Understanding the ultrashort time scale structural dynamics of the FeRh metamagnetic phase transition is a key element in developing a complete explanation of the mechanism driving the evolution from an antiferromagnetic to ferromagnetic state. Using an X-ray free electron laser we determine, with sub-ps time resolution, the time evolution of the (–101) lattice diffraction peak following excitation using a 35 fs laser pulse. The dynamics at higher laser fluence indicates the existence of a transient lattice state distinct from the high temperature ferromagnetic phase. By extracting the lattice temperature and comparing it with values obtained in a quasi-static diffraction measurement, we estimate the electron–phonon coupling in FeRh thin films as a function of laser excitation fluence. A model is presented which demonstrates that the transient state is paramagnetic and can be reached by a subset of the phonon bands. A complete description of the FeRh structural dynamics requires consideration of coupling strength variation across the phonon frequencies.