staying Humble and Hungry

Andrews isn’t the only perennial Pro Bowl player on the Ravens’ offense that has been blown away by how Likely has looked. In a recent appearance on ‘The Lounge’ podcast, three-time Pro Bowl fullback, Patrick Ricard joined reporters employed by the team and talked about how astonishing the impressive rookie’s hot start has been.

“For him to be doing what he is doing right now, I think is surprising a lot of people,” Ricard said.

He feels having Mark Andrews to look up to as a “great role model” to and play behind has been and will continue to be instrumental in his growth.

“I feel like what makes Mark Andrews so good is his just his uncanny natural ability to get open and I feel like Isaiah has that same kind of ability,” Ricard said. “He’s just learning more and more of how to break, how to run routes to get open and how Mark kind of does it.”

He said having them both on the field at the same time is exciting and believes that it will only make the Ravens’ offense “even more explosive”. Both he and Likely are natives to the state of Massachusetts so he feels even more pride that the youngster is doing so well so fast.

While Ricard gushed over Likely and his potential over the radio waves, in the locker room he does his best to keep the promising rookie level headed and humble.

“For me, whenever I see a guy do well, I don’t want to say anything to them to mess up their mental to where they start maybe overthinking or thinking this and that,” he said. “If anything, I will almost like say ‘good job, keep going what you’re doing’ or maybe even like un-hype what they’re doing a little bit just so they don’t get a big head and they think that they don’t need to keep working hard.”

Likely Has “Turned The Page” to Regular Season

As awe-inspiring as his preseason and training camp performances were, the rookie is not only showing the route running savvy of a seasoned veteran but his mindset is beyond his years as well. He isn’t dwelling on or paying attention to all the well-deserved hype he has been receiving and is focused on preparing for the regular season.

“I come out to practice like every day is a game so critiquing myself day in and day out and just being where my feet are and learning and being a sponge is going to prepare me for what is soon to come,” Likely said in a press conference on August 30, 2022.

He acknowledges that the jump in speed from the preseason to the regular season is another hurdle that needs to be cleared but believes that consistency in practice against his own defense will help get him ready.

“If I can do it against my defense, I can do it against anybody’s defense,” Likely said. “Doing what I do in games in practice. Consistency is going to have the game that much easier for myself.”

In an effort to help streamline the same level of complexity in the passing game and present a similar threat when he’s in the game instead and alongside Andrews, he soaks up as much insight and tricks of the trade from the five-year veteran as he can.

“I try to be a sponge when I see Mark on the field and try to pick his brain as much as possible so in-game, I already have his thoughts mixed with my thoughts, and its a dangerous combination,” Likely said.

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