Tight End Isaiah Likely Views Himself As ‘Chess Piece’ In Ravens’ Offense

Ravens rookie tight end Isaiah Likely is behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle on the depth chart and is the second of two tight ends recently drafted by Baltimore. As such, Likely has a challenge ahead of him to earn as much time on the field as he can, but he learn from the veterans in front of him as well.

Likely is now part of an offense that heavily features the tight end position. He is looking forward to soaking in knowledge from his position mates — a group that features an All-Pro — and sees himself being used in a unique way compared to others at the position.

“I view myself as an athlete,” Likely said on Glenn Clark Radio June 8. “Not only can I play tight end, but I can play in the slot, I can play out wide. I’m really just that chess piece that finds mismatches in the defense, finds holes, finds their weaknesses.”

Likely’s ability to play multiple positions, not just the traditional tight end spot, is what he believes made the Ravens interested in him during the draft. Head coach John Harbaugh has dismissed the notion that the team is looking to take the offense back to what made it so successful in 2019, when three-tight-end sets featuring Andrews, Boyle and Hayden Hurst were part of an efficient passing game.

But offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who engineered those offenses, is still in place, and through the opening weeks of rookie camp and voluntary workouts, Likely had already gotten a taste of how much Roman likes utilizing multiple tight ends at once.

“At practice now we run two tight ends, one-tight-end sets, three-tight-end sets, sometimes four,” he said. “That all goes into the aspect of everyone knowing their role.”

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Likely is more often labeled a pass-catching threat than a willing blocker. But in a run-heavy offense, he looks forward to dispelling that notion. Coaches have already gotten to work on Likely and fellow rookie tight end Charlie Kolar on the intricacies of blocking.

“That’s what we’ve been harping on here at OTAs with the rookies is just technique and understanding your assignment,” Likely said. “When we put the pads on, we can really see what I can do in the run game.”

One of six Ravens’ fourth-round picks in April, Likely enters his rookie season following a standout career at Coastal Carolina. He racked up 2,050 yards and 27 touchdowns in four seasons. He capped it off with a 912-yard, 12-touchdown senior year, after which he was named a second-team All-American and first-team All-Sun Belt performer.

Taken 139th overall in April’s draft, Likely was the second tight end the Ravens chose in a span of nine picks. At No. 128, the team took Kolar, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound Iowa State product.

Likely, who signed his rookie contract last week, knows he’ll have to do more to stand out among a deep position group. The way to do so, he thinks, is to be as versatile as possible, and he believes Roman is willing to let him be that player.

Likely also sees inspiration from Andrews. Likely sees a lot of himself in the former Oklahoma standout. Both were mid-round draft picks and the second tight end taken in their team’s own class. Andrews found a way to leapfrog Hurst early and never look back. Now, Likely hopes to do the same.

“He told me once I got here, ‘It’s not how you get here, it’s what you do when you get here,'” Likely said Andrews told him. “So really just maximizing your opportunity when it comes to you. I talk to Mark every day just for what he sees from a passing standpoint. He’s really one of the most dynamic playmakers in his routes and with the ball in his hands. He’s been doing it a great while and he’s one of the top tight ends in the NFL.”

For more from Likely, listen to the full interview here:

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