Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic recently said that Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely is the “closest thing” to a third receiving option that the Ravens have.
The news comes as no surprise after Likely had an outstanding off-season. After impressing coaches in camp, Likely followed up with a strong showing in preseason. In Week 2 of the preseason games, Likely racked up 100 yards and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. He was subsequently elevated to the first team.
His performances as a rookie have impressed coaches and teammates alike. Mark Andrews, Baltimore’s elite tight end, recently said that Likely is going to “shock the world” while Lamar Jackson has already identified the rookie as a top target.
Given Likely’s exceptional showings so far, many believe that he has what it takes to be Baltimore’s TE2, forming a tandem with Andrews. With Andrews as the top option and Bateman as the primary wide receiver, Likely is the third receiver.
However, Zrebiec’s prediction is not just testament to Likely’s strong performances so far. It is also a comment on Likely’s potential usage as well as Baltimore’s thin receiving corps.
Isaiah Likely To Be Featured In Baltimore Ravens Offense
Fitting Likely in
At 6’4” and 240 lbs, Isaiah Likely is essentially an oversized wide receiver. Throughout the preseason, he has proved to be a smooth route-runner with reliable hands. His run-after-catch ability has also been surprising and he has flashed good speed. With these tools, it is expected that John Harbaugh will deploy Likely as a ‘chess piece’. The former Coastal Carolina player can line up all over the offense and become a mismatch nightmare.
The main weakness in Likely’s game is his lack of talent as a blocker. Being undersized for a traditional tight end, Likely struggles when blocking NFL linemen. As a result of this, he was the culprit of a few holding penalties during the preseason games.
Given Likely’s strength as a versatile receiver, he will be a strong receiving option behind Andrews. The lack of out-and-out NFL-calibre receivers on the Ravens roster reinforces this. Rashod Bateman is expected to be the primary wideout. Behind him is Demarcus Robinson and a group of young receivers looking for ‘breakout’ seasons. The group lacks NFL experience and production, meaning standouts like Likely will be given more opportunities.
Baltimore’s offensive system suits Likely well too. As a run-heavy offense, the Ravens use dual tight end formations more often than most teams in the league. This allows Likely to see the field more often than he would have otherwise.
The system will, however, mean that Likely may not see a high target volume. The Ravens offense is reliant on the run game and Jackson will not be expected to throw more than 30 times a game on a regular basis. When Jackson does throw, he favors throwing checkdown options to tight ends inside the numbers. While Andrews will be the primary receiver in these instances, Likely could become a second checkdown option.