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Isaiah Likely Prepares for Bigger Role After Injury to 'Big Brother' Mark Andrews

Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely (80) in action during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Isaiah Likely (80) in action during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Baltimore.

After Mark Andrews suffered an ankle injury that required surgery on Tuesday, Isaiah Likely reached out to his teammate and fellow tight end to offer support.

Andrews responded on Monday.

"He hit me up yesterday, we talked for a little bit," Likely said. "I'm not going to say what we talked about, but he's definitely in good spirits.

"I love Mark, it hurt me when he went down. Mark told me just stay the course, stay ready."

Second year tight ends Likely and Charlie Kolar will be asked to help fill the void left by Andrews, a three-time Pro Bowler who shares an uncanny chemistry with Lamar Jackson.

As a rookie last season, Likely was a solid contributor with 36 catches for 373 yards and three touchdowns and was targeted 60 times. However, the offseason additions of wide receivers Zay Flowers, Odell Beckman Jr. and Nelson Agholor changed the dynamics of the passing attack, and Likely has not been targeted as much this season (nine catches, 89 yards).

Now Likely may get more opportunities, and while he doesn't expect to replicate Andrews, Likely is confident he can succeed taking on a bigger role.

"I'm not going to lie – me and Mark do things in our own way. That's what makes us human," Likely said. "They (Jackson and Andrews) came in together, they're brothers – peanut butter and jelly.

"I feel like it's a blessing we have so many weapons on offense. That makes my job easier. Just stay the course, wait for the ball to come my way and make the most of the opportunity."

Jackson struck up an immediate bond with Likely after he was drafted last season.

"Coming into the league, I look at Lamar like a superhero," Likely said. "The fact that he went out of his way, spoke to me first, introduced himself, we've just been clicking ever since."

Likely spent hours during OTAs and minicamp watching film, determined to keep progressing as a rookie. Now he's looking for that hard work will pay off, and he knows Andrews will remain available as a sounding board as he recovers from his injury.

"Mark's that big brother role," Likely said. "He's done a fantastic job helping me day in and day out. Run blocking, pass blocking, route running everything. Giving me much wisdom in everything I do."

Brandon Stephens Looks Forward to Defending Keenan Allen

Ravens cornerback Brandon Stephens is aware that Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen leads the NFL in receptions (83) and targets (113), with 1,011 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games. Trying to contain Allen will be a top priority for Baltimore in Week 12, and Stephens is looking forward to it to defending an elite receiver.

"He's a big part of their offense, the offense runs through him. I'm excited for the matchup," Stephens said.

Stephens is coming off a game in which he limited the Bengals' Ja'Marr Chase to two catches for 12 yards and a touchdown.

Stephens' steadiness as a starting cornerback has been a huge part of Baltimore's defensive success. He has started every game and leads the team in snaps played, and his emergence has been timely with three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey missing five games with both foot and calf injuries.

The original plan was for Stephens to play safety this season, but he has a cornerback's mentality that he will bring Sunday into his matchup with Allen.

"Corner's definitely my type of game, I love the island," Stephens said. "The island is not for everybody. It's mainly just confidence, confidence in your technique, being fearless out there. It's definitely a mindset. You've just got to relish in it."

Pepe Williams Could Be a Big Contributor

Ravens cornerback Pepe Williams returned to the practice field this week, designated for return from injured reserve due to an ankle injury.

While the Ravens have 21 days to put Williams on the 53-man roster or not, it sounds like he could be ready to go soon. He was a full participant in Wednesday's practice.

"Very excited for him. He's been around here for the last month telling me [that] he wants to go, he wants to go. Finally, the trainers cleared him and to see him out there with his enthusiasm," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

"Pepe's always a high energy guy. He's out there talking already, so it was fun to have him out there. I think he'll have a chance to really contribute as we go forward here."

The Ravens are in their nickel defense 81.6% of the time, the third-highest rate of any team in the league, per Next Gen Stats. That bodes well for Williams, who can also play safety if needed. He'll add another versatile defensive back to the mix.

Kyle Hamilton Looked Up to Derwin James

In 2018, the Ravens had the chance to draft safety Derwin James at No. 16. They traded back, however, and ended up taking tight end Hayden Hurst with their first pick.

That 2018 draft proved to be one of the best in Ravens history, as Baltimore took Lamar Jackson with its other first-round pick and later got Mark Andrews with a third-round pick acquired because of that trade back.

But James was a player that could have been in purple and black. Had Baltimore stuck at No. 16, James would have been the pick, as General Manager Eric DeCosta confirmed. James has gone on to become a two-time first-team All-Pro. When healthy, he's been one of the game's best versatile, physical safeties.

Four years later, it looks like the Ravens got a similar, and possibly better, player in Kyle Hamilton.

Hamilton said James is a player that he watched a lot of tape on coming out of college.

"He's definitely one of the guys that I see as one of the better safeties in our league and somebody that I've looked at as kind of being exemplary of how to play the position," Hamilton said.

Kyle Van Noy Is Excited to Go Back to Los Angeles

The Ravens' trip to Los Angeles will be a reunion for outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who spent last season on the Chargers defense.

Van Noy recorded five sacks last season in Los Angeles and already has six in eight games with the Ravens.

"For me, it's about a lot of players and coaches that I liked that were really good to me. There's no ill will at all," Van Noy said.

"It's a big deal in the sense that I get to see them, talk, and hang out before the game. But I'm just focused on the team I'm on. It's a good opportunity and it's 'Sunday Night Football.'"

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